Brand Advertising Vs Direct Response Advertising – Which is The Right Ad Style for Your Business?

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Turns out 99% of advertisers on Facebook have got the wrong end of the stick when it comes to advertising.  They view Facebook Ads in the same way that they view advertising media like TV, Radio, Magazines or Billboards.

What they don’t realise is, there’s actually a fundamental difference between Facebook Ads and mainstream advertising media. It’s this misunderstanding that will guzzles up their ad budget, without generating any sales or revenue.

The little-known (but crucial) difference Facebook Ads and most other ads you’re familiar with

Mainstream advertising and Facebook advertising fall into two distinct buckets. Brand advertising and Direct Response advertising respectively. 

Both can be effective. But both work in different ways to achieve different outcomes for business owners. Unfortunately most Facebook Ad gurus and Ad Agencies don’t make the distinction between the two.

It leaves many business owners expecting Direct Response-style returns from Brand-style ads. That, my friends, is impossible. This lack of clarity around what brand advertising can actually achieve, is why so many agency/client relationships end up breaking down.

What are Direct Response-style returns?

Well, Direct Response advertising, by nature, is 100% measurable. It’s a scientific approach to advertising that leads to almost immediate sales, attributable directly to a specific campaign. Direct Response campaigns are subject to rigorous testing, measurement and data analysis, so they can be optimised to achieve the highest number of leads or sales.

Brand advertising is more difficult to measure. Brand advertisers often look at metrics like Brand Recall, Brand Preference, Market Share, Brand Sentiment etc. That’s because it’s impossible to attribute individual sales to a single campaign.

It also takes much longer for the impact of brand advertising to show. Results generally start to trickle down to the cash register 6-9 months after the start of a campaign.

As I mentioned earlier, Facebook is a Direct Response advertising platform. It’s highly measurable, highly testable and has the potential to generate sales immediately (with the right ad copy and creative).  So, when brand advertisers come to Facebook, they expect fast, measurable returns. 

Trouble is, they’re not willing to deploy the necessary Direct Response copywriting techniques to make those results possible. 


Because Direct Response copy is…umm….direct. It gets to the root of the prospect’s pain and desire with little or no consideration for higher level brand standards. Yes, we can use your brand colours in your ad imagery (as long as those colours don’t hurt conversions). But it can leave your sales messaging at odds with your brand message.

Let me give you an example.

Not long ago, we worked with an activewear brand. The company’s brand was all about sustainability, eco-friendliness, and paying fair wages to their staff.

These are all noble attributes for a clothing brand. Unfortunately, these attributes are not unique (many other businesses already claimed eco-fabrics and sustainability as their “THING”).  And to make matters worse, the core market didn’t care about any of these attributes. I mean, they didn’t care at all. 

In Brand Land, messaging around sustainability, eco-friendliness and fair wages help create a ‘nice feeling’ about the company. These attributes are what gives the brand its personality. They’re what make a business appear ‘likeable’ to the wider public.

BUT, brand messaging does NOT generate sales. At least not right away. That’s where Direct Response comes in. Direct Response is less about being likeable and more about being persuasive.

Think about it this way – In every workplace, there are two types of boss. The one that everyone likes…but no one really respects. They hang out with their team on a Friday night, they bring in team cupcakes, maybe they even arrange playdates with their subordinates’ kids. The team LOVES this boss. But when it comes to getting the team to perform a difficult task, they have no authority to make sh*t happen.  They rely on goodwill to get stuff done…eventually. This is a BRAND boss.

The second type of boss is respected but doesn’t feel the need to be liked. They don’t share lunches with the team. They don’t celebrate their birthday at the pub next to the office. But when they need to get stuff done, they’re super skilled at getting their team fired up for massive action. They may not be likeable but they possess persuasive power that gets sh*t done. This is a DIRECT RESPONSE boss.

You see the difference?

For a Direct Response ad to be effective, it doesn’t need to be likeable – it just needs to be persuasive. Whereas Brand advertisers are obsessed with making their buyers feel warm and fuzzy. They’re paranoid about sounding different to everyone else. It’s why they shy away from hard-hitting, truth-telling direct response-style messaging (even if their bland brand messaging isn’t generating sales).

Often, they balk at the sight of direct response copy. “We can’t say that. It’s totally off-brand!”. Once, a business owner even called my copy “dangerous” because it packed a punch, like nothing they’d seen before in their niche. I wear that label with pride! Dangerous Schmangerous!

This is why it’s impossible to achieve Direct Response Returns with Brand-style ads.

In reality, I’ve over-simplified the many differences between these two types of ad. The differences between Brand Ads and Direct Response ads are too many to talk about in a single blog. So, let me leave you with this infographic, to help you visualise the differences…so you don’t make the same mistakes as most other business owners when they advertise on Facebook.

The No.1 takeaway from this article: You cannot achieve Direct Response results from Brand-Style Ads.

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