In 1990, they began selling the "ThighMaster," and the rest is infomercial history. Somers' empire of books and products aimed at helping women has made her far more successful than if she'd stayed in acting. "At one time we were manufacturing over a thousand products," Somers said, adding that she stopped counting how many ThighMasters sold "after 10 million."
Last week in San Diego, Somers was inducted into the Direct Response Hall of Fame. "Direct response" is another name for an infomercial, which, technically, is a program that explains and demonstrates what a product does and then requires a direct response from you, the consumer—either call or go online and make your purchase.
However, 30 years after the Federal Communications Commission relaxed rules allowing infomercials of 30 minutes or longer to air on television, the industry is changing. "It's definitely more challenging," said Tim Hawthorne of Hawthorne Direct, an infomercial advertising agency. Hawthorne, too, was inducted into the Hall of Fame.