May 27, 2010

Review: Slim Tanx

Description: Shapewear for women
Main Pitch: "Instantly slim four inches and look 10 pounds thinner"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one in white, black or nude
Bonus: None*
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Concepts TV
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I reviewed the male version of this product, Slim Ts, in the February issue of Response and gave it a 4 out 7 rating. My main concern was that it was incorrectly targeted because "men don’t care about their appearance the same way women do." Whether I was ultimately right or wrong remains to be seen (there is some indication I may have been wrong), but if that was the issue with a men's version of this product, then a women's version should be a sure thing, right? Wrong.

The problem is this product has been done before -- many times over. Curerntly, this is a super-crowded category at retail, dominated by well-known brands like Spanx. In our industry, it also runs afoul of my "only room for one" theory. The one: BJ Global Direct's Kymaro.

In a word, then, this one will fail because of heavy competition. It's too bad, too, because the commercial is mostly excellent.* In a vacuum, it would perform well.

* The commercial I saw online did not have a bonus, but that may not have been the version that aired.

May 26, 2010

Review: Flip 'N Easy

Description: A hybrid dust mop and wet mop
Main Pitch: "The only mop that dusts and mops at the same time without the need for buckets or expensive replacement pads"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one and a Mini
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Simon Wright
Starring: Saul Judah
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

It's good to see Mr. Judah again. I hadn't seen him since the Sweep 'N Mop days. I guess like actors, pitchmen can get typecast. Mr. Judah seems to be the (hybrid?) "mop guy," and there haven't been a lot of successful mop items recently ... which brings me to my point.   

Mops are a horrible category for DRTV. Why? In a word: "Swiffer." P&G came along and just dominated this category, making the task of competing a little like trying to market a new laundry detergent or toothpaste.

Occasionally, there are glimmers of hope. Smart Inventions' Smart Mop has had a nice run at retail. But so many other DRTV mops by major players have bombed. Telebrands' Gorilla Mop and IdeaVillage's Sonic Mop are recent examples. It's just one of those categories where the odds of success are lower than average.

May 24, 2010

Review: E-Z Bow Maker

Description: A kit for making decorative bows
Main Pitch: "The fastest, easiest bow-making machine ever invented"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H) plus a free Rose Maker
Marketer: Global TV Concepts
Prediction: Bomb

This commercial opens with a question: "Ever try to make your own bow?" The problem is that for most viewers, the answer will be "no." In other words, this campaign fails a critical SciMark Seven criterion: It isn't targeted to a big enough buying group.

That sounds odd given the creator of this item is alleging, "We've already sold over four million [units]." But the shortcoming here is the same one that dooms almost every craft item to failure. While crafters are a passionate group (an "affinity group" in MarketingSpeak) who spend a lot of money on their hobby, reaching them in an efficient way is a real challenge. DRTV, which utilizes remnant mass media, is one of the least efficient ways.

It's akin to using a giant shotgun to take out one person in a crowd.  You'll hit the guy, but you'll also hit a lot of other people as well. And the problem with that, to keep the analogy correct, is the money you wasted on the ammunition that didn't hit your target.

SciMark Report from May Response

My newest "SciMark Report in print" is now live on the Response Magazine Website (links to PDF).

Reviews include: Perfect Situp, Awesome Tiller and Clean Sweep.

May 19, 2010

Review: Doggie Seatbelt

Description: A seatbelt for dogs
Main Pitch: "Perfect for keeping dogs of every size happy and safe"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Six-foot leash, Pet Groom Pro (just pay additional S&H)
Starring: Christina, the "Pet Safety Lady"
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Prediction: Likely to succeed

Pet products have higher-than-average odds of success on DRTV. This campaign has that going for it, plus it meets all of the SciMark Seven campaign criteria.

It does have a few shortcomings, however. For example, one of the Divine Seven product criteria is "credible." That speaks to the perception that the product will work as advertised. This product may have a credibility problem because while it does provide some forward restraint, it doesn't look like it will keep a pet from going sideways.

Another issue is that this is a prevention product. While I don't include that in my standard criteria as a disqualifier, there's a good reason why "prevention doesn't sell" is a well-known saying. One could argue seatbelts themselves are a prevention item, and look how popular they are! But two things must be considered. One, seatbelts are a mandated safety feature. Cars cannot be sold without them. And two, most states have had to pass seatbelt laws to get people to wear them ... and even that isn't working if my day-to-day observations (and my own habits) are any indication.

Still, pets are the new children, and $20 seems like a small price to pay to protect your little precious from flying through the windshield.

Review: Fushigi

Description: A chrome ball that seems to defy gravity
Main Pitch: "Mesmerize the mind and confuse the senses"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: free DVD (just pay processing)
Marketer: Zoom TV Products
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Can a product that's all "magic demo" and no problem/solution succeed on DRTV? I don't think so. Even if the target is kids, I have serious doubts.

The Website explains the product is actually "a form of contact juggling where the operator exploits the reflective properties of a sphere through specific hand and body isolations and movements that are designed to give the appearance that the ... sphere is moving on its own or even floating." Oh. I get it now.

That sounds way too complicated for adults, let alone kids, and it also seems like it would require a lot of practice. I'm not buying the secondary benefit, either. It's supposed to be "an incredible, therapeutic form of relaxation." I've tried juggling, and there is nothing relaxing about dropping things all over the place while trying to look cool.

Anyway, the real issue here is the product violates two key S7 criteria. It isn't needed (doesn't solve a problem), and it isn't targeted to a big enough buying group to support a DRTV campaign. The only way it goes somewhere is if it catches on as a fad, like the hula hoop. But those are long odds.

Review: Stroll Ups

Description: Roll-up shoes that fit in a purse
Main Pitch: "Style and comfort all rolled up in one"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one with designer tote bag
Bonus: 2nd pair with tote bag free (plus separate P&H)
Marketer: The Avento Corp.
Producer: Reel Vision
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I'm familiar with this item and familiar with the (poor) results from it being tested in another DR channel. The big weakness here is the product solves an infrequent problem, especially for the older women who tend to buy off TV.

This item was sold under the name "Rollasoles" in vending machines at UK nightclubs. That is probably the correct channel of sale for the item, since it catches the right demographic at their time of need.

May 04, 2010

Media News

From a recent Ad Age article (HT: Bob G.):

The four big broadcast networks could take in as much as 20% more in this year's upfront market than they did in 2009 ... If the analysts' report bears out, broadcast networks are likely to see their take rise significantly from last year's recession-crimped session, powered by renewed strength from automotive advertisers, which were hard-hit by the downturn. Likewise, TV executives say they are seeing increased activity from the troubled financial-services category ...

In 2009, advertisers were able to secure price rollbacks in the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers, also known as a CPM -- a standard measure in negotiations for TV ad inventory -- in the range of 1% to 3%. Since that time, however, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has jumped and the economy has shown signs of improvement. Along with it, prices for scatter advertising -- or commercial time purchased much closer to air date -- has jumped to levels some 15% to 25% higher than prices paid in the upfront, according to TV executives and analysts.

The full article is worth reading.

I asked media guru Dick Wechsler, CEO of Lockard & Wechsler Direct, for his take on this news. He writes:

The Upfront media market is shaping up as expected — with big price increases for the Big Four networks. In the wake of an extremely tight market over the past year, is this Upfront market a beacon of the next perfect storm? NO! In fact, a strong Upfront usually foretells a weak scatter market. So we see price stability and better inventory availability for DRTV beginning in 3Q.

When asked if double digit increases in the Upfront were good for DRTV, even my Magic Eight Ball read 'Yes.'