The formula sounds simple: Product + Pitch + Pizazz = Infomercial. But it's really a combination of science and skill, and yes, the requisite amount of silliness, that goes into creating an ad that will make you get up and buy. CNBC Originals takes you inside the world of the infomercials.
As Seen on TV
It all begins with a product that marketers hope will capture a consumer's desire. The Ped-Egg - an egg-shaped foot file - hit the mark. Since it launched in October 2007, more than 20 MILLION Ped-Eggs have been sold.
If you've ever seen a product and said, "Geez, I could have thought of that!" you must have seen the Snuggie. The Snuggie blanket-with-sleeves has sold millions and is a fixture in American popular culture. For those keeping score, All Star Marketing Group has sold enough Snuggie blankets to outfit the entire population of Minnesota.
"In Japan, the hand can be used like a knife. But this method doesn't work with a tomato." That was the opening line for the 1978 Ginsu Knives infomercial, one of the first and most famous, 2-minute infomercials ever made. Ed Valenti, the man behind the marketing, coined the catchphrase, "But wait, there's more!"
Finding the right face to promote a product is key and securing a celebrity endorsement can pack the necessary punch. In 2008, Mr. T, from the popular TV show “The A Team,” stood behind Thane's "Flavor Wave Oven," which promoted a new generation of cooking. Mr. T: “My taste buds have gone wild…I love it when a plan comes together!”
The infomercial industry made stars out of professional pitchmen like the late Billy Mays best known for OxiClean. The bearded, blue-collar everyman commanded tens-of-thousands of dollars per product pitch, and he also took a percentage of the sales. Billy Mays: “Life’s a pitch and then you buy.”
Do you say "Wow!" every time you use the ShamWow! absorbent cloth? Wonder why you do? Because pitchman Vince Shlomi told you to in his popular ShamWow! infomercial. A catchphrase may not get you to buy, but industry insiders hope it will GRAB YOUR ATTENTION.
Direct Response ads are targeted to get consumers to buy and buy NOW! So, finding the right price is key to getting people off the couch and on the phone. Pricing psychologists have proven that a $9.99 price tag outsells a $10 tag by a remarkable 2:1 ratio. Why? Because, according to studies, consumers see $10 and may hesitate, but when they see the $9 in the $9.99 they’ll often spend…even though there's just a $.01 difference in price.
According to Telebrands CEO, AJ Khubani, his ad shoot for the Zasshu Knife cost $30,000. That, coupled with buying media time and talent fees, cost approximately $70,000. But, there’s never a guarantee of success. The Zasshu Knife ultimately failed.
Once an ad runs, it's all about the return. A key sales metric is that for every dollar spent on advertising, at least $2 has to come back from product sales. The industry turns to Infomercial Monitoring Services to see what sales should be to ensure a profit.
In an industry where success is measured by longevity, Ron Popeil is long considered the king. According to Infomercial Monitoring Services, Popeil's "Showtime Rotisserie and BBQ" has aired more than 21,000 times since its 1998 launch - making it no. 5 of the top ten infomercials of all time.