December 31, 2007

IMS Top 50

The December issue of Response is out, and for the sixth year it includes a feature article on the top 50 short-form spots of the year as measured by the Infomercial Monitoring Service (IMS).

I won't bother to reproduce the entire list here, but I would like to offer an important observation on it:

The vast majority of campaigns that made the list are not traditional DRTV campaigns.

By this I mean they aren't cost-per-order (CPO) campaigns launched using short-form media. They are either cost-per-acquisition/lead-generation campaigns (Enzyte, Gold Kit, Nutrisystem), or short-form versions of successful long-form infomercials (Total Gym, Proactiv, Swivel Sweeper). Such distinctions are important because they distort the picture.

In the former case, the economics of a CPA/lead-gen campaign are completely different than a campaign driven by a CPO. That's because the customer may have a lifetime value in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, so high CPOs that would quickly kill a traditional campaign can be acceptable.

In the latter case -- short-form versions of long-form hits -- the buyer has been "pre-sold" by the infomercial. In this scenario, the short-form simply becomes another channel of sale (e.g. retail, the Web) driven by the long-form advertising.

I call these distortions because DRTV novices will look at lists like the IMS 50 and tend to draw erroneous conclusions about what products and product categories they should pursue.

Take fitness. Looking at this year's IMS list, we might be tempted to conclude that a medium- to high-priced fitness item is a solid bet in short form. The No. 1 item of the year is the AB Lounge XL. The No. 5 item is the Total Gym. And the No. 10 item is the Bowflex Tread Climber.
But if any of these products had tried to launch using CPOs and spot advertising exclusively, it would have bombed quickly and disappeared. That's because short form is the wrong form for fitness items over $20 (with rare exceptions). The overwhelming majority of hits on the list were infomercial hits first.

There is a third trend reflected in the IMS list this year that also bears mentioning: Several companies that view DRTV as a traditional advertising expense made the list. Again, this distorts the picture because such companies use DRTV media in a completely different way than a pure-play DRTV player would. They see it simply as discounted media, and could care less whether they get an immediate sale or not.

This is perhaps the most troublesome trend because another way of saying "an immediate sale" is "a direct sale." And if the top 50 DRTV lists no longer represent products and services that sold well direct, the whole exercise has become pointless.

That said, the traditional DRTV items that did make the list this year stand out even more than in previous years because they were competing at a relative disadvantage. Unlike their rivals, they had to deliver immediate sales and immediate profit in order to keep airing.

This part of the IMS list I will reproduce here, if only to let my readers see how short the "real DRTV" hits list really is!

1. Perfect Pushup (#6 on the IMS list)
2. Urine Gone (#19)
3. Tweeze (#20)
4. Patch Perfect (#24)
5. Listen Up (#36)
6. Infinity Razor (#43)
7. Hercules Hooks (#44)
8. My Lil' Reminder (#48)

December 11, 2007

New This Week: GroutStar, ProGauge, Lids Off Jar Opener and more

I'm back on track and all caught up, so here's a timely report on the latest DRTV spots to air.

1. GROUT STAR ($19.95) is a kit for cleaning and sealing grout. The main claim: "Restore your grout to like new," and "apply it just once,and you’ll never scrub your grout again." The offer includes a bottle of deep cleaner, a bottle of sealer, an application brush and a chamois. The bonus is a bottle of Permashine (adds shine to tile) and a grout repair kit for fixing missing or damaged grout. www.GroutStar.com
Product (D7) Score: 7 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: Poor**
Comments: This is a winning product idea (7 out of 7!) saddled with a bad commercial. To fix this spot, I would start over with a new spokesperson, shoot 'wow' demos that capture the transformative effect of the product, and clarify the strong but confusing offer --among other things. With the right commercial behind it, this could be a major hit.

2. PRO GAUGE ($19.99) is a gauge that screws onto a propane tank and tells you how much gas you have left. The main claim: "Never run out of gas again." The bonus is a 19-piece cutlery set with carrying case (just pay S&H). This is a Telebrands item. www.PropaneGasMeter.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: OK**
Comments:
This product is out of season and will fail for that reason alone. But even in season, it would face several challenges. First, the running-out-of-propane problem is not very painful, in my opinion. It doesn't happen often, and most BBQ grills have some built-in method for determining when you're running low on gas. Many people even buy a back-up tank as a solution to this problem. Second, the price is high relative to the value: A gauge for $20 is just not a compelling deal, even with the knives thrown in.

3. LIDS OFF JAR OPENER (2 pay, $24.99) is a countertop appliance for opening jars. The pitch: "Takes the struggleout of your hands at the touch of a button." No Bonus. This is a Black & Decker item. www.BuyLidsOff.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: Good**
Comments: This product isn't unique -- similar solutions exist, including a modest hit/line extension called the One Touch Jar Opener -- and it is priced high for DRTV. However, this is a great holiday item and should do well enough in the run-up to Christmas to justify its budget.

4. FULL BAR (Soft Offer) is a weight loss plan featuring all-natural bars. Before every meal you eat a bar, drink a glass of water and then wait 30 minutes before eating. The main claim: "Clinically proven to help people lose an average of 40% of their excess body weight in just three months." www.FullBar.com
Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: OK**
Comments:
P.T. Barnum is reputed to have said, "There's a sucker born every minute." Some marketers believe you should add to that phrase, "especially when it comes to dieting." But even the most gullible dieters won't fall for this obvious ploy. Eat less by filling up your stomach with healthy stuff before every meal? If people could live by those rules, they wouldn't be spending millions on diet products that promise you can eat all you want and still lose weight!

5. POWER TWIST ($199) is an exercise device for improving your twist. www.PowerTwist.us
Product (D7) Score: 2 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: Awful**
Comments: I only included this spot in my report so I could, for the first time ever, use the "awful" rating. Enough said!

Sources: “New Spots for Week Ending 12/7/07,” IMS (1, 2, 4, 5); "Vol. XVII, No. 8-B for 12/7/07," Jordan Whitney (3)

* See my July 24, 2007 post for a complete explanation of the D7 product score.
** See my October 22, 2007 post for a complete explanation of my commercial rating system.

December 06, 2007

New This Week ... and last week, and the week before that

I am way behind on my new items reports. The fourth quarter blues have given way to the madness of first quarter preparations. At the same time, many DRTV players (including me) have decided to test in December despite the horrible media environment. All of this means things have been hectic, to say the least.

To catch up, here's a quick report that combines three weeks' worth of new items. I only had time to evaluate the first six. The rest of the report is for informational purposes only. I promise I'll do better in the new year ... but focusing on my 2008 hits has to come first!

1. AQUA GLOBES ($14.99) are decorative glass bulbs for keeping house plants properly watered. The pitch: "Add beauty to your plants and keep them perfectly watered every day." The complete offer with bonuses is four globes -- red, blue, green and rainbow -- with gift boxes for each. This is an Allstar item and a Blue Moon commercial. www.BuyAquaGlobes.com
Product (D7) Score: 6 of 7*
Commercial Rating: Good**
Comments: Fred Vanore does excellent work, and this commercial from his studio is no exception. It hits all the key selling points and employs all the right DRTV techniques in a clear and compelling way. As for the product, it has the potential to be a winner if it can overcome two weaknesses that I see. One, it's a piece of art. That's good for the perceived value, but risky from a taste perspective. Some people just may not like it. Second, it has a crediblity issue. It's hard to believe an open-ended spout will correctly water even delicate tropical plants without overwatering them.

2. MONEY CLAMP ($19.95) is an ultra-slim combination wallet and money clip. The main claim: "Holds the same amount in one-third the space of a regular wallet." The bonuses are two additional clamps (without the wallet), one metal and one plastic. www.MoneyClamp.net
Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: Poor**
Comments: Some of the D7 criteria are more critical than others. For example, an item lacking in credbility may succeed despite that shortcoming. But there are some criteria that are inviolable, and being unique is definitely one of them. This product fails in that category, and the cheesy quality of the commercial won't help either.

3. CHIC SHAPER ($19.99) is an undergarment that is worn over the bra to correct posture. The added benefit is it lifts and enhances the bust. The pitch: "Instant results that will get you noticed." Comes in choice of black, white or beige. The bonus is clear straps for evening wear. This is an Ontel item and a Sullivan commercial. www.ChicShaper.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 of 7*
Commercial Rating: Good**
Comments:
Sully's team does great-looking commercials that add perceived value to any DRTV product, and he hits all the right selling points in this spot. The only issue I had was clarity, which may be a shortcoming of the product itself. It takes a while to understand this isn't a bra. Rather, it's an undergarment that works with the bra. And viewed in that light, it becomes less compelling. The real problem this product is solving is poor posture, and that may not be a big enough problem to compel women to buy it.

