February 28, 2011

Keeping Score: 2010 Recap

Every so often, I go back and evaluate my ability to predict DRTV success or failure. I do that by checking my predictions against the best scorecard I know, my True Top 50, and now that I've posted my True Top 50 for all of 2010, it's time to evaluate last year. Here's how I did:

[NOTE: Links go to my original review for each campaign.]


  1. Slim Ts (No. 7) - This one caused me to re-think masculinity in America. Apparently, the "metros" are winning and making guys like me more "retro" than ever before.

  2. EZ Cracker (No. 10) - This one taught me something important: Egg products have higher-than-average odds of success on DRTV.

  3. Perfect Situp (No. 16) - I could wriggle out of this one since it's clear this marketer spends to support its fitness line. But to be perfectly honest, I thought this one would bomb horribly and disappear forever.

  4. Perfect Fit Button (No. 28) - Simply put: I was wrong. Very wrong, as it turns out.

  5. Crazy Critters (No. 33) - This was just poor thinking on my part. I don't own a dog, so I had no reason to voice such a strong opinion on the item, especially when it met five of my seven criteria.

  6. Belly Burner (No. 42) - Credibility was obviously not a problem for this item, but I still think the claims are too risky.

  7. Total Pillow (No. 48) - I already ate crow on this one, but I'll do it again: I totally underestimated this one.


  1. iRenew (No. 1) - As admitted earlier, a "back-handed" success prediction.

  2. Shake Weight (No. 4)

  3. Heel Tastic (No. 12)

  4. Sobakawa Pillow (No. 13) - I had doubts, but I gave it a 5 out of 7 anyway.

  5. Cami Secret (No. 19)

  6. Sonic Pet Trainer (No. 21)

  7. Jupiter Jack (No. 25)

  8. Chef Basket (No. 37)

  9. Bark Off (No. 39)

  10. Uglu (No. 40)

  11. Perfect Brownie (No. 44)

So that makes my official prediction record 11 of 18 (61%).

As for the other campaigns on the Top 50, I did not include them in this evaluation for one of the following reasons:

  • I missed them (e.g. Mister Steamy, Flirty Girl Fitness).

  • I don't write about the category (e.g. Sept. 11th Commemorative, Live Butterfly Garden).

  • I recused myself due to inside information (e.g. Depil Silk, Wonder File).

  • They are more than two years old (e.g. Bender Ball, ShamWow!).

  • I was "on the fence" (e.g. Criss Angel, Mighty Fixit, Pajama Jeans).

So there you have it. Not bad ... but not great, either. In any case, I learned a lot last year, and the industry keeps evolving.

SciMark Report from February Response

My latest column is now live on the Response magazine Website. Reviews include: Miyashi, Greenbeam and Lipstick Remix [a].

One important correction: In the Miyashi review, I attributed the Sobakawa Pillow to the wrong marketer. The line in question should have read: "Media Enterprise's Sobakawa Pillow."

February 15, 2011

True Top Marketers of the Year

According to my (just published) True Top 50 of 2010, here are the true top marketers of the year (in order):

  1. IdeaVillage. Andy Khubani's firm moves up from No. 2 to No. 1 this year with a staggering nine True Top 50 hits. They are: Yoshi Blade, Slim Ts, Criss Angel Magic Kit, Depil Silk, HD Vision Ultras, Prayer Cross, Finishing Touch Jewel, MicroForce Max and Uglu. Wow! (As an aside, unlike last year where I made a distinction, I am counting "acquisitions" in the rankings this year. That's because acquiring hits has become a standard industry practice.)

  2. Telebrands. The godfather of the industry and its current ambassador, AJ Khubani delivered no less than seven Top 50 hits in 2010: Heel Tastic, Pasta Boat, Jupiter Jack, Perfect Fit Button, Crazy Critters, Chef Basket and Bark Off.

  3. Allstar. No. 1 last year with four Top 50 hits, this efficient hit machine rolled out another four Top 50 winners in 2010: Wonder File, Perfect Brownie, Topsy Turvy and Kangaroo Keeper.

Three other companies tied for fourth with two Top 50 hits each. They are:

  • Emson with EZ Cracker (a top 10 hit) and the Sonic Pet Trainer

  • Media Enterprises with the Sobakawa Pillow and Mighty Fixit

  • Hampton Direct with Pajama Jeans and Total Pillow

Congratulations to everyone on a great year!

True Top Producers of the Year

Correction: The first version of this posting only attributed two Top 50 hits to Concepts TV. When the change was made, the firm's ranking improved to No. 4.

