April 30, 2015

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Stream Machine. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Producer: Paddock Productions. Pitch: "Streams your playlist from your phone to your radio for hours of commercial-free music." Comments: Written by yours truly. [ss]
  3. Astro Socks. Marketer: Hampton. Pitch: "Developed by aerospace to keep feet warm in the coldest and most extreme conditions." Comments: This site is already down, so I'm just posting for posterity. Not that I would have predicted success for seasonal socks, anyway. [ss]
  5. Flexy Pop. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Tiny but powerful universal phone mount keeps your phone safely within reach." Comments: This site is also down. That's probably because the product has a low perceived value. Emson's Clever Grip is a much better-looking product. [ss]
  7. My Boom. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Instantly upgrades your device's sound from faint to fantastic." Marketer: Telebrands. Comments: While IdeaVillage's Music Bullet was a 2012 hit, subsequent attempts (Boom Cube, Micro Boom) demonstrated it was an outlier and not a category. Incidentally, this site is also down. [ss]
  9. Tomato Patch. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Producer: PB&J. Pitch: "Grow big, juicy, great-tasting tomatoes." Comments: This pitch has worked several times before (Tomato Factory, Topsy Turvy). Like eggs, tomatoes seem to have a special sales magic that other types of food don't have. This one could do well ... Fun fact: Every tomato commercial I linked to above starts with the same opening line. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the original writer ought to be blushing about now! [ss]

SciMark Report from April Response

Allstar's Quick Bright

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

This month I wrote about an Allstar/Telebrands duel involving lamps (Quick Bright vs. Pocket Lamp), Telebrands' Copper Step and Rapid Mac (from the creator of Rapid Ramen).

Coming Soon

In the upcoming May issue, I'll be reviewing these new projects:

April 23, 2015

Jeff Gordon Wall Clock

Description: (Self explanatory)
Main Pitch: "Celebrate the thrill and excitement of Jeff's incredible career"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: None
Marketer: Telebrands (2014's True Top Marketer)
Watch the spot

It's about time someone recognized the huge potential of the NASCAR market for DRTV. I'm serious -- and not for the reason you may think. I know people love to repeat that old cliché about our core customer living in a trailer park, but anyone who has studied the demographics knows that isn't true. Just look at the number of up-market campaigns rolling out these days ... and the rarity of projects like this, come to think of it.

In any case, I think there is something to be said for thinking about what your typical Wal-Mart customer might be into and then trying something outside of the comfort zone for the affluent, East Coast executives who run this business. This item fits the bill, and Telebrands is the right marketer, having had success with clocks (1998's Singing Bird Clock) and commemorative collectibles (2008's Obama Plate, 2011's Royal Ring) in the past.

Actually, Emson has had more success with clocks. One of them was even a NASCAR clock: 2001's Dale Earnhardt Clock (No. 89 on the JW Annual that year). The other was 1999-2000's Lionel Train Clock (Nos. 12 and 15, respectively). So I guess I should have written: "It's about time someone, other than Emson, recognized the potential of the NASCAR market for DRTV."

S7 Analysis: Clocks, coins and other collectibles obviously fail the SciMark Seven because they don't solve a problem. Collectors are also in the minority, so it's hard to guess if the target market will be big enough to sustain a campaign -- although the huge number of NASCAR fans makes me think that won't be an issue here.

Secret Gloves

Description: Liquid 'gloves'
Main Pitch: "Repels dirt and grime, keeping hands clean and protected"
Main Offer: $9.99 for one tube
Bonus: 2nd tube (just pay separate P&H)
Marketer: Hampton
Watch the spot

This concept was tried in the summer of last year under the name Hand Defender (see No. 3 in this Weekly Round-Up). I didn't like it then, and I don't like it now. As I wrote back then: "I don't think anyone besides a mechanic needs a product like this." Plus, I think putting a weird mystery substance on your hands that seals them will seem scary to people.

S7 Analysis: This one fails the targeted criterion. When combined the idea that a DRTV product should solve a problem high on the problem scale, the question becomes: Who has a big enough problem to buy this product? If the correct answer is the one in the commercial -- people who work on cars often or garden a lot -- then the target is a segment of a segment.