4. SMART LIDZ ($10) are silicone lids that fit any size bowl. The pitch: They create a vacuum seal that locks in freshness. The offer includes four lids of various sizes, then they double the offer. The bonus is a jumbo lid free, just pay S&H. No URL.
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: Good**
Comments: This Chef Tony commercial has a lot going for it. Great demos, great presentation and a great offer. However, the product doesn't solve a painful problem in my opinion. Or, at least, there are a lot of other solutions to the problem on the market, from vacuum sealers to whistling Tupperware. Additionally, it has a credibility problem. It's hard to believe these lids will stay on, let alone create a vacuum seal.

5. ROTO WRENCH ($19.95) is a box wrench that adjusts to any size bolt. The pitch: It has 16 sizes in one and 12 gripping teeth so it grips and won't slip. The bonus is an "always straight nail gripper" that holds a nail straight while you hammer it. No URL.
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: Good**
Comments: Tools are always a tough sell, in my opinion. Yes, there have been several hits in this category, but you have to have something uniquely compelling with multiple uses. This product doesn't hit that bar. It addresses a nuisance, not a painful problem, looks weird and lacks credibility.

6. COLD HEAT GLUE GUN ($24.99) is a cordless glue gun for crafts. The pitch: Heats up "seven times faster than a typical glue gun." The offer includes a charging base and eight glue sticks. The bons is 100 glue sticks free, and free shipping. www.ColdHeatGlueGun.com
Product (D7) Score: 2 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: Good**
Comments:
This is a bad extension of the Cold Heat brand, which is male-oriented and stands for "a soldering iron that rapidly cools." This glue gun is female-oriented and, as far as I can tell, doesn't cool down any faster than a regular glue gun. Additionally, it fails five of the Divine Seven. It's not all that unique. It has limited appeal (craft people only). It doesn't solve a painful problem. It's $5 too expensive for DRTV. And it lacks credibility. Other than that, I love it!

7. NAPA GRAPE LIGHTS ($14.99) by Telebrands are decorative hanging lights that look like bunches of grapes. www.NapaGrapeLights.com

8. LONG LITE (24 for $19.95) is a disc that sits in the bottom of a light bulb socket and extends the life of the bulb up to 300%. www.LongLite.com

9. PETICURE ($29.99) is a cordless nail buffer for cats and dogs. www.Peticure.com

10. DREAMSHIELD ULTRA (Soft Offer) by Homedics is a mattress and pillow cover/protector that keeps out the dust mites that aggravate allergies and asthma. www.DreamShield.com

11. HOT LEGS ($19.99) are strips of cold wax with anesthetic for "pain free"' hair removal. www.BuyHotLegs.com

12. BETTY CROCKER ALL-IN-ONE (2 pay, $14.95) is a set of fill-and-bake pans. No URL.

13. DOUBLE-TAKE BRA (2 pay, $19.95) is a bust-enhancing bra. www.DoubleTakeBra.com

14. CHIRO WALLET ($19.95) is a wallet designed to prevent chiropractic problems related to sitting on a bulky wallet. No URL.

15. L'AZZIO ($24.95 trial) is a hot air stlying brush that straightens, volumizes and curls. www.LazzioStyler.com

16. INSTACURLS (2 pay, $19.95) is a set of curlers that comes with a microwaveable cap for setting the curls. The pitch is "curls in two minutes." www.InstaCurls.com

Sources: “New Spots for Week Ending 11/16/07, 11/23/07 and 11/30/07,” IMS; "Vol. XVII, No. 5-B, 6-B and 7-B for 11/16/07, 11/23/07 and 11/30/07," Jordan Whitney

* See my July 24, 2007 post for a complete explanation of the D7 product score.
** See my October 22, 2007 post for a complete explanation of my commercial rating system.

December 03, 2007

The Three Keys to DRTV Success

Sometimes in business, we overcomplicate things. This is especially true when it comes to DRTV. As many industry leaders have told me over the years, "This is a simple business." And it's true. Unlike startups that rely on venture capital, the DRTV business is self-funding and low risk/high reward. Unlike brand-oriented businesses, we don't have to wait years to cross over and realize a hit. Results are immediate and measurable.

Not that's it easy. The DRTV landscape is littered with the smoking wrecks of DRTV companies, and dozens of new players try to break in and fail every year. There are many reasons for this, but I am more interested in the companies that have survived the test of time. For example, how is it that a Telebrands, an IdeaVillage or an Allstar can deliver hit after hit, year after year?

Thinking about this led me to a simple but profound conclusion. For an established DRTV player with capital (an important distinction), there are really only three keys to DRTV success:

1. Consistently identify hit products.

Of course, this is easier said than done. But the top companies do it over and over again. One reason is that they know, and strictly adhere to, established screening criteria for DRTV products (such as my "Divine Seven"). Even if they don't have a formal list like the one I've created, they know in their gut what works and what doesn't -- and they rarely take shots outside of that framework. Look at the long list of bombs this year from this perspective, and it will become clear why they failed: They tried to break the mold and failed.

2. Clearly communicate key selling points using proven techniques.

As with DRTV product criteria, there is proven knowledge out there for how to present a product's selling points to the consumer. I've created a list of 10 Tried & True techniques, but there are more than 30 points in my private notes, both major and minor. The lessons range from hard facts proved every year (e.g. 2-minute commercials sell, 30-second spots do not) to psychological lessons proved over the decades (e.g. clearly spelling out the problem your product solves increases response).

3. Don't screw up when managing the results!

This is really my way of saying, "the devil is in the details." I've seen campaigns fall apart and whole companies come unglued because of poor management of an otherwise successful campaign. Conversely, I've seen mediocre products and "just OK" commercials produce real success in the hands of a well-run organization. There's a lot to talk about here, but again the rules are simple. Make sure your media agency knows what it's doing and provides you with accurate and timely information. Maximize successful campaigns by constantly testing new networks, new media (e.g. print, online) and new channels of distribution (catalogs, international). Use the right metrics when evaluating call center and Web site performance. Be relentless in your quest to optimize back-end results until they meet or exceed industry standards. And then there's retail, about which I will only say this: A strong presence on retail shelves can cover a multitude of sins!

November 13, 2007

New This Week: Pure Sleep & BOB

The fourth quarter doldrums continue. Only a few DRTV marketers are braving these unfriendly media waters to attempt to promote their wares.

1. PURE SLEEP (2 pay, $29.95) is a nighttime mouthpiece for snorers. It's similar to the devices dentists prescribe. The main claim: "Discover the proven way ... to stop snoring now." No bonus. This is a Go 2 Productions commercial. www.PureSleep.com
Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: Good/Excellent**
Comments:
This is a well done commercial for a challenging product -- challenging because the market is crowded with snoring solutions and because snoring isn't a universal problem (although it is a common one). The price point won't help, either. It's just too expensive for DRTV buyers.

2. BOB (Soft Offer) is a device for controlling the amount of time children spend in front of the TV or computer. Once kids reach a pre-set hourly, daily or weekly limit, BOB shuts off the screen. The main claim: “Puts an end to child-parent conflicts about screentime.” No bonus. www.UseBob.com
Product (D7) Score: 3 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: OK**
Comments: This is a unique idea that addresses a parental concern. However, the market for it is limited to parents (and strict ones at that). I don't see grandparents, the target market for DRTV products, buying this. I also don't believe the claim that it will end child-parent conflicts(!) Lastly, this item is expensive for DRTV buyers. The Web site says it costs three payments of $29.99 -- plus shipping and handling.

Sources: “New Spots for Week Ending 11/9/07,” IMS (1); "Vol. XVII, No. 4-B, 11/9/07," Jordan Whitney (2)

* See my July 24, 2007 post for a complete explanation of the D7 product score.
** See my October 22, 2007 post for a complete explanation of my commercial rating system.

November 08, 2007

Commercial Review: Twin Draft Guard

Today I am posting my first complete review of a DRTV commercial.

Quick recap: I decided to start doing this when I realized my weekly report on new items didn't allow me the time or space to analyze interesting commercials. Now, from time to time, I will write a complete commercial review using my Tried & True (T&T) DRTV Techniques as a framework.

