September 24, 2010

Congratulations to Full Service Marketing

From Response Magazine:

"Full Service Marketing ... was awarded the second annual Direct Response Marketing Alliance (DRMA) Marketer of the Year Award Wednesday night, largely due to the continuing success of Your Baby Can Read, launched in April 2008. The award was presented in front of an overflow crowd at a ceremony and cocktail event at Las Vegas’ hottest nightclub, HAZE at CityCenter."

I attended the event, which was again hosted by Response Magazine Publisher John Yarrington and Editor-in-Chief Tom Haire. Allstar's Scott Boilen, who received the award last year, was also on hand to pass the torch.

BJ Global Direct (Kymaro, Duragear) and Fitness IQ (Shake Weight) were also finalists. Other nominees included Green Bullion (Cash 4 Gold), Hampton Direct (Twin Draft Guard) and Tristar (Power Juicer).

Vince Update (3): S'leb Suit

Vince just shot a new viral video for Adrian Grenier's
"Teenage Paparazzo"
(which premieres Monday, September 27 at 9 pm on HBO).

The video pitches a product called the S'leb Suit, which allows celebrities to go about their business without photos of that business showing up in celebrity gossip magazines. It features special appearances by Kim Kardashian, Kristin Cavallari, Bob Saget, Mario Lopez, Ashton Kutcher and others.

As a DRTV product, the S'leb Suit is unlikely to succeed. But I can see it doing well in the niche A-list celebrity market.

September 16, 2010

Review: Mouse Chaser

Description: Electronic cat toy
Main Pitch: "A battery-operated fun house that will keep your cat busy for hours"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: Three Skinneeez Critters (just pay S&P)
Starring: Miranda Khan
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

There's only room for one? Maybe. This time the "one" is a "pet" project of mine, Allstar's Emery Cat, so I'm a little biased. This product is different, but it's different in the wrong direction.

The thing about Emery Cat is the fun is secondary to the problem/solution. The primary pitch is it solves a problem for the owner ("a cat's natural urge to scratch can rip up your whole house") and for the cat ("clippers cut too close to the sensitive inner tissue and nerves, causing pain"). Only later is the "playful kitty toy" mentioned.

In this case, that pitch is reversed. This spot is all about how the motion-sensitive electronic mouse will entertain a cat for hours. They throw in a few hints about why that's important (e.g. "a happy kitty is a good kitty"), but it isn't until almost a minute in that we get, "No more ripped drapes."

September 14, 2010

Review: My BFF

Description: Fish eggs that hatch from a tea bag
Main Pitch: "Grow up to eight full-size fish in just weeks"
Main Offer: $19.99 for the Miracle Fish Pouch and fish food (brine shrimp)
Bonus: Magnifying glass, breeding manual, etc.
Marketer: EWO Corp. (i.e. Nancy Duitch)
Prediction: ?

If there is one card that trumps well-reasoned criteria like my Divine Seven, it's what many in the industry call "wow factor." When this card is played, rational considerations such as "it has to solve a problem" go out the window. When people gotta have it, they gotta have it.

I've turned to this "trump card theory" to explain the success of a few recent outliers, Snuggie being the foremost. Now I've heard all the logical arguments for Snuggie, including the one that goes, "No, really! Blankets slipping off your shoulder is a big problem in America today." Sorry, but I'm not buying it. The only explanation that makes sense is people think the Druid look is super cool (perhaps in a self-deprecating way) and that is driving this (almost literal) cult phenomenon.

Anyway, this attempt to bring back a new variation of the 1960s Sea-Monkeys craze may just be another playing of the trump card. (I note with proper irony that these things eat sea monkeys for breakfast.) This campaign certainly has a lot of "wow" going for it. But since predicting what's going to be considered "super cool" is impossible, all I'm comfortable saying is this: It has potential.

Hey, Snugarena!

What do you get when you cross the biggest cult craze of the late 90s with the biggest cult craze of today? Hey, Snugarena!

September 09, 2010

Livin' on the Edge

Trojan is living on the edge and seems to be doing it well.

I hear their next campaign is going to feature an even edgier product. Here's a rough cut. Call now!

Review: Perfect Popcorn

Description: A popcorn bowl that sifts and mixes
Main Pitch: "Sift out unpopped kernels [and] mix salt, butter and other flavorings quickly and easily"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Bonus: Four bottles of seasoning, recipe book & stovetop popcorn cooker (separate S&H)
Marketer: Harvest Group
Prediction: Bomb

This is a classic "solution in search of a problem," meaning the commercial opens with a contrived problem. People have been eating popcorn for generations. I think they've figured out how to do it without breakig their teeth on unpopped kernels.

Here's how these ill-fated commercials happen: Since everyone knows you need to start a DRTV spot with a problem, writers and producers work hard to come up with one that's compelling. But the approach begs the question. Some products (like this one) don't solve a real problem and should be eliminated from consideration before a commercial is produced.

