This week I have a special treat: Guest commentary from an industry icon.
Anthony Sullivan has been a famous TV pitchman for more than a decade, and he continues to produce and star in hit DRTV spots and infomercials every year. Space prevents me from listing all of his successes, but he is most recently known for turning Ontel's Swivel Sweeper into an international sensation with millions sold domestically and abroad.
Perhaps as a measure of his success, the Discovery network recently ordered 13 episodes of a new reality show starring Sully and another industry icon, Billy Mays. Called "Pitchmen," the show will chronicle the life of different DRTV products as they go from initial discovery to success or failure on TV. The show began filming last month at the annual ERA tradeshow in Las Vegas.
Sully and I have worked together on several projects over the years, and I'm honored to have him contribute to the blog this week. Here's how it will work: I'll take on my usual role of explaining and rating the products. Sully will take over the commentary section, giving his thoughts on the commercial as well as the product. Without further ado ...
1. SILVER SONIC XL ($19.95) is a personal sound amplifier that looks like a cell phone earpiece. The main claim: "Picks up and amplifies sound from up to 30 yards away." No bonus. This is an Emson product under the Bell & Howell brand. www.SilverSonicXL.com
Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7* (not unique)
Sully Says: Before I went to the site, I thought this was a sonic silver cleaner! I’m amazed at what a poor name this is for the product. Maybe it was chosen for the trade dress protection? I think this is a retail play by the marketer to piggyback on the success of IdeaVillage's Listen Up and Telebrands' Whisper 2000. Many of the scenes are repeats of scenes from these commercials with some new scenarios added. But how much can you really do with this type of product? The offer seems a little weak at a $19.95 price point. I think we will see this on the shelves at retail, but I will be surprised if we see it on television.
2. LOUD 'N CLEAR ($14.99) is also a personal sound amplifier that looks like a cell phone earpiece. The pitch: "So powerful, you can hear a pin drop from across the room" and "conversations from across the street." No bonus. This is an IdeaVillage product and a Blue Moon Studios commercial. www.GetLoudAndClear.com
Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7* (not unique)
Sully Says: First things first: This is MUCH better name for the same product. It clearly states what the product does, which personally I like. This commercial, in my humble opinion, is also a cut above Silver Sonic XL for several reasons. For one, there are a couple of stand-out scenes. The pin drop is memorable (and played twice) and, while a little hokey, the ‘Bingo' scene plays right to the target demographic. The 'Amazing Grace' church scene is a little out there, but why not? The lighting and art direction are also pleasing to the eye, and the producer did a good job of showing the versatility of the product. (On a side note, I would like to see if we could get a Loud 'N Clear into McCain’s camp and find out who advised him to pick Sarah Palin as his running mate because I’m pretty sure it wasn’t him.) Moving on, the offer is not that strong. However, the retail comp does help establish value. And at $14.99, I think the phone has a much better chance of ringing. How could this commercial be improved? Billy Mays as the spokesperson would put this over the edge. "HI, BILLY MAYS HERE FOR LOUD AND CLEAR!" The rest is history! (Another side note: What is wrong with a hearing aid? I’m amazed so many people want to hear better. Maybe I’m lucky with 20-20 hearing.)
3. MAGNA SCRIPTS ($14.99) are lighted magnifiers that attach to prescription bottles. The pitch: "Lets you read any prescription bottle with ease, no matter how small the print." The offer is for three magnifiers. The bonus is five Pill Minders, which also attach to prescription bottles and help you count how many pills you took. Then they double the entire offer. This is an IdeaVillage product and a Blue Moon Studios commercial. www.MagnaScripts.com
Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7* (not mass market)
Sully Says: I give the naming of this product a 2 out of 10. When I saw the link, I thought it was a magnetic script-holding device! I was pleasantly surprised to see that this is a product that makes reading prescription labels easy for those who are visually impaired or who can’t read three-point text. It's perfect for our “pilled up,” over-drugged nation. But the name! I just can’t get past it. Magna? Magna Carta? Wasn’t that an ancient document signed by Henry VIII of England? Who is picking these names? STOP – get another job! And then to make it worse: The Magna Script is shown doing more than “magnascripting.” It's shown being used to look for keys and read menus. It needs a better name. I like the product, and I like the commercial, which is well produced. I know how hard it is to shoot in low light and make the video footage look good, so hats off to the producer for hitting the right balance. I think a more shocking opening like, "passed out individual on the floor with an EMT crew giving a stomach pump,” could have set up the problem a little better. The offer is strong, and with more OTC prescription drugs being peddled by our amazing healthcare system, I think this has a great shot at retail. With a name change, it has a 50 /50 shot on TV. How could this be made better? A Kevin Trudeau endorsement.
4. LE MINX ($14.95 trial) is cordless flat iron. It features a lithium ion battery and ionic torumaline plates. The pitch: "Lets you style and repair your hair anyplace, anywhere." The offer includes a charging base. The bonuses are a carrying case and a car adapter. This is an Emson product under the Sharper Image brand. www.LeMinx.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7*
(not priced right or credible)
Sully Says: The name of this product is puzzling – it has little to do with the actual product and sounds like something more akin to a fur coat. The Sharper Image brand adds credibility, and the category has been hot on the shopping channels for some time. The before and afters are compelling, and I think the portability is demonstrated well. This product does solve a common problem and the cordless aspect makes it unique. Hair is always a tough category and finding the right models can be the difference between making it and breaking it. The girls and the styling in this spot are average, but so is the consumer, so the connection could be spot on. This commercial, while not super “high end,” covers all the bases and does a decent job of giving me reasons for wanting to buy it. The $14.95 price point could be "too good to be true," and I wonder if consumers will question just how good a cordless flat iron can be for $14.95. I give this a good shot at making it to rollout, and there is no question that it will sell through at retail providing Sharper Image can ride out the current retail storm. What could make this show better: A spokesperson with beautiful hair and a less “selly” voice.
5. KEEPEEZ ($14.95) are clear plastic lids for bowls and storage containers. The main claim: With just a press, it "vacuum seals to create an air-tight seal for weeks." The offer is for four different size lids (3.5, 4.5, 6 and 8.5 inch). The bonus is four "designer bowls" and an extra-large (10.5 inch) lid free (just pay S&H). www.Keepeez.com
Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7*
(not unique, priced right or credible)
Sully Says: I like this product, and I like this commercial – but I don’t love it! I think the name “Keepeez” is vanilla. Personally, I would have used a spokesperson for this, and I would have used that person to execute some of the live demos. In the first part of the commercial, it’s hard to see how these actually work. I’m biased because I have personally used the product, so I know. But does a first-time viewer actually get what is happening? Solution: The camera could have been placed a little more “bottom floor,” and I think the parabolic vacuum seal would have made an interesting visual. The stand-out scenes in this commercial (muscle man, dropped container, melon and inverted water) are brushed over like they are no big deal when, in fact, each one of these demos is HUGE. Lose the music, add a spokesperson and tighten up the offer. I will be surprised if this works. It’s a great item, but I know returns are high on QVC ... Watch this space.