January 31, 2012

Review: Mr. Lid

Description: Food storage containers
Main Pitch: "The amazing food storage container with the lid attached, so you never lose the lid"
Main Offer: $19.95 for 12 in various sizes
Bonus: 12 more (just pay additional P&H), free deluxe container with condiment cup
Website: www.MrLid.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This one's an industry 'been there, done that.' Unless something totally new and different comes along, I declare food storage containers to be another dead category (always with the caveat "for now"). This just doesn't strike me as a category that recycles hits. There are too many other options on the market.

The product also felt unoriginal and uninspiring. A hinged lid doesn't seem like anything to get excited about, and the standard "vacuum seal" pitch has less credibility than usual when you see how this works. Even if food storage containers were a good bet these days, I just don't see this one motivating anyone off the couch. About the only thing it has going for it is a decent-size offer.

Review: Perfect Cupcake

Description: A cupcake pan
Main Pitch: "Your favorite candy in the center of a cupcake"
Main Offer: $19.95 for a pan, recipe book, decorating squeezer and 30 custom liners
Bonus: Second complete set (just pay separate P&H
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: The Schwartz Group
Website: www.BuyPerfectCupcake.com
Prediction: On the fence

I'm of two minds on this one. My positive mind loves the commercial (especially that clever jingle* and the equally clever name "sweet stick") and finds the idea of cupcakes with a surprise inside very appealing. It also recalls that Allstar's Big Top Cupcake featured just this combination of factors. That is: A cool twist, a focus on kids and lots of mouth-watering fun.

My negative mind recalls that, with the lone exception of the Allstar project just mentioned, this particular treat hasn't done well in short form. In December of 2010, National Express tested Clever Cupcakes, which went nowhere. Then in April of last year, the Edison Nation/Hutton-Miller team tested the Upcake Cupcake Pan, and that hasn't been heard from again, either.

In general, this category is very hard to predict. I can spin a hypothesis that explains Perfect Brownie, but I can't make that hypothesis fit Bake Pop (or the Big Top Cupcake, for that matter). It seems success or failure is based on the whim of the consumer at the moment, and that's not very 'DR.' Maybe it's just another 1-in-50 category? That is, a category (like hair accessories) where the odds are about 1 in 50 -- so dice-rollers beware!


* To my knowledge, this is the first time in recent history that a jingle has been used for a baking item (albeit a kid-oriented baking item). Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

Review: Iron Shield

Description: An iron cover
Main Pitch: "A new innovation in ironing that saves you time and money"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay S&P)
Website: www.BuyIronShield.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This seems like a solution in search of a problem to me. I'm fairly certain iron technology has advanced enough to prevent most of the problems shown in this spot. Besides, most people have figured out how to perform the task without ruining their clothes. In other words, I predict the next time this lady will say her signature phrase ("Oh, Blimey!") is when she sees her CPO.

January 25, 2012

Dangers of DIY DR (6)

I especially like the Alexander Graham Bell cameo and the "clear your brain" slogan. [a]

Review: Mat-Adore

Description: A mat
Main Pitch: "The all-in-one clean surface, cushioned pad and protective cover"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay separate S&H)
Website: www.BuyMatadore.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This product is not without its uses, but the pitch is all over the place. I understand why: With a narrower focus, it would struggle to sell even in catalogs, and there would hardly be enough to talk about in a TV commercial. But trying to make this for everything from baies to yoga to auto repair isn't the answer, either. Ultimately, the problem is ... it's a mat.

Review: Wrench-O-Matic

Description: A universal wrench
Main Pitch: "The fast, easy way to fit, grip and turn thousands of different nuts, bolts, pipes and fasteners"
Main Offer: $10 for one with 10-piece ratcheting driver set
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Beau Rials
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: The Schwartz Group
Website: www.WrenchOMatic.com
Prediction: N/A

I'm close to this one, so I have to refrain from commenting. I'll just leave it at this: Cool product. Great commercial. Tough category.