Review: 30 Second Hair

Description: Hair in a can
Main Pitch: "You can have great-looking hair instantly with no mess for just pennies a day"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one bottle (30-day supply)
Bonus: 2nd bottle (just pay S&P) plus Volumizing Mist
Marketer: Howard-Boscher
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I don't have research to back this up, but my instincts tell me that people with thinning hair have shopped everywhere for a solution to their problem. If that's true, then they've no doubt discovered Toppik, the leading "hair in a can" product. And that means this product won't seem new and exciting. It will seem like a knockoff of something that's been on the market for some time. (Ron Popeil's original "hair in a can," GLH, is even still on the market.)

That only leaves one other rationale for pursuing this campaign: This is a value play. However, a regular bottle of Toppik is $21.95, which means the price difference here isn't going to motivate many people off the couch.

September 08, 2010

Review: Easy Reach

Description: A pulley system for plants
Main Pitch: "Lets you lower and raise plants with just a gentle touch"
Main Offer: $10 for two
Bonus: Two more (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Prediction: Likely to succeed

This campaign meets all of the S7 criteria, except perhaps one. It's a great product idea in a proven category presented with first-rate creative.

My only concern is the targeting. You have to be someone who owns a hanging plant to find the first half of this commercial interesting. I'm not sure how many people that is.

Later in the spot, the uses are expanded to appeal to almost everyone. I think that's the right approach to DRTV creative in general: Start narrow and go broad later. The alternative is to muddy your pitch by trying to be all things early on, but it never works. Viewers need to understand what the product is, what it does and what makes it different in the first 30 seconds. That's because most of the spots they see are branding spots of that length. Trying to fit multiple uses into that first 30 seconds is a recipe for confusion, and confusion is a sales killer.

That said, choosing a narrow position also means taking a risk people won't stay with the commercial long enough to see something that appeals to them. It's a Catch-22 that tortures a lot of DRTV marketers, myself included.

September 07, 2010

Quicksand: Old Gold?

New Name: Sifteroo
Current Marketer: Allstar
Original Hit Year: 1996 (No. 5 on the JW Annual)
Original Marketer: Smart Inventions
Prediction: On the fence

This short-form hit from more than a decade ago was originally marketed under the name Quicksand (a better name). Both the key demo and the concept are as cool today as they were back then. Only one cause for concern: A similar item is readily available at Petco under the name Lift 'n Sift.

Review: Couch Coaster

Description: A drink holder and organizer for a couch
Main Pitch: "The first ever portable snacking station"
Main Offer: $10 for one w/ two free tumblers
Bonus: 2nd one w/ two more tumblers (just pay S&H)
Prediction: Bomb

The best version of this idea -- Allstar's Handy Valet -- didn't take off. Neither did the worst version, Couch Commander (#9). That tells me the problem is most likely the idea itself. People just aren't interested.

September 02, 2010

Review: Wrist Pockets

Description: A wristband with a zippered pouch built in
Main Pitch: "Keep what you really need right at hand"
Main Offer: $10 for three in black, red and tan
Bonus: Three more in purple, pink and teal (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Ontel
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Prediction: Likely to succeed

What's not to like? This meets all of the SciMark Seven criteria and is done by last year's No. 1 production company. The odds of success are high.

Review: Sticky Wicky

Description: A reusable lint roller
Main Pitch: "Will pick up anything: dog hair, cat hair, lint, dust"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: Small (travel) and large (handled) version
Starring: An unnamed pitchwoman
Marketer: Ontel
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Believe it or not, I do not object to the creative approach here. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have a soft spot for old-school pitches. Sure, this pitchwoman's is quirky and her humor is a little odd. But it is also genuine and endearing (instead of tasteless or forced) and the focus is on selling the product. To give credit where credit is due, it's the "Vince Offer Method" done correctly.

However, the product and the commercial both have key weaknesses that make this campaign unlikely to succeed. First, the product is a resurrection of an old item (the "Magic Lint Remover") that was a hit in the 1990s. That's usually a good thing, but sometimes these products just don't have the same impact they had years ago. With so many cheap lint rollers on the market (like this one from Scotch/3M), the need just may not be there. Also, the "reusable" pitch has a credibility issue, but I think the commercial does a good job addressing it. Sticking it to a mirror after it was rinsed was a great demo.

Second, and speaking of demos, the commercial over-uses quads and quick cuts. Inexplicably, the demos the pitchwoman does before your eyes compete with -- or are even covered over (!) with -- "pop up" windows featuring other demos. The effect creates confusion because you don't know where to look. By the time you figure it out, the scene is over. In other words, you never really get a chance to see this thing in action, and that's critical for buying it (figuratively and literally).

If fixed, this campaign could have a shot, assuming consumers disagree with my assessment of the category.