For this inaugural review, I've chosen a product that launched last year and is now back on the air for fourth quarter: Twin Draft Guard.


Click play to watch the Twin Draft Guard commercial.

For the record, I think this product is a DRTV winner. I have no way of verifying that yet, but I'll be watching the charts. Why do I think it's a winner? Because it gets a check mark in every one of the seven categories I use to evaluate products.

Now, because other draft guards appear in catalogs all the time, some people will dispute my check in the first category (uniqueness). But I think the "twin" feature of this particular draft guard makes it unique -- as does the way it clings to a door when it's opened or closed.

Some people will also protest that this item is seasonal, and as a result shouldn't be called a "hit" in the traditional sense. For those people, I have two words: Auto Cool. Moreover, this item will sell year after year -- unlike Auto Cool, which died quickly because of negative word-of-mouth.

Moving on to the creative, which was done by Concepts TV, this commercial gets a solid T&T Score of 7 out of 10. Here's why:

The commercial begins with a compelling problem-solution opening (1). A clever graphic of money literally going out the door from wasted energy is shown in conjunction with a credibility-building quote from the US Department of Energy: "Excess air leakage can increase heating and cooling bills by 30%."

From there the commercial moves immediately to a showcase of unique product features and benefits (2). As they explain, Twin Draft Guard features "double-sided insulation," creates an "airtight seal," is "easy to install," "adjusts to any door" and "moves with the door."

This commercial is also loaded with great demos (3). For example, a child is shown installing the product to emphasize how easy it is. One of the best demos is a setup where one side of a door is rigged with party tassles, and a blow dryer is used on the other side. Without the Twin Draft Guard, the tassles dance to show the air is getting right through. But with the Twin Draft Guard in place, the tassles lay perfectly still. Now that's a magic demo!

This demo is also a great way to explain how the product works (4) as well as prove that it works by comparing and contrasting (5). Another good contrast scene is a negative demo of an older woman adjusting a typical "bean bag" style draft guard. Because it just lays there and doesn't move with the door, she has to bend over to reposition it.

Overall, this commercial ensures the viewer will have no questions or objections (6) that haven't been answered by a convincing demo. It also features a solid satisfaction guarantee (7): If it doesn't "lower your energy bills" and "pay for itself the very first month," you can send it back for a full refund.

The Twin Draft Guard commercial isn't perfect, of course. There is definitely some room for improvement here. For one thing, the offer is weak. You get two Twin Draft Guards for $19.99 plus a bonus rack of ceramic, over-the-door hooks. That's $20 for what amounts to two pieces of foam and a bonus that is barely relevant to the product. Dropping the price to $14.99 and finding a better bonus would certainly improve results.

The same goes for adding testimonials or some other form of third-party endorsement to enhance the credibility of the commercial. A great idea would be to feature some kind of study that compared the energy bills of a house before and after Twin Draft Guards were installed. The specific savings shown would also be an excellent way to establish a true value comparison, which is another key technique from the T&T 10 that I felt was missing from this commercial.

November 06, 2007

New This Week: Dolce Vita TheraBed, Gemtastic

Another slow week featuring several repeat items, many of which have been off the air since last year at this time. ‘Tis the season!

1. DOLCE VITA THERABED ($14.95 trial) is a heated bed for older pets. The pitch: “Combines orthopedic foam with precise therapeutic heat.” The bonus is free shipping and a pet brush that prevents shedding. www.TheraBedNow.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: Good**
Comments: The non-trial price for this item is $79.98! That’s too expensive for DRTV buyers. The positioning toward older pets will also limit the market. So this item, while targeted toward the right demographic for DRTV, is unlikely to succeed.

2. GEMTASTIC ($19.95) is a kit for putting gems on your clothing. The pitch: “Just apply heat, then peel and reveal.” The offer includes 144 each of the ruby, emerald, sapphire and crystal gems, as well as three reusable transfer sheets and an instruction/idea book. The bonus is 144 rose gems. www.Gemtastic.com
Product (D7) Score: 2 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: OK**
Comments:
This item fails the D7 in most categories (it passes in the "priced right" and "age appropriate" categories). Gem kits have been around for decades, going back to Ron Popeil’s Bedazzler. But few have shared Popeil’s early success. For example, a product called GeMagic aired as recently as a year ago with less than stellar results (at least according to the charts). This product, while different, is likely to share a similar fate. The iron-on approach is actually a liability because it hurts the quality perception.

Sources: “New Spots for Week Ending 11/2/07,” IMS (1-3)

* See my July 24, 2007 post for a complete explanation of the D7 product score.
** See my October 22, 2007 post for a complete explanation of my commercial rating system.

October 30, 2007

New This Week: The Ab Wedge

Things are slowing down in fourth-quarter DRTV land and, as a result, I only have one new item to report on this week.

THE AB WEDGE (2 pay, $14.95) is a wedge pillow that supports your back while you do ab exercises. The main claim: “Six pack abs without the pain.” The bonuses are a workout poster, DVD and carrying case. www.TheAbWedge.com
Product (D7) Score: 2 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: OK**
Comments:
There seems to be no end to the number of ab products that succeed on DRTV, but that doesn't mean any ab item will work. The problem I have with this product is there's nothing unique or interesting about it. Plus, it's a bit pricey for DRTV and for what it is.

That's it! Hungry for more SciMark content? Check out my recent rethinking of how I determine if an item is a hit, and my short list of five bona-fide hits from the last 90 days.

Source: “New Spots for Week Ending 10/26/07,” IMS

* See my July 24, 2007 post for a complete explanation of the D7 product score.
** See my October 22, 2007 post for a complete explanation of my commercial rating system.

Five Bona-Fide Hits: Perfect Pushup, Listen Up, Samurai Shark, Green Bags and the OneTouch Jar Opener

Using my new methodology, I took a look at the IMS and Jordan Whitney charts for the past several months and came up with a surprisingly short list of bona-fide DRTV hits.

The items below are new (launched this year) and have appeared on the Jordan Whitney for at least 12 consecutive weeks. They have also appeared on the IMS chart enough times to validate their success. (Each item is linked to its Web site in case you need a refresher.)

1. Perfect Pushup (31 weeks)
2. Listen Up (28 weeks)
3. Samurai Shark (18 weeks)
4. Green Bags (16 weeks)


video
Click play above to watch the Listen Up DRTV commercial.

Several additional items are nearing the 90-day (12 weeks) mark, but haven’t quite made it yet. I also found several items that inexplicably appear on the Jordan Whitney week after week but have never once appeared on the IMS chart in the last 90 days. They include: Zorbeez (34 weeks), Tater Mitts (30 weeks) and Huggable Hangers (17 weeks). These may be true hits, but lacking second-source verification I have to exclude them.

I also searched for items that have consistently appeared on the IMS chart over the last 90 days and appeared on the Jordan Whitney enough times to validate their success. The result of that analysis is only one additional item:

5. OneTouch Jar Opener

That’s it! Just five new hits in the last 90 days.

Now for the really interesting part: How they stack up against my Divine Seven product criteria and/or predictions.

1. Perfect Pushup – I never reviewed this item, but I did assign it a D7 score of 4 out of 7. It failed my test when it came to: a) solving a problem, b) having the right price for DRTV (it’s $40), and 3) being appropriate for the older DRTV consumer. Despite these weaknesses, it is THE big hit of the year so far. Apparently, a lot of young guys are buying this, and they are willing to pay to “get ripped.” Is this an outlier, or should the D7 be reconsidered? Only time will tell.

2. Listen Up – This IdeaVillage item launched in 2006, but it didn’t roll out until 2007. I did not publish a review, but I did evaluate it using the D7 criteria. My score: 6 out of 7. The one area I questioned was credibility. Would people believe the product worked as advertised? The answer turned out to be yes.

3. Samurai Shark – When I reviewed this SAS Group item in April, I wrote it was “unlikely to succeed” because it was entering “a crowded category with lots of similar solutions” and there was “nothing unique” about the product. As it turns out, I underestimated the Billy Mays factor. As for the D7, I gave this item 6 out 0f 7.

4. Green Bags – For some reason, I never saw or reviewed this Allstar item: at least not in its current incarnation. But back in 2005, I reviewed its predecessor, EverFresh Green Bags. Back then I wrote, “This is the item that keeps doing well on shopping channels, and I can see why. I think it will be a winner in this format as well.” Since this pre-dated the D7, I never gave it a score.

