July 23, 2014

Dan Borislow, RIP

Bloomberg reports that Dan Borislow, the man behind Magic Jack, died Monday of a heart attack. He was 52.

Dan leaves behind a wife and two children. Our condolences to the Borislow family.


I met Dan when I was head of marketing at IdeaVillage. At the time, he was pitching this crazy new VOIP device and was interested in marketing it using DRTV. That day was interesting (to say the least), and I learned a few things about Dan. First, he was a proud maverick with 100% confidence that he would succeed at whatever he did. Looking at his track record -- even his amazing gambling record! -- it seems that his high opinion of himself was justified. As my dad used to say: "It ain't braggin' if you can do it."

Second, Dan expected other people to have as much confidence in him as he had in himself. The idea he was interested in our DRTV expertise died quickly that day. Dan gave a long talk about the telecom industry and explained how a loophole in telecommunications law would allow him to collect money from the big telecoms for every person who used his product. We listened intently, fascinated to learn from an expert in his field. Then came our turn. Our veteran CEO, Andy Khubani, and our team of experienced DR professionals explained our industry and concluded with several smart reasons why Dan's item was a long-form project and not a short-form project. Despite having zero DRTV experience, Dan disagreed and let us know he thought we were all idiots.

Later it became clear that Dan was more interested in Andy's money than his (or our) expertise -- and he was looking for a lot of it. A soon-to-be-infamous 'Dan quote' was born during the ensuing exchange. After recovering from the sticker shock of Dan's initial investment request, Andy sought some assurances that his money would be well spent. I'm paraphrasing the first part here because this is from memory, but Dan said something like: "All you should be doing is signing the check and saying, 'Go, motherf-er, go!' " Gotta love that kind of chutzpah!

In the end, Andy didn't invest -- and we all shook our heads over Dan's hubris. Personally, I was offended that he had so readily dismissed our advice. My ego didn't like being denied respect. Later, I got to have the first laugh when Dan's two-minute commercial for Magic Jack flopped. However, as we now know, Dan had the last laugh when the product kicked butt in long form and at retail and went on to became one of the biggest success stories of that time. It may not go down as "the best DRTV product ever," (another 'Dan quote' that underscores his confidence), but it will certainly end up in the top 10 in terms of revenue and legitimacy.

And that's my 'Dan Borislow story.' I've heard many others, and I'm sure many will be told as Dan's life is celebrated. He was truly one of those larger-than-life personalities and is sure to be remembered for decades to come. May he rest in peace.

July 17, 2014

The Sparkler

Description: A portable electric toothbrush
Main Pitch: "Combines a beautiful designer look with full-sized sonic power"
Main Offer: $10 for one with extra brush head
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Website: www.SparklerToothbrush.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

One-the-go toothbrushes are a trend in the oral-care category. Colgate's Wisp is a prime example. So it makes sense to try improving on the idea with an electric version. After all, many people prefer electric toothbrushes to manual ones at home, so why wouldn't they prefer electric to manual on the go?

But is this a DRTV idea? I think not. First, this product lacks the power and trust of a known oral-care brand like Colgate. Second, I suspect even Colgate couldn't generate enough direct sales of Wisp, or any other portable toothbrush concept, to sustain a DRTV campaign. Expanding a retail category with traditional advertising support is a different story. We face a higher bar in trying to motivate people off the couch.

Crumb Bug

Description: A mini brush vac
Main Pitch: "Picks up every crumb in seconds"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Phil Parker
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.CrumbBug.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This product is similar to Pocket Vac, an Allstar 'fast fail' from January 2013 (see No. 9 in this Weekly Round-Up). I don't have much information on that product or pitch, but both items have the same inherent limitation in that they solve a narrow problem already being solved by the household Dustbuster.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Radar Remote. Marketer: Allstar. Pitch: "The easiest and quickest way to find your lost TV remote." Comments: An apparent 'fast fail.' (Link goes to spot.) This is one of those items that has been presented dozens of times in the industry but seldom taken all the way to a TV test. Indeed, I couldn't find a single example on the blog. I recall that a version of the idea was once hot at Sharper Image (when that store still existed), which is probably why the idea first got traction. Otherwise, it strikes me as a problem that's low on the scale. [ss]
  3. Flavor Lockers. Marketer: Hearthware/NuWave. Pitch: "Seal in the flavor. Lock in the freshness." Comments: This idea has been tried many times in many ways with success and is clearly another Siren. [ss]
  5. Flower Pot Tree. Pitch: "Adorn your home and beautify your yard." Comments: DR is not the medium for introducing a "line of products," and these deck mounts (etc.) aren't demonstrable or exciting. [ss]
  7. Rubber Duckie & Friends. Pitch: "The adorable, gentle-flow bath and shower wand for kids." Comments: This one targets a segment of a segment. ("But what about Party in the Tub?" you say. And to that I reply: "One is an outlier, three is a category.") It also requires installation, which is a proven sales barrier for DRTV buyers. On a related note, showing plumber's tape in a commercial is never a good idea. [ss]
  9. UFC Fit. Pitch: "The exclusive training and nutrition program created and developed by the Ultimate Fighting Championship." Comments: The logical culmination of a trend I noted back in 2010 that began with Randy Couture and Tower 200. [ss]

July 10, 2014

Weekly Round-Up

Click to watch

  1. Magic Mend. Marketer: Allstar. Producer: Paddock Productions. Pitch: "The fast, easy way to fix any screen in just seconds." Comments: Written by yours truly ... and yet still a 'fast fail'! (Link goes to spot.) [ss]
  3. Life Link. Pitch: "The world's thinnest, ultra-portable charge cable." Comments: Yet another attempt in the smart phone/smart device accessories category, which has yet to yield a single hit. [ss]
  5. The Bible Simplified. Pitch: "A straightforward way to understand the Bible." Comments: DR hits with a religious focus are rare, and this is a crowded category outside of DR. [ss]
  7. The Hard Water Wand. Starring: Anthony Sullivan. Pitch: "Erases stains like magic without harsh chemicals." Comments: Not sure what the play is here. The name is generic and descriptive, and a key line in the spot is: "Turns a toilet that looks like poo into a toilet that looks like new." Needless to say, this isn't your typical DR approach! (Link goes to spot. Product page is here.) [ss]
  9. Tidyware. Marketer: Edison Nation. Pitch: "The mounting storage system that sorts all your container-ware up and out of there." Comments: An apparent 'fast fail.' (Link goes to spot.) [ss]
  11. TriWipe. Pitch: "The easiest, most complete way to clean windows, glass doors and mirrors." Comments: Another apparent 'fast fail.' [ss]
  13. Zoom Tech. Marketer: Allstar. Pitch: "The new compact, high-powered zoom lens for your cell phone." Comments: The fourth and final 'fast fail' of the week. (Link goes to spot.) [ss]