July 31, 2014

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Miracle Mask. Marketer: Ontel. Pitch: "The amazingly comfortable sleep mask that eliminates light and blocks noise." Comments: As I've explained before, the ideal DRTV product has a potential market size of one per household. But how many households have sleep masks? On top of that, this is a classic 'better than' product. No wonder it's a 'fast fail'! (Link goes to spot.) Side note: For those keeping track at home, this is Ontels' fifth "Miracle" product after Miracle Foot Repair (2001), Miracle Socks (2011), Miracle Slippers (2011) and Miracle Copper Socks (2014). I'm not counting Miracle Hands because that one was a 'brand loan' to Telebrands. [ss]
  3. Bowl Brite. Marketer: Zoom TV. Pitch: "The night light for your toilet bowl." Comments: Add a few jets and some music, and this would be a big hit in Japan. Here, the target market appears to be nagging wives who hate when their man misses the bowl. Good luck getting him to give a sh-t, ladies. Side note: This spot has one of the oddest forced rhymes in DR history: "It's the light that cares because it knows that you're there." (?!) A loving, all-knowing toilet? I've heard of praying to the porcelain god, but this is ridiculous! [ss]
  5. Derma WOW. Pitch: "Make embarrassing dry, red, beat-up hands and cracked feet look and feel new again." Comments: Speaking of Ontel's Miracle Foot Repair, this product is reminiscent of that 2001 hit. It's a bit pricey for short form, but I really like the creative. On a related note -- and I almost never notice this -- I really like the music as well. It's catchy and upbeat, giving the spot a certain emotional urgency. Kudos to this producer for a great commercial and to the editor for an even better soundtrack choice! [ss]
  7. Drip Knots. Pitch: "Plush absorbent wrist bands with matching headband ... absorb the water and stop the mess." Comments: Good spot and solid testimonial work, but I think this solves a problem that is too low on the scale to motivate an impulse purchase. [ss]
  9. EZ Cuddle Pillow. Pitch: "The only contour pillow with easy access for perfect cuddling." Comments: Just when you thought every possible pillow had been tried ... Actually, this concept has been tried, but the positioning was a bit different. It was called Totally Tubular (see No. 6 in this Weekly Round-Up). On a side note: I'm not sure how I feel about the 'in bed' testimonials -- or that it feels like the entire spot is testimonials. [ss]
  11. Lidtastic. Starring: Susan Williams. Marketer: National Express. Pitch: Silicone lids "make cooking, heating and storage fast and easy." Comments: Every aspect of this pitch has been tried before, in some cases multiple times (see my Dueling Stretchy Lids post, for example). The lack of success to date doesn't bode well for this project. [ss]
  13. Quick Cover. Marketer: Will It Launch. Pitch: "The fast easy way to make your furniture look brand new again." Comments: Seeing as how one of the best producers in the business already took a crack at this (see EZ Covers) and it didn't roll out, I'm going to answer "no" to the question implied by the marketer's name. That said, I was 'on the fence' the first time I reviewed this concept, and sometimes timing can be everything. [ss]
  15. Slip N Zip. Pitch: "The amazing new pillowcase that zips around your pillowcase for a perfect fit." Comments: An apparent 'fast fail.' (Link goes to spot.) Also a classic solution in search of a problem. Never should have made it past the evaluation phase. [ss]
  17. The Smart Phone Clip. Pitch: "Attaches to your seatbelt for safer, hands-free talking." Comments: Smart phone accessories have had zero success to date and, I'll just come out and say it, this is a really lame idea for a product. [ss]
  19. Wonder Tie. Marketer: Hampton. Pitch: "The revolutionary, one-size-fits-all necktie that you never have to tie." Comments: A 'fast fail.' (Link goes to spot.) Curious that the one testimonial in the spot begins: "I never wear ties ..." With our aging population (more retirees than ever) and the rise in popularity of 'business casual' attire, I suspect that's most of America these days. [ss]

SciMark Report from July Response

Tristar's Perfect Slicer

My latest SciMark Report in print is now available on the Response Website.

The items I reviewed include: Tristar's Perfect Slicer [ss], Telebrands' Royal Posture [ss] and the iBall Tablet System [ss].

Coming Soon

In the upcoming August issue, I'll be covering the following new projects:

Check out this month's issue to see what I have to say about those projects.

July 23, 2014

Dan Borislow, RIP

Bloomberg reports that Dan Borislow, the man behind Magic Jack, died Monday of a heart attack. He was 52.

Dan leaves behind a wife and two children. Our condolences to the Borislow family.