5. OneTouch Jar Opener – This is the only item on the list that received 7 out of 7 on the D7. When ARM launched it in May I wrote, “We have a winner at last! This product gets high marks in every category.”

So with the exception of the Perfect Pushup, which seems to have snuck up on everyone, the D7 methodology for evaluating new items is holding up fairly well. It seems items are succeeding if they are weak in one area, but items weak in more than one area are not making it. That said, if more Perfect Pushups pop up, I will have to rethink the criteria and test a new system of evaluation! Stay tuned ...

Oh, and if you think I missed any items, feel free to post a comment.

October 29, 2007

90 Days Later: RECONSIDERED

My method for determining whether an item has become a hit is flawed and needs to be reconsidered.

That’s a realization I came to recently. What I do now is wait 90 days to see if an item “crosses over” – that is, makes it onto the two charts that monitor DRTV success (produced by the Infomercial Monitoring Service and Jordan Whitney). If an item is around 90 days after launch, I figure it has to be for real. But there are two problems with this:

1. Many items I know are successful aren’t appearing on the charts.

This can happen for several reasons. Sometimes companies intentionally under-report their spending numbers to stay off the radar (thereby preventing knockoffs from entering the market). Such a tactic would only affect the Jordan Whitney chart, however, since they are the only service that factors in self-reported numbers as well as monitoring actual airings.

The IMS chart is based strictly on monitoring, but that brings up a second reason why a hit commercial might be missed: It isn’t airing heavily on the stations being monitored. Such stations are limited for obvious reasons (manpower, logistics). A third and final reason a hit commercial might be missed is that the marketer is busy solving internal problems, such as getting production ramped up or changing agencies, and isn’t ready to roll out (even though the numbers are excellent).

2. Several items I know aren’t successful are appearing on the charts regularly.

This is the dark side of DRTV: People of questionable ethics and integrity manipulating what many perceive to be impartial information. The simplest way is to report intentionally inflated spending numbers, which is one reason I use both lists as a check against each other. Another technique is to spend heavily for a few weeks (at a loss) just to get noticed. There are other techniques, but explaining them here would be a little like printing the recipe for a dirty bomb. Suffice to say, it can be done and it is being done way too often.

So what to do? How can one account for these distortions and know what’s really a hit and what isn’t? Here are my new rules:

  • “Hits” must survive 90 days. It may seem like a subtle change, but it’s going to make a big difference. Instead of waiting 90 days and checking the charts once, I will check the charts each week for new items that have been on the charts for at least 90 days consecutively. Doing so will correct for unethical marketers who are pumping spending to create a false perception and ethical marketers who are just taking time to get their act together.

  • Both charts must be considered together. This is a current rule that is important because it corrects for false reporting and under-reporting. If a product has been appearing on the Jordan Whitney chart for 90 days but hasn’t appeared on the IMS chart at least a few times, something is wrong with that result and it must be discarded. Conversely, if an item has been appearing on the IMS chart week after week and has never appeared on the Jordan Whitney, someone is trying to suppress a winner.

Is this a perfect methodology? No. But short of having inside information and confidential reporting for every DRTV product marketed, there is no better way I can think of right now. Feel free to post your disagreements!

In my next post, I’ll share the results of a recent analysis using this new methodology.

October 24, 2007

New This Week: 1001 Cleaner & Degreaser, 3-in-1 Slow Cooker, Touch N Brush and more

Back on schedule at last! Below is my report on the latest DRTV commercials.

You’ll notice that in addition to a product score, I am now including a commercial rating. For an explanation of this rating, see my earlier post. I haven’t stopped critiquing spots using the T&T criteria, but I will be reserving that for full reviews that I’ll be posting separately (and randomly).

1. 1001 CLEANER & DEGREASER ($19.95) is a spray-on cleaner with a special nozzle that lets you dial the concentration you want. It features a “dual chamber” system: one is concentrate and the other is water. The main claim: “Replaces dozens of cleaners with one.” The bonus is a second bottle of concentrate. This is a WD-40 Direct product. www.1001Cleaner.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: Good/Excellent**
Comments:
This is a well done commercial for an interesting item with real potential. But will it sell? I see two barriers. One, the problem this solves isn’t terribly painful. Sure, it’s more efficient to have one cleaner instead of several, and it saves you money to put your own water into your cleaning products instead of paying a premium for someone else to do it for you. But those arguments aren’t compelling enough to motivate people off the couch, in my opinion. Second, and this is the biggest problem I see, the idea being pitched runs counter to consumer perception, which has been created by years and millions of dollars worth of marketing. To cite one example: Windex has convinced the consumer that their brand is specially formulated to prevent streaking. Now that same consumer is being asked to accept that a diluted (dialed down) general-purpose cleaner can do the same job on windows.

2. 3-in-1 SLOW COOKER (2 pay, $29.95) is a slow cooker with removable stoneware that comes in three different sizes. The bowls come in 2, 4 and 6-quart sizes, and they double as serving dishes. The pitch: “A home-cooked meal every night, no matter who can -- or can't -- make it to dinner.” The bonus is a recipe book. This is a Hamilton Beach product. www.3in1SlowCooker.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: Good**
Comments:
I’ve long been a fan of Hamilton Beach products and commercials. They do DR with a brand feel very well. This particular commercial is a little slow, however, and lacking in excitement. As for the product, it’s innovative and presents the consumer with a “better than” solution. However, it doesn’t solve a particularly pressing problem and the price is high for DRTV.

3. MEAL MAKER MULTICOOKER (2 pay, $44.95) is a combination fryer and steamer. The main claim: “Steam up to 8 ears of corn, or fry a whole 4-1/2 pound chicken in just 35 minutes.” The bonus is a recipe CD. This is a Hamilton Beach product. www.HBMultiCooker.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: Good**
Comments:
I have the same comments here as I did for the previous Hamilton Beach item. I like the production quality of the commercial and the presentation of the item. But the commercial lacks excitement and the product isn’t sufficiently compelling to drive an impulse purchase, in my opinion. Also, the price is very high for DRTV.

4. CERAMIC EZ PEEL ($10) is a potato and vegetable peeler with a ceramic blade. The main claim: “Cut your peeling time in half.” The offer is buy one, get one free. The bonus is a ceramic blade mandolin slicer. Separate S&H is charged on both the second unit and the slicer. This is a Telebrands product. www.CeramicEZPeel.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: OK**
Comments:
This is pretty standard fare for DRTV, but the item is unlikely to succeed because it doesn’t solve a problem. It has also been around in other channels and is “old news” as a result.

5. TOUCH N BRUSH ($19.99) is a toothpaste dispenser that mounts to the wall. The main claim: It’s “the first hands-free, mess-free toothpaste dispenser that works with just a touch.” The offer includes two “multi-surface super grip discs.” The bonus is a Sonic 4X toothbrush. This is a Merchant Media product. www.BuyTouchNBrush.com
Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: OK**
Comments:
This item will really only appeal to children because it’s fun and easy to use. For adults, it will seem like a solution in search of a problem, in my opinion. Also, the idea that this will work perfectly and get all the toothpaste out of the tube is lacking in credibility, a problem that is compounded by the over-the-top “here’s how it works” segment. They actually say, “the secret is vacuum force”!

6. ULTIMATE BODY SCULPT ($49.95) is an exercise program on DVD featuring someone named Gilad. The offer includes three DVDs. www.Gilad.tv
Product (D7) Score: 3 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: OK**
Comments:
There isn’t much to distinguish this program from any other, and Gilad isn’t well known enough to bring credibility to the product.

Sources: “New Spots for Week Ending 10/19/07,” IMS (1-3, 6); "Vol. XVII, No. 1-B, 10/12/07," Jordan Whitney (4-5)

* See my July 24, 2007 post for a complete explanation of the D7 product score.
** See my October 22, 2007 post for a complete explanation of my commercial rating system.

October 22, 2007

New ratings for commercials

As part of my quest to make this blog as good as it can be, I am simplifying the system I use to evaluate commercials and including a rating with every new commercial on which I report. Here are the new ratings:

  • EXCELLENT - This commercial is of exceptional production quality and/or hits all of the key DRTV techniques.
  • GOOD - This commercial is well produced and/or hits most of the key DRTV techniques.
  • OK - This commercial is mediocre. The quality is just passable and several of the key DRTV techniques have been overlooked.
  • POOR - This commercial is poorly produced and most of the key DRTV techniques have been ignored.
  • AWFUL - This commercial is just bad. It should never have been aired.
This new rating system will replace the occassional T&T Score I have given commercials. I will continue to use the T&T framework, but only when writing full reviews of commercials (which I will post separately and randomly).