January 23, 2012

Review: Boom Tunes

Description: A sound transmitter
Main Pitch: "Turn everything into a speaker"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one in white or black
Bonus: Carrying case with built-in clip
Marketer: Ontel
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Website: www.BuyBoomTunes.com
Prediction: On the fence

This is the Beat Blaster with the correct positioning (100% toward children) and done by the master of kids' DR (the True Top Producer for the fall of 2011). That said, I still have an inherent problem with this product. As I wrote before: "You need to try this product and hear it live before you'll want to buy it. It's 100% 'wow factor,' and you can't really be wowed by the item through your TV."

This commercial tries to compensate for that shortcoming with special effects, but I think that approach lacks the necessary credibility. Still, the believability bar is lower for kids, so there's a good chance they'll get what this does and want to try it enough to pester their parents. (Love the slogan, by the way. "Boom! It's a speaker!")

Review: Measure-Matic

Description: A digital tape (string) measure
Main Pitch: "The fast and easy way to measure everything"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: Second one (just pay separate P&H)
Marketer: Lenfest
Producer: Producers Direct
Website: www.BuyMeasureMatic.com
Prediction: Hit! (OK, N/A)

Here's your chance to criticize the critic. This one was written by yours truly.

I'll take the cheap shot away from you: Yes, I am auditioning to be the next Dr. Seuss.

Of course, you know I do everything scientifically (hence the "sci" in SciMark), so I researched this one. According to a poll of 52 strangers who have purchased DRTV products in the past, 19% viewed the rhymes favorably, 6% viewed them unfavorably and 67% said they had no impact one way or the other. Meanwhile, 100% of toddlers absolutely loved them!

January 18, 2012

Fall True Top 50

The numbers are in for the fall of 2011. Here are the 50 campaigns that spent and aired the most from September 1 through November 30:

As for my track record, there aren't enough new items to warrant an update. Instead, I will provide a complete 2011 accounting when the True Top 50 for the entire year is ready (sometime next month, I hope).

That said, I should admit that I was wrong about three items in particular:

  1. Music Bullet (No. 19). I was right about Sonic Jammers and right about this version winning the duel, but I was definitely wrong when I wrote, "There are just too many competing products at retail for this one to have a real shot." Turns out this item is taking over at retail. Oops!
  3. Grout Bully (No. 30). I didn't make an official prediction, but based on my past experience with similar products I wrote, "I've been down this road twice before. It's a dead end." I guess not. Not only is the campaign spending on TV, it is also on the cover of Taylor Gifts.
  5. Insta Slim (No. 43). "I won't be wrong about this one," I promised. "Second to market with a 'me-too solution' -- especially when up against IdeaVillage -- is a losing strategy." What I couldn't foresee was that IdeaVillage would exit the market, leaving a void to be filled by this product.

Those three misses make me look pretty bad, so let me try to take your mind off that by mentioning I have two campaigns in the Top 20! That's right: MyZone Headphones (No. 4) and Magic Mesh (No. 11) could be called "mine," since I brought the product for the former campaign and wrote the commercial for the latter campaign. Of course, I can't take all the credit -- or even most of it. In both cases, I definitely owe a big debt to the producers who created the commercials: Blue Moon and Producers Direct, respectively. Thanks guys!

Moving on, I am naming Telebrands my True Top Marketer for the fall of 2011. The company had an impressive nine hits in the Top 50. Allstar is a close second with eight hits, and IdeaVillage takes third with five hits. Ontel also deserves an honorable mention for having the most new items on the Top 50 at two. They are Slushy Magic (No. 22) and Salon Express (No. 41), which is from Spark Innovators.

Finally, Hutton-Miller is my True Top Producer, re-taking the top spot with six hits in the Top 50. Last quarter's top producer, The Schwartz Group, is a close second -- and Blue Moon Studios is an even closer third. Actually, both producers had five hits in the Top 50, but The Schwart'z Group newest hit (Bake Pop) was No. 9 while Blue Moon's newest hit (Salon Express) was No. 41.