Pocket Jump

Description: A car jumpstarter
Main Pitch: "The fastest, easiest way to charge a dead battery in any car"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Anthony Sullivan
Marketer: Telebrands (2014's True Top Marketer)
Producer: Sullivan
Watch the spot

I have been pitched variations of this item at least a few dozen times over the years. My answer was always "no" for one simple reason: Prevention doesn't sell. Think about something as simple as jumper cables, which you can buy for less than $10 at Wal-Mart (or Pep Boys or AutoZone) and throw in your trunk for the next time your car battery dies. How many people have them in their trunk right now? I've been in the unenviable position of having to ask around the parking lot, and the answer from that unscientific poll is not many. If people won't spend $10 to be prepared for a dead battery, how likely is it they'll spend $20 plus shipping and handling and an extra fee?

S7 Analysis: Preparedness is the opposite impulsiveness. That's my way of saying the core behavior of the DRTV buyer is at odds with the behavior encouraged by products like these. Another way of looking at it: This product isn't truly needed until it's too late to capitalize on the desire to have it. (Caller: "I'm stuck in a parking lot and need a Pocket Jump right away!" Operator: "I'll put in the order right now ... Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.")

Comfy Up

Description: A seat cushion
Main Pitch: "Boosts you up out of any chair and transforms hard chairs into cozy, comfortable seats"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands (2014's True Top Marketer)
Watch the spot

At first glance, this appears to be a generic version of Forever Comfy (a 2013 True Top Spender). As the commercial develops, it becomes clear that instead of using gel as the point of difference, they've gone senior with a boost pitch. There have been a handful of attempts at making that pitch work (e.g. IdeaVillage's EZ-Up), but no successes yet. As for the commercial, it gets something important right that the recent creative for Snuggle Up Fleece (see No. 9 in today's Round-Up) didn't -- or maybe couldn't. That is, the chairs look hard and uncomfortable without the product.

S7 Analysis: My general opinion is that seniors-only products aren't right for DRTV because the target market is too narrow. That said, Telebrands has contradicted this idea once or twice (most recently with Ankle Genie, a 2014 True Top Spender), and the added pitch toward kids helps as well. I just don't know that an everyday boost is needed enough to motivate prospects off the couch. Besides, how would they get up to order?

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Monster Lights. Pitch: "Everyone in the family sleeps through the night when rooms are protected" with these under-bed lights. Comments: This is Underlight for kids -- or 'ground effects' for beds, if you prefer. No clue if kids will find it appealing, but I believe the core pitch for adults (everyone gets to sleep through the night) was a key part of the Dream Lites success story. [ss]
  3. Draw Jammies. Producer: Concepts. Pitch: "Pajamas you can actually draw on." Comments: I've been pitched a few items like this. My general feeling as a parent of three is that it's a bad idea to encourage kids to draw on things you normally don't want them to draw on. A tip for those who buy this anyway: Hide the Sharpies! [ss]
  5. EZ Slimming Plate. Pitch: "Looking great starts with ... [this] slimming plate." Comments: This product and its logo are very similar to Skinny Plate (see No. 7 in this Weekly Round-Up). Not sure if any of these products qualify for a duel, but this is actually the third such product tried in recent months (see also Portion Right from the same post). [ss]
  7. Gemy Pop. Marketer: Hampton. Pitch: "The glittery glam jewelry line you design." Comments: The Website for this project is already down, so I'm going to guess 'fast fail.'. [ss]
  9. GlowWubble. Pitch: "Looks like a bubble, plays like a ball" and now it's "bright so you can play all night." Comments: A line extension of last year's Wubble Bubble. [ss]
  11. Lexel. Pitch: "The tough elastic sealant for every job." Comments: Sort of like Flex Shot, but without the uniqueness. Or the 'wow' factor. [ss]
  13. Secret Twist. Marketer: On Demand. Producer: Hutton-Miller (2014's True Top Producer). Pitch: "The amazing, full-proof super pin that gives you dozens of dazzling hair styles in seconds." Comments: Great spot. This is definitely the right creative approach for selling the core demographic for these products. I especially loved the spokeswoman's delivery and style. Hair accessories are No. 5 on my list of bad categories, but this company has had one of the few recent successes (see Secret Extensions). [ss]
  15. Smart Skewers. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Producer: Kerrmercials. Pitch: "The fast and easy way to make a fun meal in minutes." Comments: My market research shows that while a sufficient majority of people like kabobs, only about a third of people would eat them frequently if they had the opportunity. That's not enough interest to justify taking up space in a cabinet with this contraption.[ss]
  17. Snuggle Up Fleece. Pitch: "The world's most comfortable way to spend the day relaxing in your recliner." Comments: I've seen this product before in catalogs, so it must sell well enough, but I don't think it has a shot on TV. The problem isn't nearly painful enough. In fact, the easy chairs in this commercial look pretty darn cozy and comfortable without the fleece cover! [ss]

April 21, 2015


Description: A super-absorbent cloth
Main Pitch: "The only soft and reusable bamboo towel"
Main Offer: $14.99 for two large
Bonus: Two more (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Bobby Mills
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: 221 Direct
Watch the spot

This is an interesting way -- the correct way, in my view -- to try to resurrect this item. A super-absorbent shammy would have had zero shot. A super-absorbent cloth made of a trendy new material (bamboo) at least has a chance. That said, if you look at Zorbeez and ShamWow! as one long campaign, a super-absorbent cloth ran for five years on DRTV and was still on the charts as recently as 2011. I think that's too long of a run and too short of a recess to get this kind of thing going again.