October 19, 2007

New & Recent: Scrub & Rinse Wand, Razor Thin, Mighty Putty and more

Summertime craziness and a West Coast vacation have put me a few weeks behind on my new items monitoring. I returned to find a sizeable stack of tapes and papers, a pile that I only recently managed to get through! Below is a condensed report to bring you up to speed on what’s new on DRTV …

1. SCRUB & RINSE WAND ($19.95) is a scrubbing wand for tubs and showers that also rinses. It has a hose that connects to the shower head so it can dispense water with the press of a button. The offer includes the scrubbing wand, hose and shower head connector. The bonus is five disposable scrubbing pads loaded with cleaner and a storage bag. www.ScrubAndRinseWand.com
Product (D7) Score:
6 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: Generally speaking, I like this item. It’s different, practical and priced correctly for DRTV. The only problem I see is that it doesn’t solve a pressing problem. It’s just a “nice to have” kind of product that people won’t be terribly motivated to purchase.

2. QUICK DRY (2 pay, $49.95) is a garment drying station. The pitch: “Dry clothes faster and wear them sooner.” The offer is for a unit with five drying shelves and a drying fan. The bonus is triple-drying hook attachments for hang-drying on the sides of the unit. This is a Hamilton Beach product. www.QuickDryOffer.com
Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7
(What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: This is an innovative solution to an unsolved problem: It takes forever to air-dry sweaters and delicates. That said, the commercial does a poor job of explaining why people must have the product, and the price is too high for DRTV buyers.

3. SIMPLY SWIPE ($19.95) is a wood restorative in a compact, handheld dispenser. The main claims: “Restores color, watermarks, scratches, sun fade, oxidation and worn-off finishes.” The offer includes one bottle of the main product and one bottle of Seal & Shine, a finishing product. The bonus is a metal polishing cloth. www.BuySimplySwipe.com
Product (D7) Score:
5 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: This is a classic "As Seen on TV" style product, but in today's environment I don't think it will play well. The product does too much too well in the commercial, and people aren’t going to buy it (figuratively and literally). Its small size also makes it impractical for many of the larger jobs shown.

4. BRILLO CLEANING TOOLS ($14.99) is a set of scrubbing wands and sponges from Brillo. The main claim: They're “uniquely designed to scrub faster and scrape easier.” The entire offer with bonuses and doubling includes two Brillo Scratch Free Scrubber Wands, two Brillo Scratch Free Scrub n Scrapes, two Brillo Scratch Free Scrub n Sponges and two Brillo Abrasive Scrubber Wands. This is a Sullivan Productions commercial. www.BuyBrilloTools.com
Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7
(What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: Brillo is a powerful brand in this category, but is this offer right for DRTV? I say “no” for three reasons: One, the products aren’t new or unique. Two, the offer has too many components to clearly explain in a two-minute commercial. And three, the problems these tools address are already being solved every day using good-enough solutions. Brillo could be successful in the DRTV space; the marketing team just needs to find something innovative and focus their message.

5. RAZOR THIN ($29.95) is an ultra-thin electric razor for men or women. The main claim: It's “smaller than a credit card … thinner than a deck of cards.” The bonus is a carrying case, and then they double the offer. No URL.
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7
(What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: This item is cool in a James Bond sense, but ultimately it's just another travel shaver that doesn’t solve a big enough problem. Yes, there are some men who have a pressing need to shave twice a day and, as a result, could use a deck of cards-sized shaver that discreetly slips into a shirt pocket. But once you sell those 10 guys, what then? (This product is marketed toward women as well, which raises some truly scary thoughts.)

6. TABLE MATE II ($29.95) is an updated version of the successful folding table. The main claim: “With six height adjustments and three tray angles, it’s like several trays in one.” The offer includes one tray, which is now available in wood grain. The bonus is free S&H. No URL
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7
(What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: This is a proven item, but the DRTV pitch has a few weaknesses. The main one is the offer: One folding table for $30 isn’t likely to motivate people off the couch. A secondary issue is the product itself: It’s “evolutionary,” something experience has shown is much less exciting to consumers than products that are “revolutionary.”

7. MIGHTY PUTTY ($19.99) is a super-strength epoxy. The pitch: “Fix, fill, seal and repair anything fast and make it last.” The offer includes two sticks of the epoxy. Then they double and triple the offer, ending up with six sticks. This is a Media Enterprises product pitched by the ubiquitous Billy Mays. www.MightyPutty.com
Product (D7) Score:
4 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: The main challenges this product faces are that it’s lacking in credibility and it solves unusual and infrequent problems. The commercial claims the product can support 350 lbs, and it is later shown being used to pull a tractor trailer. The first claim is hard to swallow; the second is off-the-charts unbelievable. Then there are the uses. How often do people need to hang a shelf without nails or screws, or mold a new handle for their favorite coffee mug (two key demos in the commercial)? Finally, the offer is a little weak. It’s an interesting product, but the marketing team needs to go back to the drawing board on what will motivate consumers to purchase it.

8. PORTA BOOK ($19.95) is a laptop tray that angles the computer for more comfortable use: According to the commercial, it can also be used as a stand for cookbooks, sheet music, etc. The bonus is a mini-Porta Book. No URL.
Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7
(What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: This is an interesting solution for laptop owners who travel a lot or who like to use their laptops while sitting in bed. Of course, it is also limited by this narrow appeal (potential sheet music applications aside). Also, technology-related items don’t usually work on DRTV because a large percentage of buyers are senior citizens.

9. PLUG GRIP ($19.95) is a tool for installing electrical outlets. It also has a built-in testing light. The offer includes a second tool called the Switch Grip, which is used for installing light switches. The bonuses are a screwdriver set and safety gloves. www.PlugGrip.com
Product (D7) Score: 3 out of 7
(What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: This product is way too niche to be on TV. It’s an innovative specialty item to be sure, but the universe of potential buyers is just too small to support a DRTV campaign.

Sources: “New Spots for Week Ending 9/28/07,” IMS (4); “New Spots for Week Ending 10/5/07,” IMS (1-3, 5); “New Spots for Week Ending 10/12/07,” IMS (6-9)

September 28, 2007

New This Week: Sham Wow, Buxton Bag, Leather Mender and more

Two potential winners this week!

1. SHAM WOW ($19.95) is a super-absorbent shammy cloth. The main claim: “Holds 21 times its weight in liquid.” The offer includes four shammy cloths, and then they double the offer to eight and add a 10-year warranty. www.ShamWow.com
Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7
(What’s “D7”?)
Pros: Mass market, problem solver, priced right, easily explained, age appropriate, credible
Cons: Not unique
(see Zorbeez)
Commercial (T&T) Score: 7 out of 10 (What’s “T&T”?)
Comments: There’s a lot to like about this DRTV commercial, and that’s because it features an old-school pitchman doing those amazing “live” demos you find at shows and fairs. In other words, this spot is true to the roots of DRTV. For this reason, it also feels highly authentic – a feeling that’s enhanced by the outdoor testimonials they use (which were probably filmed at a fair). Granted, this effect cuts both ways: The commercial also feels amateurish at times, which may make some people unwilling to trust the company with their credit card information. From a DRTV perspective, the commercial also lacks a painful problem opening and a clear explanation of WHY the shammy is so absorbent. Is it a special material? Ultimately, though, this product is likely to be a hit and take market share from Zorbeez.

2. BUXTON BAG ($19.95) is an over-the-shoulder leather bag for the highly organized. It has zippered pockets and compartments inside and out, and it’s expandable for larger items. The bag comes in black, red and tan. The bonus is the My Lil’ Reminder digital recorder with built-in LED. This is an Allstar product. www.BuxtonBag.com
Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Pros: Unique, mass market, problem solver, priced right, age appropriate, credible
Cons: Difficult to explain

Commercial (T&T) Score: 8 out of 10 (What’s “T&T”?)
Comments: Allstar is an experienced short-form player, so this commercial hits many of the tried-and-true DRTV techniques. It features a solid problem opening, compelling demos and a classic value comparison (“you could pay $100!”). The only weakness I can see is that the commercial lacks a money-back guarantee, but that seems like nit-picking. If women like the product, this one should be a hit.