Congratulations to all!

DRTV Products That Work

One important criterion many DRTV companies consider these days is whether a product 'does what it says it does' (HT: Bob L.). That's because DRTV campaigns featuring products that don't live up to the expectations we set with our commercials quickly collapse under the weight of negative online reviews -- and, to a lesser extent, reports in the press like the one mentioned above.

This particular segment appeared on WNBC in New York and is refreshing because it was all positive -- products that actually work! I won't ruin the surprise by revealing the items, but I will take this opportunity to brag that three out of the four products praised belong to clients of mine.

January 12, 2012

Review: Pizza Prints

Description: An edible pizza decoration
Main Pitch: "Add some party to your pizza"
Main Offer: $10 for Super Bowl XLVI decoration and choice of NFL team decoration
Bonus: 2nd Super Bowl XLVI decoration plus 12 Super Bowl XLVI rings (just pay S&H)
Website: www.PizzaPrintsTV.com
Prediction: Bomb

I doubt this is a serious attempt at DRTV success, but if so it has the worst seasonality problem I've ever seen. I thought Christmas items were bad! At least people start shopping for Christmas the month before. But the Super Bowl? Are they planning to ask Domino's to deliver this in 30 minutes or less?

Putting that aside and expanding the possible uses for this to all pizzas all year long, I have to ask: Do people really want to decorate their pizzas? And how good could a multi-color, cheese-flavored starch decoration really taste?

Review: Dream Lites

Description: A plush nightlight
Main Pitch: "Turn your child's bedroom ceiling into a starry night sky"
Main Offer: $29.95 for one
Bonus: None
Marketer: Ontel
Producer: Infomercials Inc.
Website: www.DreamLites.com
Prediction: On the fence

I never wrote about it, but Allstar and Hutton-Miller tested a similar product last year. They called it Dreamy Time Turtle [a]. It didn't work, but there were a number of variables involved.

Can Ontel and Infomercials Inc., using the Pillow Pets brand, make a go of this? It's possible. There is some sales history behind the item, and I have always liked the "huggable night light" pitch. If anyone can do it, these guys can.

Review: Credit Safe

Description: A protective sleeve for credit cards
Main Pitch: "Prevents the radio signals from your credit or debit card from being electronically stolen"
Main Offer: $10 for five sleeves
Bonus: ID Protector Stamp (just pay P&H)
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Meltzer Media
Website: www.GetCreditSafe.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

There is a theory circulating that RFID protection was the key to making Telebrands' Aluma Wallet a hit. That would presuppose people know about electronic pickpocketing and are concerned enough to want protection. I find that to be a dubious assumption, and this test is a great way to find out if I'm right or wrong.

It's also a chance to challenge, once again, the proverbial wisdom that 'prevention doesn't sell.' My money is on the poverb.

January 11, 2012

Review: Diamond X4

Description: A CZ ring
Main Pitch: "Experience the brilliance of flawless diamonds"
Main Offer: $20 for one
Bonus: Matching CZ band (additional $6.99)
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.DiamondX4.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I wrote about jewelry and what seems to work on DRTV just the other day, so I won't repeat myself here. One difference: Fake precious stones have sold well in print for years, so this attempt isn't as crazy as it might seem. However, I think the approach doesn't translate well to TV and screams "scam" even though the proper disclosures are made. Maybe it's the classical music and the British accent?

Review: Finishing Touch Diamond

Description: The latest Finishing Touch
Main Pitch: "Uses diamond technology to instantly and painlessly remove unwanted hair"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Bonus: Eyebrow attachment, lighted 5x mirror (just pay S&H)
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Website: www.GetFinishing.com
Prediction: N/A

This one is for posterity only since the strategy is now well understood. Speaking of which, everyone should be taking note of what IdeaVillage is doing with line extensions. Whether it's trimmers or sunglasses, the company has defied gravity by creating DR products with amazing longevity at retail. Both Finishing Touch and MicroTouch (the version of this product for men) still dominate their categories at retail. Continuing to launch 'new and improved' versions every few years is one reason why.