As for the commercial, it obviously borrows the demos that made its predecessors successful, demos that come from the pitch market where this product was sold for years before TV. That's not a criticism: There's no sense messing with something so tried and true. Even still, there are a few original techniques in this commercial worth highlighting. For example, it has what must be the longest, uncut demo sequence in DRTV history (at approximately 25 seconds). There are no jump cuts or other camera tricks used ... which is a trick in itself. Immediately after that, Mr. Mills is allowed to break the fourth wall in a way that goes beyond talking to the "camera guy." I don't love the idea, but again I applaud the originality.

S7 Analysis: When it comes to Old Gold, an S7 analysis is usually superfluous. The core product obviously meets all the criteria for DRTV success. What's interesting about the history in this case is how it will affect the different criterion. Indeed, it may be decades before a super-absorbent cloth is perceived to be unique enough to become a hit again.

Swifty Sharp

Description: A knife sharpener
Main Pitch: "Restores the razor edge on any blade in seconds"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Marketer: Hampton
Watch the spot

Knife sharpeners have an erratic history on DRTV. I can't decide if the category is a good one or a bad one. Hutton-Miller (your reigning True Top Producer) and SAS Group have the best track record with 2007-2008's Samurai Shark (starring the late, great Billy Mays) and 2012's Samurai Pro (starring Chef Robert Irvine) to their credit. Telebrands' Lady Gaga-inspired Edge of Glory followed the latter, and both ended up on the annual charts that year.

Prior to this timeframe, I find only flops. This includes Furi's Ozitech in early 2010, the Ronco Ready Sharp in May 2011 and Tristar's Kleva Sharp -- which was actually the first sharpener like the Samurai Pro/Edge of Glory to be tried.

S7 Analysis: So what does all of that mean for this project? To be honest, I'm not sure. A unique knife sharpener like this one passes all of the product criteria, the category should be fairly uncrowded these days and the commercial hits all the right notes as well. If not for the checkered history, I'd give this one a thumbs up.

Bright Squares

Description: An LED light
Main Pitch: "The extremely portable, ultra-bright LED light that goes anywhere"
Main Offer: $19.99 for two
Bonus: Two more, remote (free)
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

There was a time back in the mid-aughts when this sort of item had a good shot at success. That was when this marketer had Stick Up Bulb on the charts, Merchant Media & Allstar had Quik-Brite and Ontel was rolling with Stick 'N Click. End of history lesson: That time has passed. Lights are No. 3 on my list of bad categories for a reason. To be sure, a big one is the failure of nine lanterns in a row, but spot lighting doesn't have a much better track record. Every once in a while, someone forces one into distribution, but that doesn't necessarily justify the investment.

S7 Analysis: An interesting subject when it comes to the art and science of product evaluation is how timing affects our criteria. In this case, spot lighting went from something that was clearly needed to something that is clearly not. What changed? Or is it that such products are no longer viewed as different enough from what's already on the market? There's no easy way to tell, which is why I imagine these projects still get a green light from time to time.

April 15, 2015

Roto Clipper

Description: A nail trimmer
Main Pitch: "The fast, easy way to trim and file your nails at the same time"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Concepts
Watch the spot

The last nail trimmer to appear on DRTV was actually a duel between Ontel's Sure Clip and Merchant Media's Clip It Clean in 2009. The former prevailed and was a modest success, coming in at No. 57 on the JW Annual that year. Since then, nothing -- not even an attempt in this category. That's telling: Generic nail clippers are a classic 'good enough' solution, and it's really difficult to improve on them.

S7 Analysis: Put another way, the big challenge here is the needed criterion. A rotary nail clipper met a need for pet owners (see Peticure, Pedi Paws) because it is too easy to cause pain when clipping a dog's nails. By contrast, most people have figured out how to cut their own nails without incident. The parents-and-kids angle is more compelling, but then that narrows the target to a segment of a segment.