Six other commercials debuted this week, but none of them are likely to succeed on DRTV in my opinion.

3. LEATHER MENDER ($19.95) is a kit for repairing damaged leather or vinyl. The pitch: “Don’t throw it away; repair it.” The bonus is a Fabric Upholstery Repair Kit that’s supposed to “repairs tears & cigarette burns on any kind of upholstery.” www.BuyLeatherMender.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Pros: Mass market, problem solver, priced right, easily explained, age appropriate
Cons: Not unique or credible! (bad history)


4. RAPID BATH (3 pay, $26.66) is a handheld shower head for washing dogs in the bathtub. The main claim: “Cuts bath time to an amazing three minutes.” The offer includes a sample pack of five shampoos and a universal shower adapter. The bonus is a micro-fiber towel. www.RapidBathing.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Pros: Unique, mass market, problem solver, age appropriate, credible
Cons: Expensive, difficult to understand features


5. DR. VETZ FLEX BOOST (Free Trial) is a joint supplement for pets. Unlike Dr. Frank’s product, it’s a powder not a spray. The main claim: “Relieve joint inflammation and arthritic pain.” www.DrVetz.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Pros: Problem solver, priced right, easily explained, age appropriate, credible
Cons: Not unique, for people with older dogs only (not mass market)

6. STRESS ROLLER ($19.95) is a massage device you roll along your shoulders and other tension areas. It looks like two racquet balls fused together. The main claim: “Gets rid of stress and tension in less than two minutes.” The offer includes a travel pouch. The bonus is a CD titled, “Relaxation by the Sea.” www.StressRoller.com
Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Pros: Mass market, problem solver, easily explained, age appropriate
Cons: Not unique (enough), expensive, lacking in credibility

7. GARAGE DOGG ($14.95) is an aerosol cleaning spray for things around the garage, such as chainsaws and hand tools. It breaks up “dirt, oil, grease and grime,” hence the name. The bonus is a container of Garage DOGG Shield, which protects your gear after you clean it. www.GarageDogg.com
Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Pros: Mass market, problem solver, easily explained, age appropriate, credible
Cons: Not unique, a bit pricey

8. CLIP HANGER ($19.95) is an adhesive hook that allows you to hang your cell phone or music player on the outside of a purse, or clip it to your belt loop. The offer includes two clear clips and two Autohooks, which stick to the dashboard so you can hang your phone or music player using the clip. The bonuses are an American flag clip and a cell phone antenna booster. www.ClipHangerTV.com
Product (D7) Score: 3 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Pros: Mass market, easily explained, credible
Cons: Not unique, doesn’t solve a real problem, low perceived value, won’t appeal to older consumers

Sources: “New Spots for Week Ending 9/21/07,” IMS (1, 3-8); "Vol. XVI, No. 48-B, 09/21/07," Jordan Whitney (2)

September 19, 2007

90 Days Later: Looking Back at June

I haven’t written this feature in a while, so I’m going to catch up by covering the entire month of June. In that month, I reviewed some 14 items of note. Only one of them ever popped up on the charts, and it disappeared a month later.

That item is the GRILL DADDY, a BBQ grill cleaning tool (www.GetGrillDaddy.com) that squirts water. It appears on the IMS chart, but does not appear on the Jordan Whitney.

Of the remaining items, I thought two were going to be hits. Neither one made it. They are:

  • SPIN N' SPARKLE (www.SpinNSparkle.com), a cordless jewelry cleaning brush that comes with a spray-on cleaning solution. I loved everything about this product (except the URL), but it is nowhere to be found.
  • NAILS AR NEW (www.NailsRNew.com), a nail polish repair formula. I thought the item met all of the criteria. “It solves a real problem,” I wrote. “Women pay big bucks to have their nails done, only to ruin them a day later.” But again, it’s nowhere to be found.

And here are the remaining items that didn’t make it:

  • GRABIT, a two-sided drill bit that removes damaged screws and bolts. I thought it was a “tough sale on DRTV” since “damaged screw removers are available at retail for lower prices.”
  • HEALTHY TAP (www.HealthyTap.net), a small filter bag that improves the taste and quality of a gallon of tap water. I thought the product had “a major credibility problem.”
  • LE SPA (www.LeSpa.tv), a spinning shower brush integrated with a European-style shower head. “Handheld shower heads are common in Europe, but much less common in the United States,” I wrote. “That means the market for this product is limited.”
  • PLATINUM HAND MAGIC (www.14.HandMagic.com), an anti-aging hand cream. I admitted that I had “no idea how big the problem perception” was for the item but thought the focus was too narrow.
  • TOPSY TURVY (www.HangingTomato.com), a hanging tomato planter that grows tomatoes upside-down. I felt it was a “cool item” but also a “niche item.” Even in season, it didn’t appear on the lists.
  • MAGIC CARRY (www.MagicCarry.com), a harness system for moving heavy objects, pitched by Billy Mays. As with the Forearm Forklifts, I thought the item lacked credibility. “I don't think people (especially the older, more fragile DRTV buyer) will believe that a system of straps will allow them to lift two or three times what they can lift normally,” I wrote.
  • FRESHINI PRO-STICK, a cordless kitchen power tool with multiple attachments. I thought it was a “long shot” because “there are a many superior products on the market that perform [the] same functions.”
  • MICRO-GRILL (www.MicroGrill.com), a Foreman-style grill that goes in the microwave. “Millions of DRTV buyers own and love the Foreman grill,” I wrote. “I don't think they're sitting around wishing they had a faster version of it.”
  • LITTER LOCKER (www.BuyLitterLocker.com), a cat litter disposal system that looks like a diaper disposal. I thought it was a tough sell because it “only appeals to cat owners,” and they probably already have “a solution to the ‘smelly litter box’ problem.”
  • LATIN CARDIO (www.LatinCardio.tv), a workout routine that combines Latin dance moves with a cardio workout routine. I thought it “could be a smoker, since Latin dance moves are more popular than Hip Hop dance moves,” and Hip Hop Abs was a hit. But I added that “short-form is the wrong form.”
  • KINOKI (www.BuyKinoki.com), Japanese foot pads that are supposed to draw harmful toxins out of your body as you sleep. I felt it was “just not credible” and wrong for the American mass market.

September 18, 2007

New This Week: Tite-Grip, The Koolie, Dr. Frank’s for Dogs & Cats

Here are the latest items to air on DRTV:

1. TITE-GRIP ($39.99) is a floor mat for cars with locking anchors, so it won’t slip or bunch up. The offer includes four mats: two front mats and two matching rear utility mats. The bonus is an Odor Out gift package that includes a vent deodorizer, air spray and interior spray. www.TiteGripMats.com
Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7
(What’s “D7”?)
Pros: Mass market, age appropriate, easily explained, credible
Cons: Not unique, doesn’t solve a painful problem, priced too high for DRTV

2. THE KOOLIE ($19.95) is an ice pack designed to keep babies and small children cool when they’re in the car. The pitch: “Helps prevent heat stroke or worse” by keeping “your child cool and comfortable in the hottest of situations.” The bonus is a Head Cool Pack. www.Koolie.tv
Product (D7) Score: 2 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Pros: Priced right, easily explained
Cons: Not unique or mass market, does not solve a real problem, limited appeal to older people, credibility issues
Comments: It’s a cliché, but it’s true: “Prevention doesn’t sell.” Also, the problem this product is trying to address is the news of small children dying from being left in hot cars. But I think most people attribute that to evil parents and don’t think of it as a problem they need to worry about. Lastly, this is really just an ice pack with a fancy name.

3. DR. FRANK’S JOINT PAIN RELIEF FOR DOGS & CATS ($19.95) is an all-natural spray supplement for older pets. However, it's supposed to be sprayed into the pet’s food, not its mouth. The main claim: “Your pets can live pain free.” The offer includes one 200-spray bottle. The bonus is a free upgrade to the 400-spray bottle. www.PetPainSpray.com
Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Pros: Unique, solves a problem, priced right, appeals to older people, easily explained, credible
Cons: Not mass market
Comments: This product has one major limitation: It's only for people with older dogs & cats. That said, a Telebrands product targeting the same market — Doggy Steps – did very well last year.