Side note: There is not much originality when it comes to the music producers choose for DR commercials, so I have to give Blue Moon credit for trying something different that also works. Maybe they were planning ahead for the Spanish version?

Review: Stick Stand

Description: A kickstand for phones and tablets
Main Pitch: "Safely holds up your favorite gadgets while freeing up your hands"
Main Offer: $10 for two
Bonus: Two more (just pay P&H)
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Website: www.BuyStickStand.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Besides the low perceived value of the item (not always a big deal; it certainly wasn't for Strap Perfect), I just don't think the problem is painful enough or common enough among older consumers. That is, younger folks tend to be the heaviest users of smart phones and tablets, and they generally don't buy off TV.

That said, the Kindle application caught my attention, and I also liked the car demos. It's possible those uses could broaden the appeal enough to make something out of this, but it's a long shot.

January 10, 2012

Review: Press Dome

Description: A sealing dome
Main Pitch: "Vacuum seals your own plates, platters, carving boards, bowls & more"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: Perfect Party Platter/Cake Stand, Press Dome Jr. (just pay processing)
Starring: Erin Murphy (Tabitha from Bewitched)
Marketer: United Home Technologies
Website: www.PressDome.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Let me start out by saying that Tabitha was my favorite character on Bewitched when I watched the re-runs as a kid. I loved how she had to use her finger to do the 'nose twitch' trick. So cute! Now she is grown, has six kids (a trick in itself) and is starring in this commercial, which is fine except for the product it features. The problem is that every variant of the Debbie Meyer Green Bag pitch has been tried with few successes to show for it.

There's also a credibility issue here. No matter how loud they make that sucking sound, it's just not believable that this thing could create an airtight seal. About the only benefit that resonated for me was keeping a hot meal warm, but that isn't enough to build a campaign around.

Review: Hard Cuts Easy

Description: A tile and glass cutting tool
Main Pitch: "The best tile and glass cutter you'll ever own"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay processing)
Starring: Anthony Sullivan
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Sullivan Productions
Website: www.HardCutsEasy.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I saw this item pitched live years ago at a home show, and I really liked the demos. Then I thought long and hard about how to build a rationale for the mass market and came up blank. The average Joe just doesn't cut tile or glass that often. That makes this a specialty tool, and those are hard to make work on DRTV.

As for the commercial, there's a lot to like. Sully keeps it true to the original pitch, and I liked the touch of having the proverbial 'little old lady' do the squeeze demo.

January 09, 2012

Review: My Lil' Piemaker

Description: A silicone pie pan
Main Pitch: "The fast, easy way to make and bake delicious mini-pies"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one pan with spatula, riser, pie cutter and recipe guide
Bonus: 2nd pan (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Global TV
Producer: The Schwartz Group
Website: www.MyLilPiemaker.com
Prediction: On the fence

This strikes me as another product you didn't know you needed, which is to say it is probably a solution in search of a problem. However, it's fun and different and has a unique twist in the "pop up" feature. Sometimes that combination works in this category. How else to explain the success of Global/Allstar's Big Top Cupcake or Telebrands' Bake Pops?

Review: Shamina

Description: A convertible shawl
Main Pitch: "The shawl that does it all and never falls"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay processing)
Starring: Taylor Baldwin
Marketer: Smart Inventions
Website: www.BuyShamina.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

DR marketers have tried several of these convertible garments. I can't think of one that worked, but I can think of a few that failed (e.g. Flirty Wrap).