I met Dan when I was head of marketing at IdeaVillage. At the time, he was pitching this crazy new VOIP device and was interested in marketing it using DRTV. That day was interesting (to say the least), and I learned a few things about Dan. First, he was a proud maverick with 100% confidence that he would succeed at whatever he did. Looking at his track record -- even his amazing gambling record! -- it seems that his high opinion of himself was justified. As my dad used to say: "It ain't braggin' if you can do it."

Second, Dan expected other people to have as much confidence in him as he had in himself. The idea he was interested in our DRTV expertise died quickly that day. Dan gave a long talk about the telecom industry and explained how a loophole in telecommunications law would allow him to collect money from the big telecoms for every person who used his product. We listened intently, fascinated to learn from an expert in his field. Then came our turn. Our veteran CEO, Andy Khubani, and our team of experienced DR professionals explained our industry and concluded with several smart reasons why Dan's item was a long-form project and not a short-form project. Despite having zero DRTV experience, Dan disagreed and let us know he thought we were all idiots.

Later it became clear that Dan was more interested in Andy's money than his (or our) expertise -- and he was looking for a lot of it. A soon-to-be-infamous 'Dan quote' was born during the ensuing exchange. After recovering from the sticker shock of Dan's initial investment request, Andy sought some assurances that his money would be well spent. I'm paraphrasing the first part here because this is from memory, but Dan said something like: "All you should be doing is signing the check and saying, 'Go, motherf-er, go!' " Gotta love that kind of chutzpah!

In the end, Andy didn't invest -- and we all shook our heads over Dan's hubris. Personally, I was offended that he had so readily dismissed our advice. My ego didn't like being denied respect. Later, I got to have the first laugh when Dan's two-minute commercial for Magic Jack flopped. However, as we now know, Dan had the last laugh when the product kicked butt in long form and at retail and went on to became one of the biggest success stories of that time. It may not go down as "the best DRTV product ever," (another 'Dan quote' that underscores his confidence), but it will certainly end up in the top 10 in terms of revenue and legitimacy.

And that's my 'Dan Borislow story.' I've heard many others, and I'm sure many will be told as Dan's life is celebrated. He was truly one of those larger-than-life personalities and is sure to be remembered for decades to come. May he rest in peace.

July 17, 2014

The Sparkler

Description: A portable electric toothbrush
Main Pitch: "Combines a beautiful designer look with full-sized sonic power"
Main Offer: $10 for one with extra brush head
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Website: www.SparklerToothbrush.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

One-the-go toothbrushes are a trend in the oral-care category. Colgate's Wisp is a prime example. So it makes sense to try improving on the idea with an electric version. After all, many people prefer electric toothbrushes to manual ones at home, so why wouldn't they prefer electric to manual on the go?

But is this a DRTV idea? I think not. First, this product lacks the power and trust of a known oral-care brand like Colgate. Second, I suspect even Colgate couldn't generate enough direct sales of Wisp, or any other portable toothbrush concept, to sustain a DRTV campaign. Expanding a retail category with traditional advertising support is a different story. We face a higher bar in trying to motivate people off the couch.

Crumb Bug

Description: A mini brush vac
Main Pitch: "Picks up every crumb in seconds"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Phil Parker
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.CrumbBug.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This product is similar to Pocket Vac, an Allstar 'fast fail' from January 2013 (see No. 9 in this Weekly Round-Up). I don't have much information on that product or pitch, but both items have the same inherent limitation in that they solve a narrow problem already being solved by the household Dustbuster.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Radar Remote. Marketer: Allstar. Pitch: "The easiest and quickest way to find your lost TV remote." Comments: An apparent 'fast fail.' (Link goes to spot.) This is one of those items that has been presented dozens of times in the industry but seldom taken all the way to a TV test. Indeed, I couldn't find a single example on the blog. I recall that a version of the idea was once hot at Sharper Image (when that store still existed), which is probably why the idea first got traction. Otherwise, it strikes me as a problem that's low on the scale. [ss]
  3. Flavor Lockers. Marketer: Hearthware/NuWave. Pitch: "Seal in the flavor. Lock in the freshness." Comments: This idea has been tried many times in many ways with success and is clearly another Siren. [ss]
  5. Flower Pot Tree. Pitch: "Adorn your home and beautify your yard." Comments: DR is not the medium for introducing a "line of products," and these deck mounts (etc.) aren't demonstrable or exciting. [ss]
  7. Rubber Duckie & Friends. Pitch: "The adorable, gentle-flow bath and shower wand for kids." Comments: This one targets a segment of a segment. ("But what about Party in the Tub?" you say. And to that I reply: "One is an outlier, three is a category.") It also requires installation, which is a proven sales barrier for DRTV buyers. On a related note, showing plumber's tape in a commercial is never a good idea. [ss]
  9. UFC Fit. Pitch: "The exclusive training and nutrition program created and developed by the Ultimate Fighting Championship." Comments: The logical culmination of a trend I noted back in 2010 that began with Randy Couture and Tower 200. [ss]