American Aviator Watch

Description: A replica vintage watch
Main Pitch: "The modern version of [a] ... timeless classic, but for a lot less money"
Main Offer: $39.95 for one (includes certificate of authenticity)
Bonus: Free shipping, WWII booklet, collector case
Starring: Rick Harrison
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Watch the spot

This is another excellent commercial from Pawn Stars' Harrison and the Blue Moon team. I can see it working really well on the History channel and any other channel that hits that demographic. Beyond that, I'm skeptical. True, The One by MicroTouch demonstrated the "modern version of a timeless classic" pitch can be effective. But that product also possessed a powerful value proposition for an item men use frequently. Watches are more like jewelry, which mean personal tastes apply -- and hitting that right is usually very tricky.

As for the category, watches have a much better track record in print than on TV. The last bona-fide DRTV hit I can find is Telebrands' Lionel Train Watch from 1998. That same marketer made a run at the Kansas City Pocket Watch (another replica of a vintage watch) in 2013, but it barely made the JW Annual and did not appear on the IMS annual or my True Top Spenders list.

S7 Analysis: As indicated above, this fails the needed and targeted criteria, relying solely on a specific vintage cachet to generate the impulse to buy. If not for the success of other vintage pitches (Olde Brooklyn Lantern included), I would quickly dismiss this.

Crispy Mate

Description: A mesh tray
Main Pitch: "Lets air circulate 360 degrees around the food, heating evenly"
Main Offer: $10 for a set (circle, square and basket)
Bonus: 2nd set (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

Both Telebrands (with Crispy Magic in 2010) and Ontel (with Crisp It! in 2012) have tried a variation of this product. In DR, the third time is seldom the charm. However, in rare cases, it's a big hit (see Stufz and Grab Bag). We'll see what happens here.

S7 Analysis: Yet again, it's the needed criterion that prevents this project from getting the SciMark seal of approval. Past experiments have shown that soggy-bottom food is not a big enough problem to motivate people off the couch. In addition to the two projects cited, a 2011 flop called Pyramid Pan (No. 8 in this Weekly Round-Up) also comes to mind.

Copper Wear Tape

Description: Sports tape
Main Pitch: "Designed to give you support, compression and aid in the recovery of soreness, aches and muscle stiffness"
Main Offer: $19.99 for a set of two rolls (tan and black)
Bonus: 2nd set (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Tristar
Watch the spot

Another entry into the super-crowded copper category. This one makes more sense than a pain-relief gel and has better odds than an insole, but it still strikes me as a long shot. That's because it's awfully sports-specific for our older customer. The same could be said of the copper garments, of course, but those have a lot of impressions (from three different marketers) behind them.

S7 Analysis: My comments regarding sports and the age mismatch are another way of saying this product may not be correctly targeted. Otherwise, it's certainly different enough and is needed in the sense it purports to solve a painful problem -- literally.

Snackeez Duo

Description: A recyclable version of Snackeez
Main Pitch: "The all-in-one, go anywhere snacking solution"
Main Offer: $9.99 for a set (10 multi-color cups, 10 bowls w/ lids, 10 straws)
Bonus: None
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Watch the spot

I admit the success of Snackeez last year surprised me. In my defense, it was positioned toward adults when I first reviewed it. The shift to a kid focus was the secret of its success, putting it in the same genre as the 2011 hit Gyro Bowl. Telebrands' Wow Cup in 2014 (another surprise hit) became the third hit and satisfied my 'three is a category' rule.

Shifting focus to this project, it's a classic Ouroborus play: Eat your own tail before someone else does. IdeaVillage pioneered and perfected this strategy with Finishing Touch, which has had five or six 'new and improved' versions since it first launched in 2003. My only reservation here is that this sort of kit seems more appropriate for in-line at the grocery store than in the fast-turning ASOTV end cap. I can see picking it up for a BBQ along with my plastic plates and forks.

S7 Analysis: If not for DR history, my gut would question whether this was needed enough to break through. As for the target, it's a segment of a segment to be sure -- but obviously a strong enough segment to sustain a campaign.

April 13, 2015

Earthquake Mug

Description: A travel mug
Main Pitch: "Always grips and never tips"
Main Offer: $12.99 for one ($19.99 for steel)
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

Marketers suddenly seem to be in the mode of checking to make sure Allstar didn't miss anything. In my last Weekly Round-Up, I wrote about Butter Express, a product Allstar had tried the year before. Now comes a product Allstar tried in 2010 under the name Sumo Mug. The design is different, but the benefit and magic demo are the same.