Review: Titanic Heart Necklace

Description: A heart-shaped pendant
Main Pitch: "100th anniversary collector's edition necklace ... features authentic coal recovered from the doomed luxury liner"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: Matching earrings for $10 more
Marketer: National Express
Website: www.TheTitanicNecklace.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I can think of only two jewelry items that ever went anywhere on short-form DRTV. One was IdeaVillage's Prayer Cross, an outlier that had miraculous "wow factor" (note the choice of words) and hit the religious angle just right (Christian, not just Catholic). The other was Telebrands' Royal Ring, which capitalized on a favorite fairytale and hit the timing just right.

This item has neither going for it. One could argue the re-release of the movie could give them a pop in awareness, but that's a tough thing to bank on. Otherwise, I don't think people care enough about this 100th anniversary to get off the couch and order something commemorating it.

January 06, 2012

How to Predict the Future

In DRTV, predicting the future isn't always difficult. Guessing what items consumers will buy? That's hard. Guessing which campaigns are likely to run into trouble for making dubious claims? Not so much ...

I was reminded of this today while reading an Electronic Retailer article by the inimitable Greg Sater about an ERSP inquiry into certain claims made by the Belly Burner people. Greg writes:

[They] made claims such as 'Get rid of belly fat,' 'Shed away unwanted inches,' 'Burn fat faster while walking, biking, jogging -- any form of exercise,' and 'Heat vision photography shows how the Belly Burner raises your body's core temperature, supercharging the calorie burning process.' "

Here's what I wrote in my review of the product one year before this was reported: "I think the product lacks credibility and the claims they're making will be a problem."

So do I have mystical powers? Not quite. In truth, anyone can be a swami when it comes to predicting the future of DRTV commercials that make such claims. Greg sums up:

In 2011, when it came to body shaping products, ERSP wanted to see not only solid science supporting claims, but also supporting the use of testimonials.

Yes, solid science is always good when you can get it, but I think staying out of trouble requires much less. More on that in a moment.

Something similar to the amazing Belly Burner prediction happened with iRenew. In my review at the end of August 2010, I referenced the Q-Ray bracelet ($87 million in fines) and Kinoki Foot Pads (shredded by 20/20 and the FTC) and concluded: "If this campaign is successful ... I wouldn't spend the money."

After I wrote that, three things of note occurred:

  • The ERSP announced that the marketers of iRenew had "agreed to modify or discontinue a wide range of claims."
  • A Michigan attorney sued and asked for "approval to sue on behalf of the hundreds of people who reportedly purchased the bracelets."
  • The product took a major beating in the press. Both John Stossel, the guy behind the Kinoki 20/20 story, and a May ABC special called "Infomercial Nation" took issue with the product's claims. (Incidentally, Belly Burner was targeted in the same special.)

Nowhere near as serious as what happened to the Q-Ray or foot-pad guys, to be sure, but I still looked prescient. So how did I do it? I think it's obvious, but just in case: Here's my step-by-step guide to performing the magic trick:

  1. Start by staying informed. You don't need a law degree to know that the regulating bodies are paying close attention to our industry or to be aware of the red flags they look for. They often put out articles and press releases explaining exactly what they find problematic. To cite a classic example from a few years ago, when the FTC publicly launches something called "Operation Big Fat Lie", you are a fool if you don't sit up and take careful notes. That operation targeted the diet category, but it wasn't hard to extrapolate to other categories, such as fitness.
  3. Next, listen to your conscience. That little voice? That feeling in your stomach? Don't discount them. Just like you, regulators have little voices and uneasy stomachs, too.
  5. Finally, practice before a live audience. We've all experienced it: A "friend" or family member makes us the butt of a joke because of some absurd claim he or she heard in one of our commercials. By then, of course, it's too late. The commercial is in rollout and that regulator, if he is noting the claim, isn't laughing -- at least not with you. So why not start earlier by reading your scripts aloud to a trusted friend or family member, just to see if that line your little voice doesn't like sets off her alarm bells as well?

In retrospect, these problems that emerge always seem highly preventable to me, and I don't think I'm alone in thinking that. All it takes is a little discipline and most of these problems can easily be avoided. In fact, there are whole categories that probably should be avoided ... but that is a post for another time.