July 10, 2014

Weekly Round-Up

Click to watch

  1. Magic Mend. Marketer: Allstar. Producer: Paddock Productions. Pitch: "The fast, easy way to fix any screen in just seconds." Comments: Written by yours truly ... and yet still a 'fast fail'! (Link goes to spot.) [ss]
  3. Life Link. Pitch: "The world's thinnest, ultra-portable charge cable." Comments: Yet another attempt in the smart phone/smart device accessories category, which has yet to yield a single hit. [ss]
  5. The Bible Simplified. Pitch: "A straightforward way to understand the Bible." Comments: DR hits with a religious focus are rare, and this is a crowded category outside of DR. [ss]
  7. The Hard Water Wand. Starring: Anthony Sullivan. Pitch: "Erases stains like magic without harsh chemicals." Comments: Not sure what the play is here. The name is generic and descriptive, and a key line in the spot is: "Turns a toilet that looks like poo into a toilet that looks like new." Needless to say, this isn't your typical DR approach! (Link goes to spot. Product page is here.) [ss]
  9. Tidyware. Marketer: Edison Nation. Pitch: "The mounting storage system that sorts all your container-ware up and out of there." Comments: An apparent 'fast fail.' (Link goes to spot.) [ss]
  11. TriWipe. Pitch: "The easiest, most complete way to clean windows, glass doors and mirrors." Comments: Another apparent 'fast fail.' [ss]
  13. Zoom Tech. Marketer: Allstar. Pitch: "The new compact, high-powered zoom lens for your cell phone." Comments: The fourth and final 'fast fail' of the week. (Link goes to spot.) [ss]

July 08, 2014

Multi Cushion

Description: A versatile support pillow
Main Pitch: "Helps align your body to alleviate pain"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Bonus: Eye Mask (free), hot/cold pack (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Hampton Direct
Producer: Concepts TV
Website: www.MultiCushion.com
Prediction: On the fence

This item is a cross between Hampton's Total Pillow and Ontel's old Seat Solution. Or is it a cross between Allstar's Forever Comfy and the Contour Leg Pillow? More to the point: Can this recombining of successful ideas from the past yield a new success?

My answer: Possibly, but there are also strong reasons for doubt. For instance, Total Pillow came at a time before the DR pillow market was completely saturated. And Forever Comfy, a revival of the Seat Solution idea, peaked just last year -- meaning the idea is no longer "old" enough to be "gold." Finally, at least three attempts to bring back the Contour Leg Pillow, including an attempt by Contour itself, have failed to find DRTV success.

Put it all together and what have you got? A project with great DNA but a questionable future.

WiFi Wizard

Description: A signal booster
Main Pitch: "The simple way to dramatically increase your home's wi-fi strength"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: USB WiFi Adapter (just pay S&P)
Marketer: SAS Group
Website: www.BuyWiFiWizard.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

At first, I thought this item had potential. Then I paid more careful attention and realized what it was (or wasn't). Now I think it only has the potential for high returns.

The concept is a good one, and the timing is probably right. But the product needs to do something more than just bounce signals. Of course, a true signal booster would be too costly to hit a DRTV price point, and there is also the matter of installation, which is a barrier to purchase or leads to high returns when people install the thing incorrectly. It's a Catch-22.

On a separate note, I am still trying to figure out what is happening during the video call at about 1:25? Is the mom watching her daughter get mugged? Is the daughter being held for ransom? Or is this just a mother's worst nightmare? ("Guess what, mom? I'm dating Ted Kaczynski's son!") It's hard to tell, and it's certainly a strange scene to insert randomly in a DRTV commercial.

Style Streams

Description: A colorful hair accessory
Main Pitch: "The coolest new way to create bold, new styles for your hair"
Main Offer: $14.99 for a 20-piece variety pack
Bonus: 2nd variety pack (just pay S&P)
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Website: www.GetStyleStreams.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Allstar has enjoyed rare, repeat success in this category. Everyone else? Not so much.

As a result, unless a product has the word "hot" in the name, I will continue to fall back on a favorite catch-phrase: Hair is a one in 50 category.