According to my True Top 50 of 2010, here are the true top producers of the year (in order):

  1. Blue Moon Studios. For the second year in a row, Fred Vanore's firm tops the list with no less than seven True Top 50 hits. They are: Yoshi Blade, Wonder File, Prayer Cross, Finishing Touch Jewel, MicroForce Max, Bark Off and Topsy Turvy.

  2. Hutton-Miller. John Miller & Peter Hutton's creative crew rise from No. 3 to No. 2 this year with four True Top 50 hits, including the No. 1 hit of the year -- iRenew. The others are: Mister Steamy, Mighty Fixit and Page Brite.

  3. Adcomm. One of the most liked and most experienced people in the business, Don Braca (and his talented team) shone in 2010 with three True Top 50 hits: the Sobakawa Pillow, Potty Patch and Crazy Critters.

  4. Concepts TV. Collette Liantonio and the lovely ladies (and, uh, guys) at Concepts also delivered three Top 50 hits in 2010. They proved me wrong with both Perfect Fit Button and Total Pillow, and did so well with Pajama Jeans it made No. 34 despite launching at the end of the year.

  5. Sullivan Productions. Sully, Arwen, Carla and the crew had two items in the Top 25 this time around: Heel Tastic and Jupiter Jack.

Congratulations to you all!

The True Top 50 of 2010

After careful analysis and research, I am finally posting my True Top 50 for all of 2010 ...

Now come all the caveats!

First, as before, the two key metrics used for this ranking are frequency and spending on the 75 rated national cable networks, and spending is given twice the weight of frequency. This is done to prevent campaigns that run a lot on the "cheaper" networks from getting an artificially high value.

Second, any spot shorter than two minutes was excluded from the analysis. To get to what's "true," we remove formats clearly designed to lose money on TV. Of course, it is impossible to separate out 120s that purposefully lose money, or we would do that as well.

Third, we applied several filters to get a list that is more relevant to the specific focus of this blog. For those who don't know what that is, or haven't really thought about it, it's short-form DRTV campaigns for hard goods (i.e. gadgets) that, if successful, will end up on retail shelves.

As in the past, that means we exclude campaigns for services instead of products. For this annual list and going forward, I have also started filtering out the following:

  1. Long-form campaigns airing short-form support

  2. "Hybrid" campaigns involving set budgets and/or "soft" metrics such as cost-per-lead

Although these types of DRTV marketing are certainly "true" in the broader sense, what I'm really saying is these campaigns are beyond my interest and expertise. For example, I have no way of determining whether a new Proactiv campaign will meet Guthy-Renker's definition of success, and I wouldn't be interested in writing about that even if I did.

All of these caveats and filters come from my dissatisfaction with the other rankings out there. To me, a top 50 ranking is lacking if half the year's hits are pushed off the list by companies who spend for reasons other than profitable CPOs. (Of course, even with my best efforts, this will be unavoidable to some degree.)

As always, I welcome your criticisms and suggestions for improvement.

February 14, 2011

Review: Buxton Pill Valet

Description: A pill organizer
Main Pitch: "Chic and discreet, so you never have to be embarrassed to take your pills or vitamins in public"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one in black, red or tan plus magnifying cap remover
Bonus: Double the offer, just pay P&H
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Monte-Brooks
Website: www.BuxtonPillVallet.com
Prediction: N/A

I missed this when it first came out, so I am just 'posting for posterity.'

February 02, 2011

Review: Salad Chef

Description: A salad maker
Main Pitch: "The world's fasted salad-making system"
Main Offer: 2 pay of $19.95 for one with a bunch of stuff
Bonus: Medium slicing blade (just pay separate S&H)
Website: www.BuySaladChef.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This is a better version of the Vidalia Chop Wizard, No. 22 on the Jordan Whitney annual for 2006. However, whereas Chop Wizard was simple and easy to understand, this product is complicated and confusing.

I've said it before: "Swiss Army Knife" products are a problem for DRTV. It's a simple matter of time. It is nearly impossible to do a multi-feature/multi-benefit product justice in one minute and 30 seconds (the last 30 seconds being offer and end tag). This is a classic example. What does this product allow you to do? "[R]inse, spin, slice, dice, cube, shred, juliene and grate -- and then serve, seal and store." Got it?

Also, this type of pitch has been tried unsuccessfully before. The late, great Billy Mays did a spinning one for Vidalia called the Chop It, and Billy's former co-star Anthony Sullivan did a similar product for Ontel called the Kitchen King Pro. In DR, the third time is never the charm ... Oh, and did I mention the price is $20 too high?

