August 11, 2009

Review: Happy Chop

Description: A manual chopper that cuts when you press the plunger at the top
Main Pitch: "Safer and faster than knives .. guaranteed not to dull."
Main Offer: $19.95 for the chopper plus flexible cutting board
Bonus: Double the offer plus the Sonic Peeler with bonus grating blade (just pay separate S&H)
Marketer: Thane
Producer: Unknown
Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7
Commercial Rating: OK

I'm still not completely sure this is a real commercial. Assuming it's real, I don't think my readers need me to analyze the DRTV aspects of this one in any real depth. The demos are pretty standard by now, and the product is third to market (after Quick Chop and Slap Chop) with a me-too solution. This means it loses out in the ultra-important uniqueness category and suffers all the credibility problems that come with being perceived as a knockoff.

This one is obviously all about the spokesman, however. Let me start by giving credit where credit is due: It's a bold idea to use a gay guy as a spokesperson for a kitchen product. Thane deserves some praise for taking a chance and trying something that's "out the box." It's not a totally crazy idea, either. If a quirky Jewish guy from Brooklyn sells, why not a funny gay guy from California? Women usually respond favorably to gay men, and they play well in other categories.

Of course, those categories are mostly about entertainment. With the exception of hair care, it hasn't been demonstrated that gay can sell products. And this particular spokesman isn't just a little gay: He's in-your-face gay. In fact, I thought all the sexual references were a bit much. Vince may think you'll love his nuts, but this guy thinks you'll love a whole lot more.

The marketers are forgetting that a substantial swath of the American buying public is not from coastal cities. And what of retail? There's little hope of getting into "family values" Wal-Mart with this guy as the product's spokesman. Which makes me question the strategy here. Which brings me back to wondering if this commercial is for real.

The viewer will wonder, too, and here is an opportunity for me to share something important I've learned about DRTV: You have to respect the genre. It's too easy to take "DR humor" too far and turn your commercial into an SNL skit. I've seen it happen several times, and the result is always the same. You get a lot of calls, but very few of them end in a sale.

This raises an important question: Why does this type of advertising prevail outside of the DR industry? I think advertising guru John E. Kennedy explained it best:

There is popular applause for the writer of catchy ‘general publicity’ advertising that attracts attention even though it does not sell goods. But there is no applause for the writer of prosaic salesmanship-on-paper that is forceful enough and convincing enough to actually sell goods in volume. This is one reason why catchy advertising is so current, and true response-driven advertising is so rare.

Kennedy wrote that nearly a century ago, by the way.


  1. I think you're missing the point -- if a product is third to market, then it's brilliant strategy to make the message, and messenger, stand out as it does.

    And as far as your WalMart line of reasoning goes, we won't know if a gay man can sell a product in such a conservative environment until we try. Automatically assuming it will be a problem amounts to a self-fulfilling, self-defeating prophecy. It's the same kind of reasoning that minority groups unfortunately are fed all too often, and have to overcome, lest they keep themselves down.

    I, for one, LOVED the Happy Chop ad. I haven't called to buy one yet -- but my friend did -- and was told they were sold out!

  2. The spokesman for the happy chop is a national radio host for Sirius/XM Out Q programe THe Frank DeCaro Show. He is from New York and I bought this product especially beacuse of Mr. DeCaro

  3. This was a bit hit internationally - especially South America. While this may have been 3rd to the US market - it was 1st in many big international markets.

    The US version was only aired to get the "As Seen On TV" logo on the retail packaging.