Description: A plush accessory
Main Pitch: "The bendable bestie that's a flower, too"
Main Offer: $9.99 for one
Bonus: None
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.WildFlowerzz.com
Prediction: N/A

Telebrands hasn't been very active in the plush space. Last year's foray, Tummy Lites, doesn't seem to have gone anywhere. The fate of a more recent project from this March, Teddy Tanks, is unclear.

This project strikes me as an odd, random attempt. Perhaps it's a partnership or favor. Perhaps Telebrands is just experimenting to see what happens, something I believe they do more often than most (and to their credit).

Whatever the case, I once again admit my lack of a clue when it comes to this category. Even category history offers no strong indication of what might happen here.

July 03, 2014

(Massive) Weekly Round-Up

  1. Bistro Bowls. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Producer: Concepts TV. Pitch: "The exciting new way to create delicious homemade edible bowls." Comments: As predicted ... except this one actually makes sense because it's the only remaining type of bowl people are already eating. [ss]
  3. Bead Fun. Marketer: Edison Nation. Pitch: "Turns [paper] into beads you can wear, show off and share." Comments: An apparent 'fast fail.' (Link goes to spot.) An initial indication that Rainbow Loom is an outlier, not a category. [ss]
  5. Brite Ball. Pitch: "It wiggles, it jiggles, it bumbles and stumbles." Comments: This appears to be some sort of 'DIY DR' project. It would probably sell well at a mall kiosk, but I seriously doubt there's enough here to sustain a DRTV campaign. [ss]
  7. Chatter Pals. Pitch: "Cute and fun characters that repeat exactly what you say." Comments: One of three new plush toys in this round-up. Can you find them all? In any case, while this is probably less annoying than an animatronic parrot, it's probably still too annoying for parents to agree to buy it. [ss]
  9. Cloud Pets. Marketer: On Demand. Pitch: "A message you can hug." Comments: Although a bit pricey, this one has potential -- although no one has found success in the 'app toy' category yet. [ss]
  11. Crazy Clingz. Marketer: Pillow Pets people. Pitch: "Cute plush design kits that will stick to any wall." Comments: If I had to guess, I'd say this minor variation on a theme is unlikely to be the next best-seller in plush ... if a new best-seller is even possible. This category has got to be nearing the saturation point. [ss]
  13. Curvex Razor. Marketer: Will It Launch. Pitch: "Curved blade shaver ... closely contours the body's natural curves." Comments: Shaving is the ultimate crowded category, and this shaver doesn't have a strong enough point of difference to overcome that fact. [ss]
  15. Ear Packs. Marketer: Allstar. Pitch: "Plush animal backpacks that carry the fun for you." Comments: Allstar has been down this road before. I have no basis for guessing whether this will be successful (see previous comments), so I'm just posting for posterity. [ss]
  17. Easy Read Ruler. Marketer: Will It Launch. Pitch: "The bright and bold new ruler that makes every measurement fast and foolproof." Comments: Will it launch? Apparently not as the site is already down. Of course, I'm not surprised as this is easily one of the worst DRTV products I've seen. What were they thinking? [ss]
  19. Go Grill. Pitch: "The foldable, portable grill that travels anywhere you go." Comments: Another apparent 'fast fail.' (Link goes to spot.) One likely reason: Several grills of this type are already on the market. [ss]
  21. Go Pro Power Blaster. Marketer: Tristar. Pitch: "Transforms any garden hose into a high-powered cleaner." Comments: Yet another 'fast fail.' (Link goes to spot.) [ss]
  23. Insta Fill. Marketer: Allstar. Pitch: "Instantly repairs cracks and chips in your home's concrete surfaces." Comments: Still another 'fast fail.' [ss]
  25. Middle Baker. Marketer: Will It Launch. Pitch: "Ingeniously simple baking accessory provides perfect cooking throughout the dish." Comments: Half of the Perfect Brownie pitch and much less than half as compelling. [ss]
  27. My Cleaning Secret. Starring: Chef Tony. Marketer: Simoniz. Producer: Dynamic TV. Pitch: "Clean even the messiest of messes in just seconds with no scratching." Comments: A 'fast fail' once again. (Link goes to spot.) No surprise: This is the quintessential Siren category. [ss]
  29. Smart Weight. Pitch: "The fun, 360-degree arm and shoulder sculpting sensation." Comments: This is Shake Weight without the sexually suggestive motion. [ss]
  31. Tomato Patch. Pitch: "A new, beautiful and simple way to grow big, juicy, great-tasting tomatoes." Comments: Like eggs, tomatoes resonate with DR buyers in an unusual way (see Topsy Turvy, Tomato Tree). But this planter lacks the uniqueness of Topsy, and tomato claims are likely getting worn, so I think this one is unlikely to succeed. [ss]
  33. Total Restoration. Starring: Beau Rials. Pitch: "A first aid kit for your home." Comments: Cool concept, but two minutes is too little time to sell a 'kitchen sink' product like this one. Of course, Beau is awesome as always! [ss]
  35. Wet Block HD. Pitch: "One spray and the wet is blocked away." Comments: Already tried by Phil Swift -- and several others. By my count, this is actually attempt No. 5 after Just Repel It!, Swift's Block Out, Nanodyze and Blox. [ss]
  37. Quick Dry. Marketer: Ontel. Producer: Concepts TV. Pitch: "The fast, easy, healthy way to dry your hair." Comments: The final 'fast fail' of the week. This is the fourth attempt to bring back Turbie Twist, an 'old gold' item from 2000. InvenTel was the last to try it in 2013 (see No. 6 in this Weekly Round-Up). [ss]

