Six things we've learned

  • by Maria Phillips
  • 22/04/2021

...from a year of doing DRTV differently

The pandemic has disrupted the process of producing DRTV charity ads in ways that we couldn’t have imagined only a year ago. From wrestling with how to make fundraising seem appropriate during a national health crisis, to fathoming how to capture great footage via Zoom we’ve certainly had our work cut out.

In a recent webinar - New World, New Ways, New Wins: Creating DRTV and video content in a pandemic- we shared key insights into how the discipline has developed during the past 12 months.

Here are some observations from what’s been a breathless and challenging year of helping charities break new ground in DRTV fundraising.


1) Unexpected success: A year ago we didn’t know how we’d finish DRTV charity ads that were in progress, let alone deliver brand new ones. But by being flexible and embracing remote film and production techniques, we managed not just to continue, but to see some phenomenal DRTV results. And some of those working practices will remain with us.

2) Don’t dream it’s over: Some charities currently considering a burst of DRTV advertising may wonder whether it’s worth the risk. Our view is you absolutely should be powering ahead with your DRTV strategy. Your audiences are still largely at home, keen to donate to causes close to their heart, and many households have managed to increase their savings. You shouldn’t feel that asking for their support is inappropriate; DRTV is an efficient and successful way to reach them if you can highlight a strong and compelling need. What’s more, people appear to be even more willing to give since the pandemic began: don’t underestimate the power of campaigns like Marcus Rashford’s school meals drive and Captain Sir Tom Moore’s extraordinary NHS appeal. New insight from our own goDonate fundraising platform reveals that one-off gifts in 2020 - going through donation funnels that were also live in 2019 - increased by 119% in donations volume, and grew in value by 78%.

3) New opportunities: The pandemic has opened up new fundraising opportunities for some of our charity clients. One example is WaterAid , with ambassador Nadia Sawalha filmed remotely narrating the charity’s latest DRTV ad at her home. Pinning the organisation’s message around hygiene and sanitation to the pandemic and the importance of handwashing won the hearts and minds of UK donors - giving a boost to funds for clean water projects in Africa. 

4) Freshen up existing film: We’re often asked whether it’s a good idea to use footage or DRTV adverts that were filmed pre-pandemic. The answer is a resounding “yes”. There’s no harm in this whatsoever, it’s actually an efficient way of running DRTV at present. Simply consider doing a “top and tail” of your existing advert, perhaps inserting a message that’s relevant right now. You could even include new footage of the ad’s subjects wearing masks and socially distancing to bring the footage right up to date. This is something we did for deaf-blind charity Sense , turning a 60-second edit into a 90-second ad - fronted by its head of supporter services - with excellent results.

5) Follow the guidelines: From ASA rules to local authority risk assessments, be ready for more paperwork and preparation if you’re making an ad. That means giving yourself extra time to complete the project, taking the greatest care to consider all aspects; from the best cameraperson who’s right for challenging circumstances, and the health and safety aspects of locations, to choosing a back-up cast in case of illness.

6) Remote filming - here to stay?: Our best guess is that even when most Covid restrictions are lifted across society this summer, they may remain in place for ad filming. But we’re also certain that the practical new production methods we have honed during the past year - from fusing existing footage with new video, right through to complex shoots with actors, sets and camera crews - will continue to deliver success.


Macmillan Cancer Support put many of these strategies into action for a new DRTV ad produced to support the charity’s Weekly Lottery product. 

Celine Meissonnier, Senior Marketing Manager, told the webinar: “We needed an advert that would cut through the noise, but we hadn’t tested lottery DRTV for several years. We challenged WPNC to make a special, stand-out ad that was fun while highlighting our cause.”

Celine continued: “We were really impressed with the ad’s fun ambience, diverse cast, and production process that reassured us that Covid protocols had been followed. We were able to watch every second of the filming remotely. It didn’t feel like we had less control over the ad than usual.”

Even in “normal” times, getting DRTV right is no mean feat. You can make a beautiful, slick fundraising film that is loved by the audience but doesn’t bring the expected response.

 DRTV is primed to be the major channel for fundraisers as we emerge from lockdown and for some time to come. A recent study showed just 43% of people would be comfortable going to a charity shop, and even fewer engaging with interpersonal fundraisers; so we can’t or shouldn’t expect great things from door-to-door, face-to-face or events even when they’re allowed again. DRTV, though, will make a difference. 

WPNC’s DRTV experts can help overcome any barriers charities have to running campaigns by using principles and techniques for success. Get in touch today for a chat about how we can boost your DRTV strategy.

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