Can Direct Response Be Creative?

You’ve seen this kind of ad – huge logo, direct no frills headline, star burst and a lot of information and photos packed together. Does direct response have to be this way?

In Adweek a couple of years ago a direct marketing practitioner John Livengood talk about the perception that direct marketing creative is not very creative compared to general advertising. Cost cuts in direct marketing resulted in low production values, creatives with poor conceptual skills, bad design sense and copy that feels like a used car pitch. But times are changing as brand/awareness advertising is feeling pressure to become more accountable while direct marketing agencies are being pressured to deliver more conceptual thinking and brand-building work

But others say stick to the basics. Professor John Philip Jones’ says that direct response creative should not use the puns, plays on words, jingles and jokes of general advertising. Direct response advertising can’t take a chance in not being understood in an effort to be humorous or entertaining. It must have simple, straightforward statements. Go for the “no-brainer” creative solution instead of reinventing the wheel. Direct response is more of a science where you use the words that have worked in the past like “free,” “announcing,” “new,” “now,” and “you.”

GEICO Direct is an example of a direct response success story. It uses humorous ad appeals and innovative television media buys to sell car insurance direct. The campaign was created by general advertising agency the Martin Agency and won many creative awards while selling a lot of car insurance. Maybe being different and trying new things can really pay off. What is your viewpoint on direct response creative?