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A collage of multiple DRTV advertisements on a TV screen

7 Historic DRTV Advertisements that Transformed Brands

What do 1-800 numbers, limited-time offers, and celebrity endorsements have in common? If your first thought was “they’re all found in DRTV advertisements,” you’re right.

DRTV has been around for decades, with beginning concepts of it starting as early as the 1940’s. And even now in 2024, we see brands successfully leveraging these ads in their campaigns. This is because, to this day, they’re great for driving direct sales and increasing brand awareness.

That said, we want to take a moment, and nod our heads to some of the most memorable and successful DRTV advertisements.

1. Chia Pet

Elephant Chia Pet next to its box

How DRTV Advertisements Boosted Chia Pet:

You probably remember the jingle “Ch-ch-ch Chia!” playing on your TV throughout the early 2000’s.

This product was known for its quirky plant-growing kits for kids. The Chia Pet brand experienced significant success through DRTV campaigns. By showcasing fun and simple instructions, along with catchy jingles, the brand easily captured the curiosity and interest of consumers.

Their strategy not only increased sales but also turned Chia Pet into the nostalgic and iconic product that it is.

Ad Facts:

  • Ran primarily in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
  • Sales surged by 500% during peak advertising periods.
  • Over 15 million Chia Pets sold globally by 2007.
  • Jingle recognized as one of the most memorable ads from the era.

2. Snuggie

Woman wearing a blue Snuggie while reading on a couch

How DRTV Advertisements Boosted Snuggie:

The Snuggie blanket became a viral sensation thanks to its cheesy and memorable DRTV commercials. The ads highlighted the blanket’s unique value proposition (the way it’s worn) and practical uses, positioning it a must-have item around the house.

The commercials showed excited users highlighting how versatile the Snuggie is, from lounging at home to going to outdoor events. This led to a huge spike in sales, turning the Snuggie into a household name and a pop culture hit.

Ad Facts:

  • The ad campaign boosted product sales by 30% within the first month.
  • Over 20 million Snuggies were sold within the first year.
  • The campaign famously coined the term “blanket with sleeves.”

3. Got Milk?

Got Milk? advertisement featuring Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow

How DRTV Advertisements Boosted Got Milk?:

The “Got Milk?” campaign (the one with celebrities sporting milk mustaches) saw phenomenal success with their TV ads.

They highlighted how essential milk is for daily nutrition and tapped into the fear of running out at the worst times. The humor and unforgettable images brought milk back into the spotlight and got everyone drinking more of it.

Ad Facts:

  • Ran from 1993 to 2014.
  • Helped increase milk consumption in the United States and became a culturally iconic slogan.
  • The ad campaign increased brand awareness by 35% in the first month.
  • 70% of viewers reported the ads as entertaining and memorable.
  • The commercials reached over 1 million views within the first week of launch.

4. ShamWow

DRTV advertisement screen for the ShamWow

How DRTV Advertisements Boosted ShamWow:

The ShamWow cleaning cloth shot to fame thanks to its energetic DRTV commercials, starring the super enthusiastic Vince Offer.

The ads showed off just how absorbent and durable the ShamWow is, easily cleaning up huge spills. With Vince’s lively pitches and vivid demonstrations, the ShamWow became a household name and a staple in homes all over the country.

Ad Facts:

  • The initial commercials aired primarily in late-night and daytime TV slots, targeting homemakers and DIY enthusiasts.
  • ShamWow ads leveraged dramatic before-and-after scenarios to highlight the product’s effectiveness.
  • The campaign led to more than 10 million ShamWows sold within the first year.
  • ShamWow’s commercials were parodied on various TV shows and (later) internet memes, demonstrating their cultural impact.

5. OxiClean

The 2001 and 2021 spokesmen for OxiClean side by side holding the product

How DRTV Advertisements Boosted OxiClean:

OxiClean used DRTV to show just how effective their stain-removing product is.

They featured real-life examples and dramatic before-and-after shots to convince viewers of the product’s value. And let’s not forget the enthusiastic endorsements from Billy Mays, which definitely helped boost sales.

Ad Facts:

  • The OxiClean commercials initially aired in the early 2000s, focusing on late-night and daytime television slots.
  • The campaign increased sales by 600% within the first six months.
  • Billy Mays’ energetic presentations made OxiClean a recognizable brand, contributing significantly to its popularity.
  • Over 200 million units of OxiClean have been sold globally since the start of the campaign.
  • The ads were known for their memorable catchphrase, “It gets the tough stains out!”

6. Nutrisystem

Marie Osmond featured in a DRTV advertisement for Nutrisystem

How DRTV Boosted Nutrisystem:

Nutrisystem is a weight loss program, and their brand used DRTV to showcase some amazing transformations and success stories.

The advertisements frequently featured testimonials from real users who achieved significant weight loss, creating relatable and inspiring content for viewers. By emphasizing the ease and convenience of the program, which offers pre-packaged meals delivered directly to your door, Nutrisystem effectively targeted individuals seeking a manageable and structured diet plan.

Ad Facts:

  • The campaign significantly boosted enrollments by 40% in the first quarter following its launch.
  • Nutrisystem ads frequently aired during prime time and daytime television slots, reaching a broad audience.
  • The program utilized celebrity endorsements, including notable personalities such as Marie Osmond and Dan Marino, to further enhance credibility.
  • Nutrisystem’s advertisements saw a high viewer recall rate, with 65% of viewers able to remember the brand after seeing the commercials.
  • Signups from the DRTV ads contributed to a triple-digit growth in the company’s revenue during the peak campaign period.

7. George Forman Grill

George Forman in an advertisement promoting his "lean mean fat grilling machine."

How DRTV Boosted George Foreman Grill:

People can’t help but remember this “lean, mean, fat-grilling machine.”Launching in the early 90’s, the George Foreman Grill quickly became a kitchen must-have thanks to some clever DRTV advertising.

The ads hit home with consumers by showing how easy the grill makes it to whip up meals quickly and with barely any cleanup. They also advertised its health benefits, pointing out how the grill reduces fat by letting grease drain away from your food—perfect for anyone watching their diet.

On top of that, they demonstrated how it can handle everything from meats to veggies, making it very versatile.

Ad facts:

  • First aired in 1994 and targeted both daytime and late-night audiences.
  • The campaign helped sell over 100 million George Foreman Grills worldwide.
  • The commercials featured George Foreman himself, which added a personal touch and trustworthiness to the product.
  • The ads highlighted the slogan “Knock out the fat,” emphasizing the health benefits which resonated with consumers trying to eat healthier.
  • Within the first year, the campaign saw a 40% increase in sales and became a household name.

The Importance of DRTV

Chances are you remember a majority (if not, all!) of these classic commercials. Not only were these campaigns fun and memorable to consumers, but they also boosted sales for the brands.

Over the years, DRTV advertising has consistently shown that it can drive immediate responses and build lasting brand recognition. And to this day, it remains as a powerful tool for brands and advertisers.

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