All of that said, this category is proven and the concept of a "quick and easy" salad-making system has been successful many times and many ways. This is really a better version of the Chop Wizard, and it has been long enough for the concept to make a comeback. I just think confusion and price are going to prevent this one from really taking off.

Review: Last Drop

Description: A jar scraper
Main Pitch: "Retrieves virtually all your beauty product from the container"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay separate S&H) plus three cosmetic jars and a clear cosmetic pouch
Website: www.GetLastDrop.com
Prediction: Bomb

One of they key questions anyone should ask when considering a product for DRTV is, "Does it solve a problem?" It's DR 101. With the SciMark Seven, I went a step further to include the concept of "enough." Is the problem big enough or painful enough to motivate a purchase? And lately, I've been going a step further by expressing "enough" as a 10-point scale with "1" being a minor annoyance and "10" being some serious pain.

On my new "DRTV Pain Scale," then, I would give this product a "3" -- at best. That is, this "problem" is really just an annoyance. (The first testimonial even uses that exact word.)

The opening to this commercial underscores the point with a statement that has no real teeth. "Never waste your beauty products again" doesn't translate into anything meaningful for people. They do try to contrive a problem later by suggesting "up to 25% of creams and lotions" are wasted, but that claim will have zero credibility for the average person. And there are many other problems with this campaign, not the least of which is the weak value of the offer.

At the last Inventor's Day I attended (see item #7), another solution to this problem was presented, but the Telebrands' team was smart enought to shoot it down. That should have happened here: This is not a DRTV item and, frankly, not much of an item at all.

Review: Happy Nappers

Description: A stuffed animal that converts into a pillow
Main Pitch: "From a comfy pillow to a lovable friend with a simple zip, pop and squeeze"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: None
Marketer: Jay at Play
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Website: www.HappyNapper.com
Prediction: N/A

I don't know enough about kids' DRTV to make a proper prediction here, so I'll keep it brief. My main thought is this seems very close to Pillow Pets, which is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it could "catch the wave" and do well. On the other hand, Ontel & Co. have been doing a great job selling multiple Pillow Pets to everyone who could possibly want one, so maybe all the low-hanging fruit is gone.

February 01, 2011

Review: Woof Wraps

Description: Gourmet dog treats
Main Pitch: "Made from real food ... Packed with vitamins and fiber"
Main Offer: $10 for an eight-ounce bag
Bonus: 2nd bag, just pay processing
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Website: www.WoofWraps.com
Prediction: Bomb

This one I just don't get. It's questionable whether organic/natural dog treats are an opportunity at all, but they make no sense as a DRTV product. The gluocasamine and chondroitin pitch helps a little bit -- at least it's somewhat proven -- but there is so much competition. A very odd test indeed.

Review: Booti-fuls

Description: Velcro straps for pant cuffs
Main Pitch: "Keep your pants snug inside your boots, so they don't ride up"
Main Offer: $9.95 for two plus nine Strap Perfect clips
Bonus: Double the offer, just pay P&H
Starring: Taylor Baldwin
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Monte-Brooks
Website: www.BuyBootifuls.com
Prediction: On The Fence

This product was common in the military, but I never thought about it for civilian use. I guess it makes sense that women who wear boots would have this problem. My question is whether enough women wear boots on a regular basis, and how painful the problem is when they do wear them.

Review: Drawer Max

Description: A drawer organizer
Main Pitch: "Lifts open to give you three times the space in any drawer"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one, just pay S&H
Marketer: Merchant Media
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Website: www.BuyDrawerMax.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I am going to repeat what I wrote when I reviewed Swivel Store, a swiveling spice rack, which was done by the same team. "I believe the mass market is closer to the Oscar Madison end of the spectrum than the Felix Ungar end, and that this sort of product will only get the Ungars of the world excited enough to buy on impulse."

I won't hedge my bet, either. With Swivel Store, I thought it was "possible that when it comes to using spices, the activity is so common that organization is a pressing concern." In other words, I thought spices might be a special case that could prove me wrong. But this time, I look at all the drawer organizers already on the market (Bed Bath & Beyond had 26 in a quick online check), and there doesn't seem to be much of an opportunity here. Sure, this particular organizer has a much better promise and a great demo, but "better than" products are always a tough sell on DRTV.

There's something else bothering me about this product, and I think it has to do with the credibility of the promise. It just doesn't seem likely that most drawers will be deep enough to accomodate a triple-level organizer. If America is like me, people will remember the frustration they experienced the last time a single-level organizer caused a serving spoon or hairbrush to jam a drawer shut, and that will cause them to doubt the product works as easily as advertised. But that could just be me.