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In Direct Response Copywriting, what is a Call to Action?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

In direct response advertising, a call to action is wording that asks the reader or viewer to take immediate action. The desired action may be to fill out and send in an order form or reply card, make a phone call, click something on a website, look for the product in a certain store or many other possible actions. The call to action closes the sale by telling the reader or viewer exactly what to do to get the product, service or information offered.

A clear and specific call to action is important because the purpose of your direct response advertising is to get prospects to take the action you want them to take. If the prospect is unsure of what to do to get the benefits you're promoting, you could lose the response. That action must also be immediate or the prospect could put off responding, which often results in no response at all.

Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

A good call to action will create a compelling urgency for prospects to respond. Wording such as "You must call NOW as supplies are limited" clearly tells the readers or viewers to respond immediately to get the item the rest of the ad has convinced them they need. Without a specific and urgent call to action, the rest of your ad copy is wasted. In direct response advertising, it's the response to your ad that counts!

Good copywriters understand what would keep the target audience from responding. They relate to the doubts and fears of the prospect by reassuring the reader or viewer such as by stressing the company's "No Questions Asked Money Back Promise" near the end of the copy. Any qualms or reservations the prospect could have must be addressed and the offer, including bonuses and benefits, as well as the urgency should be summarized in the final call to action. Here's an example:

"Call 1-800-555-5555 right now to reserve your limited edition Bradley-Rhodes Bonsai Sculpture. You must call NOW as supplies are limited. Your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. You have our No Questions Asked Money Back Promise. Hurry! Call 1-800-555-5555 NOW! The first 100 callers receive a Miniature Surprise Bonus Sculpture absolutely FREE!"

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Discussion Comments


@Cupcake15 - I know that sometimes you will see a call to action advertisement that is political in nature. Often the organization putting out the ad wants the viewers or readers to learn about potential legislation and how it can affect the group.

For example, a group called, “Repeal it Now” offers newsletters to its subscribers as well as television ads to the general public urging them to give money in order to help with the repeal of Obamacare.

They site the progress being made and what future actions that they would like to stop. They always ask for money in order to place ads to defeat this bill. They use a call to action for the people that subscribed to the newsletter and explain the political consequences if they don’t.

It does work at your emotions and makes you angry enough to want to help. These call to action responses are used in all political campaigns and special interest groups.

They want to get you to act now because they need money to continue to get their message across which is why they create the need by explaining what political actions they want to stop.


@SurfNturf -You know that is true. I also wanted to say that with respect to direct advertising there almost always seems to have a bonus at the end of the presentation in order to offer even more value.

Most products are offered at $19.99 and there are always a slew of bonuses that make you think that you are getting such a good deal that you have to go out and buy the product.

I have also heard the speech that the first 100 callers will receive an additional bonus. These commercials always make you feel like they are running out of the product and will only be available for a limited time. They tend to use words that create a sense of urgency for the viewer.

The magazine Newsmax does this a lot. They will offer a best selling book for free if you subscribe to the magazine but the offer is only available for a very limited time.


@Icecream17 -I totally agree with you. I also think that they have considered the objection that the item might be too expensive by offering the installment payment plan so that it feels like you are only paying for a fraction of the cost because that is all you will be billed monthly.

For the more expensive products that are riskier for the consumer to purchase they always emphasize the money back guarantee or a lifetime warranty. For example, when I am looking at a treadmill advertisement, they always mention the lifetime guarantee so that I could see the value in the product.

The lifetime guarantee is another set of buzz words that create an impression of superior quality. It takes away doubts that you may have with the quality of the product because when people hear that the warranty is for life they figure that the product must be well made.


This happens all the time on television shopping channels. They try to create a sense of urgency for purchasing by reminding you how many quantities were sold and how many are left. They also inform you of the sold out options and usually offer personal testimonials regarding how great the product worked.

These products are usually offered for sale during the scheduled programming and the show makes it sound like if you don’t buy during the program that it will be sold out. However, you can always order from the company directly by going to their website. They just try to create a reason for you to buy now by using words like “This is an exclusive offer for the channel” or they might say "This has never been offered before or it is not available in stores."

These claims get you to feel that this is the only outlet where you would find the product and it creates not only exclusivity for the brand but it makes you feel that if you don’t act you might miss out on the product because you will not be able to find it anywhere else.

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