SciMark Report from June Response

Telebrands' Nerd Atomic Clock

My latest SciMark Report in print is now available on the Response Website.

The items covered include: a duel pitting Telebrands' Socket Dock [ss] against Tristar's Xtra Socket [ss], Ontel's Easy Eggwich [ss] and another Telebrands' project called The Nerd Atomic Clock [ss].

Coming Soon

In the upcoming July issue, I'll be writing about the following new projects:

Check out this month's issue to see what I have to say about those projects.

July 02, 2014


Description: A hair regrowth inhibitor
Main Pitch: "The naturally effective way to make hair stay away"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one bottle
Bonus: Double the size, then double the offer (just pay separate S&P)
Marketer: SAS Group
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Website: www.Epilique.com
Prediction: On the fence

Short-form hair removal as a category has been struggling of late. That is, I don't expect any of the projects I've recently noted -- Ontel's Wonder Wax, Top Dog's How Sweet It Is! or even IdeaVillage's Yes! -- to end up on my annual True Top Spenders list. (Obviously no! no! is going to be one of the biggest DR campaigns of the year, but that's a lead-gen campaign.)

So what about the idea of stopping hair growth in the first place? Surprisingly, little has been tried -- most likely because of the claims involved. The closest thing I can find is a novice's attempt last summer (see No. 9 in this Weekly Round-Up) and a bonus item Tristar used for its Tweeze campaign.

Without history to guide me, I must fall back on guesswork. On the one hand, this seems like a great idea. Who wouldn't want to shave less often if that were possible? On the other hand, this pitch strains credulity, raises concerns (I'm going to put a substance that powerful all over my skin?) and adds another process/product to people's daily maintenance routine.

I'll be watching this one closely and with interest.

Montel's Encyclopedia of Home Remedies

Description: A book of home remedies
Main Pitch: "Over 1,000 time-tested, all-natural remedies that really work"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Simple Pet Remedies (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Montel Williams
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.BuyHomeRemedies.com
Prediction: N/A

[UPDATE: I completely forgot about Montel's work for Tommie Copper when I wrote the comments below.]

This is the sixth book by Telebrands I have noted (see my Dump Cakes review for the titles of the other five). Two things are significant about this particular project, both of them related to Montel.

One, it's the first time Telebrands has used a celebrity instead of a pitchman (e.g. Chef Tony, Cathy Mitchell, Marc Gill). Two, it's the first time I've seen Montel pitching a DR item outside of "Living Well with Montel," his long-form show for Tristar. As Telebrands and Tristar are long-standing rivals, it makes me wonder if the days of "Living Well" are numbered ...

As for the product itself, I have a vague inkling that a book like this did well in the direct-mail and/or catalog business years ago, but other than that (as I've admitted before) I have no idea what might work in this category or why. Telebrands seems to have cracked the code for what I believed was a bad DRTV category.

Bark Away

Description: A citronella spray collar
Main Pitch: "Stops your dog from barking the fast, easy, painless way"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Shed Ender (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Ontel
Website: www.GetBarkAway.com
Prediction: On the fence

My personal experience with this category (see No. 3 in this Weekly Round-Up) led me to believe the market is interested in an alternative to shock collars. Solutions to the barking problem have also found DRTV success. Telebrands' BarkOff and Emson's Sonic Pet Trainer both appeared on the Jordan Whitney annual in 2010.

On the other hand, a recent attempt by Emson (see Pet Command) to bring the concept back doesn't seem to have gone anywhere, which is the same fate ultimately suffered by K-9 Bark Stopper. This particular solution may also be too bulky and involved to catch on. And then there is the replenishment item (the citronella). Marketers love such things (repurchase!), but they can often act as a barrier to purchase for consumers.