Sources: “New Spots for Week Ending 9/14/07,” IMS

September 10, 2007

New This Week: Hollywood Purse Hook, Dr. Blaine’s Scar Care

Another light week with only two items of note:

1. HOLLYWOOD PURSE HOOK ($10) is a hook for hanging your purse on the edge of a table. The key message: “Gets your purse off the floor, once and for all,” so it won’t get dirty – or stolen. The purse hook is plated in 24-karat gold and has a “simulated crystal.” The offer includes a velvet pouch and lifetime replacement guarantee. The bonuses are a second silver purse hook and a pair of “Daimondion” stud earrings (just pay separate S&H). This is a Telebrands item. www.HollywoodPurseHook.com
Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7
(What’s “D7”?)
Comments: This product meets almost all of the criteria for a good DRTV product. The only weaknesses I see is the problem it solves. It’s a problem to which most women can relate, but is it painful enough? Or have women discovered a good enough solution already? Also, the offer is priced right, but I don’t think the item is enough on its own to motivate people to call. It looks like a good bonus item to me.

2. DR. BLAINE’S SCAR CARE ($24.95) is an OTC scar treatment. The main claim: It’s the only “FDA-approved scar care treatment clinically proven to flatted and fade any scar … in as little as 10 weeks.” The bonus is a roll-on stick for dark scars. www.DrBlaines.com
Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Comments: This product solves a psychologically painful problem and has credibility because a doctor developed it. It also doesn’t over-promise, which I like. However, this is not a mass-market product, since only a minority of the population will have scars they want to erase, and the price is $5 too high for DRTV. Also, scar treatments aren’t new. “Better than” claims are a tough sell on DRTV. You have to be new and innovative.

Sources: “New Spots for Week Ending 9/7/07,” IMS

September 03, 2007

New This Week: TheraPedic, Rock ‘N Roll Stepper

Only two new items of interest this week:

1. THERAPEDIC ($29.95) is a pair of insoles. The main claim: They “keep feet cool and energized while relieving aches and pains throughout the entire body.” The offer is buy one, get one. www.TheraPedic.tv
Product (D7) Score: 3 out of 7
(What’s “D7”?)
Comments: This product appears to be positioned toward people with Type II diabetes. For that market, it may make sense. But it is not a DRTV/mass market item. For one, branded insoles are everywhere at much cheaper prices. Also, the claims are hard to believe. Cooling, yes, but “energizing”?

2. ROCK 'N ROLL STEPPER (2 pay, $39.95) is a new Tony Little exercise product. It’s a wedge-shaped stepper that rocks from side to side. The main claim: It’s “four workouts in one machine.” That is, it’s a cardio workout, a core routine, a muscle builder and a balance improver. This is a five-minute spot cut down from an infomercial, so it has a big offer. It includes a Fit-Track computer that counts reps, a Tony Little workout guide and a 21-day eating guide. The bonus is a free subscription to Tony’s helpline. They also promote an upsell called the “Slim Down Package,” which includes resistance bands, an extra workout and a free upgrade to rush shipping. www.RockNRollStepper.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Comments: Far be it from me to critique a Tony Little product: That guy knows what he’s doing! I do see a few weaknesses, but maybe Tony’s enthusiasm – “You can do it!” – will overcome them. One weakness is the price: It’s at the upper range of what an infomercial can charge, and I have no idea if a five-minute spot shares that upper range. Another weakness is that it will not appeal to older folks since it requires good balance to use the product, and the older crowd will fear falling and hurting themselves. True, infomercials skew younger, but older folks are an important buying group. Lastly, the commercial is poorly edited. It’s very choppy and the offer is confusing as a result. I’m sure the half-hour show is great, but they should have spent a little more time in the editing room for the five-minute version.

Sources: “New Spots for Week Ending 8/31/07,” IMS

August 27, 2007

New This Week: Invisi-Lifts, Invisible Shield, Insta Bag and more

Here’s a quick update on the latest DRTV commercials to air:

1. INVISI-LIFTS ($19.99) are transparent adhesive strips that provide an “instant breast lift.” The offer includes 10 strips and 10 nipple covers – then they double the offer to 20 and 20. The bonus is a three-pack of sunless tanning cloths. www.BuyTheLifts.com
Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Comments: This is a mass-market product that solves a common problem for women, two important strengths when considering a product for DRTV. However, this product also has several weaknesses that will make it a tough sell. One is the value: $20 for a set of adhesive strips is pretty steep. This offer has a perceived value of $10 tops. Another issue is credibility: Will it stay stuck? is the big question that will generate doubt in women’s minds and kill the sale.

2. INVISIBLE SHIELD ($29.95) is a clear protective cover that goes over iPods, PDAs and other electronic devices. The slogan: “Scratch proof your digital life!” The offer includes a lifetime guarantee. The bonuses are a microfiber carrying case and a dashboard stick pad. www.InvisibleShield.tv
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Comments: This product has a lot going for it: It’s unique, appeals to a large market and solves a problem. The stakes are high when you spend $300 on a device, and a little extra insurance isn’t a bad idea. However, this product is not right for DRTV for one major reason: The target demographic. DRTV buyers are typically 50+. Heavy iPod, PDA and electronic device users, well, aren’t. In addition, the price is $10 too high for the value-conscious DRTV buyer.

3. INSTA BAG ($14.99) is a luggage-style folding bag with wheels. The main claim: “It goes from tiny (pocketbook size) t0 huge (24x12) in seconds” and can “hold over 30 lbs.” The bonus is the ThermoBag, which is a soft cooler for drinks. www.BuyInstaBag.com
Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Comments: This product only has one weakness. Otherwise, it meets all the criteria for a successful DRTV item. Unfortunately, that weakness is a significant one: It doesn’t solve a common/frequent enough problem. This is one of those products that seems great until you try to imagine when and why someone would use it. The usage occasions just aren’t strong enough.

4. SMART MONEY CLIP ($19.95) is a metal money clip with a credit card holder on the back. The bonus is the Smart Pocket, a pocket that clips onto your belt. www.SmartMoneyClip.com
Product (D7) Score: 3 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Comments: This product is easy to understand, appeals to older people and is credible. It is not, however, a DRTV product. Two big problems are its uniqueness (money clips are everywhere) and its perceived value (they cost about half the price).

Sources: “New Spots for Week Ending 8/24/07,” IMS

August 24, 2007

New Items: Epil-X, Fix It!, Open Smart and more

Only one review this week, but (drum roll, please) … We have a winner!

For the first time since I started my new system of evaluation, I’ve come across a product and commercial that meets nearly every one of my criteria (see #1 below). It’s quite an impressive feat, and I predict the item is going to be one of this year’s big DRTV hits!

1. EPIL-X ($29.95) is a hair inhibitor cream. Women rub it on and it keeps their legs, lips, arms, underarms and bikini lines smooth and hair-free for up to four weeks. It’s also enriched with Vitamins E and C. The main claim: It “penetrates deep down to the hair follicle and inhibits the roots ability to re-grow.” The bonus is an instant hair remover cream. This is a Monte-Brooks production. www.EpilX.com
Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Strengths: There are a lot of them! This is a unique product that’s easy to understand and solves a major problem for women of all ages. I’m also going to write that it’s credible, even though I was on the fence about that. In my opinion, the commercial works hard enough to overcome this potential barrier.
Weaknesses: The only problem I can see: It’s $10 above impulse pricing. If this hurts the campaign, they’d be foolish not to drop the price to $19.99.
Commercial (T&T) Score: 9 out of 10 (What’s “T&T”?)
Comments: Almost a perfect score! This commercial has a solid problem opening; loads of credibility with its references to clinical trials and testimonials, including one from an aesthetician; great demos, including an ugly-but-powerful magic demo of the bonus being used on a man’s leg; a great side-by-side comparison scene; a nice animation that clearly explains how the product works; and so on. The offer is a little weak, but only because of the price point: The bonus makes sense and meets all the criteria. In fact, the only reason I couldn’t give this spot a 10 out of 10 is because there’s no value comparison.

2. SIMONIZ FIX IT! ($19.95) is a scratch removal kit for cars. The main claim: “Restore(s) the paint to its original shine ... any car, any color.” The offer includes a bottle of the formula, a battery-powered buffer with multiple heads and a microfiber towel. The bonuses are a bottle of Fix It! Home Formula and the Simoniz Turbo Vac for cars (just pay S&H). This is a Billy Mays commercial. www.BuyFixIt.com
Quick Comment: I didn’t give this one a full review since I just did a scratch remover last week (see my review of Quixx). But I will mention that the offer for this product is much bigger than the offer for Quixx, and some of the demos are better as well. That said, I think this is a tough sell for the same reasons I mentioned in the Quixx posting.

3. OPEN SMART ($19.95) is a set of tools for opening packages and cans. There are four tools: One for opening clamshell packages, one for sealed bags (e.g. bags of chips), one for CDs and DVDs, and one for soda cans. The bonus is a fifth tool for opening ring-pull cans (e.g. cat food cans). It’s curved so you can pop the tab and peel off the lid in one motion. www.OpenSmart.tv
Quick Comment: This commercial impressed me because the producer managed to explain five products clearly in a two-minute spot. As for the products, I just don’t think the value is there. Yes, these tools solve a problem, but the pain doesn’t seem great enough to create a strong impulse to buy.

4. LICE XTRACTOR ($29.95) is a vacuum-combing device for removing head lice. The offer includes six filters and six combs. www.LiceXtractor.tv
Quick Comment: Head lice is a problem that very few people have (thankfully). They try to say you should buy it to be prepared, but we know prevention doesn't sell. And the price of this product is too high for DRTV. Sorry, guys, but this one doesn’t have a prayer!

5. CELL STATION ($19.95) is a way to stick your cell phone to your dashboard for hands-free use. It’s essentially a strong magnet that grabs and holds a magnetic strip you stick on the back of your cell phone. The offer is buy one, get one free. The bonus is free shipping. www.BuyCellStation.com
Quick Comment: This isn’t a bad idea for an impulse item. What hurts it is the perceived value. I can see people picking this up at checkout for $5, but I can’t see them calling to order it for $20 (even with a BOGO offer). Also, many people are reluctant to stick something to the back of their phone, an important barrier to purchase.

Sources: “New Spots for Week Ending 8/17/07,” IMS

August 22, 2007

Banner Blindness: See For Yourself!

Web usability guru Jakob Nielsen just posted a fascinating new article about the latest empirical evidence for “banner blindness.” What’s that, you ask? It’s the tendency of people surfing the Web to unconsciously ignore anything that looks like an advertisement.

Nielsen’s proof is a fascinating new eye-tracking study he just completed. Such studies have people wear a device called an “eye tracker” and perform a common series of tasks, such as surfing the Web. The tracker then registers where a person’s eye focuses, and for how long.

One neat result of these studies is something called a “heatmap,” which uses temperature colors to depict where a person focused on a particular page. On Nielsen’s heatmaps, for instance:

  • Red represents “where users looked the most”
  • Yellow (getting cooler) “indicate[s] fewer views”
  • Blue (cold) represents “the least-viewed … areas”
  • Gray is “areas [that] didn't attract any fixations”

Guess what color banner ads were? That’s right: gray. To see the actual heatmaps, click through to the article and scroll down.

What does this mean for direct-response marketers? It should mean very little. That’s because anyone who tracks his or her marketing ROI should already know that banner ads – except at very cheap CPMs with plenty of make-goods – don't pay. The DR marketer's cost-per-order (CPO) metric alone can tell you many things that other marketers need fancy eye-tracking studies to accept.

Still, such studies are a helpful way to combat the persistent tendency of companies to drift away from scientifc marketing techniques toward unmeasurable schemes fiercely supported with logical-sounding arguments. Argument such as, “Well, even if our direct sales are terrible, we’re still generating awareness and that has to be paying off at retail.”

Kudos to Nielsen for helping to show that this is just what direct marketers have always suspected it was: wishful thinking.

August 20, 2007

90 Days Later: Ab Rocket, The One Touch Jar Opener and more

I wrote about four new items for the week ending May 25, one of which I predicted was going to be a hit. The items were:

  1. ROLL-A-QUE (www.RollAQue.com), an aluminum cylinder for cooking hamburgers on the grill "rotisserie" style. I gave four reasons why I didn’t think it would succeed, among them it’s higher price ($29.95) and lack of visual proof that it works. Today, it does not appear on either list.
  2. ODOR XIT MAGIC (www.BuyOdorXit.com), an odor-eliminating spray that works on the toughest odors imaginable. I thought the item faced a crowded category, but I loved the creative demos that also doubled as testimonials. Today, it does not appear on either list.
  3. AB ROCKET (www.TryAbRocket.com), a spring-assisted ab rocker that provides resistance on the way down and assistance on the way up. I thought it was wrong for short-form, but could be the next ab item in long form. Today, it does not appear on either list.
  4. ONE TOUCH JAR OPENER, an automatic jar opener that looks and works like the One Touch Can Opener. I predicted it would be a hit! I wrote: “This product gets high marks in every category. The only weakness I can see, which was shared by the item's predecessor (and didn't seem to matter), is credibility. People may find it hard to believe something small and battery-powered can open tough jars.” Today, it just surfaced at #60 on the Jordan Whitney, but does not appear on the IMS list.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the One Touch Jar Opener to see what happens. If it climbs the JW list and appears on the IMS list, I’ll have correctly predicted my second winner (Huggable Hangers was the first).

August 17, 2007

New Items: Quixx, Multi-Stripper and that’s all!

There were a lot of repeats this week as several companies went back on the air with a new approach. Among them: Telebrands’ Stick-Up Bulb and Above All’s Forearm Forklifts.

As a result, I saw very few new commercials this week, so it’s going to be a short report!

1. QUIXX ($19.99) is a scratch remover for cars. The main claim: It’s “German engineered” for high performance, so it can “restore your finish to showroom condition.” The offer includes one tube of Quixx Repair, one tube of Quixx Finish, two polishing cloths and four strips of special sandpaper for deep scratches. The bonus is a high-performance wax that seals and protects. This is an Anthony Sullivan commercial. www.QuixxTV.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Strengths: This is a mass market product that solves a very painful problem, is priced right for DRTV and is fairly easy to explain. It also holds appeal for older people, especially since many are on fixed incomes and could use a cheap alternative to expensive body work.
Weaknesses: The two problems with this product are: 1) It’s been done before and, as a result, 2) It faces a major credibility hurdle. The following
customer review of GS27, a similar TV product from a few years back, is typical of consumer opinions of products like these: “It wasn't that expensive but totally useless. We put it on a scratch or two on our car … It did nothing except leave a white stain on the area.”
Commercial (T&T) Score: 5 out of 10 (What’s “T&T”?)
Comments: What I like most about this commercial, in addition to the solid problem opening, is that it builds credibility from the first scenes. We learn this is a product of “German engineering” that’s been “licensed by European automakers,” an excellent way of tapping into the German reputation for auto excellence. The spot also has great demos of scratches disappearing before your eyes, but sadly there’s no magic demo. With a product like this, I expected to see something amazing. For instance, what if they had borrowed a page from the “Pimp My Ride” playbook and used Quixx to transform someone’s horribly abused car? Speaking of which, there were no before-and-afters – another oversight. Additional strengths: A big offer and a great value comparison. Additional weaknesses: Nothing unique in the features and benefits section, no explanation of how the product works, no attempt to address the objection that these products don’t really work, and no satisfaction guarantee.

2. MULTI-STRIPPER ($19.95) is a electric drill attachment for stripping paint, varnish and rust. The main claim: It’s “tough enough to remove the paint but gentle enough to leave the surface clean and clear with no scratching, no scraping.” The offer includes a “fine tine” attachment for delicate work. The bonus is a pocket saw similar to the MXZ Pocket Saw. www.BuyMultiStripper.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Strengths: This is a unique problem solver that’s priced right for DRTV, can be explained easily through demos and appeals to people of all ages.
Weaknesses: The market for people who want to strip wood on a regular basis is limited, and the product’s main claim is hard to believe (see question/objection comment below).

Commercial (T&T) Score: 7 out of 10
Comments: This commercial uses a lot of the T&T techniques. It has a great problem opening, magical demos and compelling comparisons to other, lesser methods. In fact, only a few techniques were overlooked or inadequately represented. For instance, this commercial does have a scene that begins, “The secret is …” But what follows is a weak explanation of how the product works. It’s also missing a value comparison, and an answer to an important question/objection: How is it possible for an amateur to use this without gouging the wood?

3. ZEMELEX (Free Trial) is a male enhancement formula featuring a down-to-earth spokesman with a New York Italian accent (good idea). The main claim: “Feel bigger and perform better than ever.” The offer is a 30-day free trial. The bonus is a stimulating female lubricant for her pleasure. www.Zemelex.com

Sources: “New Spots for Week Ending 8/10/07,” IMS (1, 3); "Vol. XVI, No. 42-B, 08/10/07," Jordan Whitney (2)