I've had to downgrade "the third time is never the charm" to "the third time is seldom the charm." So what about the second time? In most cases, I think it's worth the shot.

S7 Analysis: Is a mug that prevents spills truly needed? The moment after you spill coffee all over that Apple device that isn't covered for water damage, the answer is a strong "yes!" But every other moment of your life, this probably feels low on the problem scale. Allstar wisely included parents in their pitch (and a year before Gyro Bowl at that), but it still doesn't seem to have done the trick.

Kitty Shack

Description: A 2-in-1 cat mat
Main Pitch: "Keeps kitty warm and snuggly and your furniture fur free"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar/Lenfest
Producer: Concepts
Watch the spot

This is a new twist on the heated pet bed concept, which Lenfest and several others (including yours truly) have tried before without success. This variation adds a "cave" feature that has also been tried except for dogs. Telebrands did it in 2012 and called it Pet Cave. Emson followed with a similar item in the form of a Croc-style shoe (true story), which was called Bunga Bed. Neither one made the charts. That makes the history here not very promising.

S7 Analysis: Any project targeting a specific pet, in this case cats, is technically in danger of failing an S7 analysis because of the 'segment of a segment' problem. However, there seem to be enough crazy cat people out there to sustain a campaign, as Lenfest recently demonstrated with the success of its Cat's Meow toy. The 'needed' criteria is also tricky in these situations, but this may actually be the first example of an item cats would tell you they need if cats could talk.

Cyclone Bank

Description: A bank for kids
Main Pitch: "The new, fun way to get kids excited about saving money"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

As far as I know, Telebrands has the only hit in this category: Easy Money in 1996. That there hasn't been another hit since then is probably telling.

S7 Analysis: N/A. Looking at my list of criteria for kids' products, I think this has some magic but limited play value.

April 11, 2015

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Handy Plug. Marketer: Telebrands. Producer: Paddock Productions. Pitch: "The new extension outlet that puts the power you need within easy reach." Comments: Written by yours truly. [ss]
  3. Butter Express. Pitch: "The fast, easy and safe way to cut your butter every day." Comments: This is a third attempt to get this project off the ground. The last attempt was Allstar's EZ Butter. I get the impression this is one of those 'close but not quite' projects that drive us crazy from time to time. I've used the Siren, the Phoenix and even the Ouroborus to analogize the peculiarities of DR, so I should probably come up with a mythological metaphor for this sort of thing. How about a 'Sisyphus project'? [ss]
  5. DashCam Pro. Marketer: InvenTel. Pitch: "The personal security camera for your car." Comments: Dash cams are very popular in foreign lands (e.g. Russia) and there may be a solid market here. But is it the mass market? And will people spend $30 on impulse for what is essentially a prevention scenario? I don't think so. [ss]
  7. Draft Buster. Pitch: "The fast, easy way to seal out the cold." Comments: This site is no longer live, so I am just posting for posterity. [ss]
  9. Lamp Champ. Pitch: "Turns any standard lamp into a USB charging station." Comments: There have been a few attempts, all unsuccessful, to sell a USB charging solution on TV. Examples include Allstar's Handy Charge and Tristar's Xtra Socket. While it's not time to give up on the concept just yet, I think this impractical solution is unlikely to be the first one to break through. [ss]
  11. Repelify. Starring: Art Edmonds. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "The new way to fortify fabrics to repel stains fast." Comments: Another Website that is no longer live -- and no wonder. This is at least the sixth time this pitch has been tried. (The other attempts were: Wet Block HD, Just Repel It!, Block Out, Nanodyze and Blox.) Beware the Siren! [ss]
  13. Schmoozies. Pitch: "Indoor neckwear" for dogs "that's flexible, tag-able and fashionable." Comments: An apparent 'fast fail.' My guess is that this is a solution in search of a problem ... with a prevention element as well. [ss]
  15. Sleeptastic. Marketer: Ontel. Pitch: "Eliminates 100% of light and blocks out ambient noise." Comments: This is Miracle Mask under a new name and with a revised creative. [ss]

April 06, 2015

In the News

My lovely and talented wife, Asieya Pine, was just named president of Lockard & Wechsler Direct. It's an inspiring success story: Asieya started as a twenty-something executive assistant back when Lockard & Wechsler was just a small boutique agency. Fifteen years later, she has risen to the top position after helping grow the agency into an industry leader.

Speaking of twenty-somethings, Lockard & Wechsler was also recently profiled in The Journal News as a great place for Millennials (and everyone else) to work. Coincidence?

March Madness, DRTV Madness & How to Make $1 Billion

My latest piece for the ERA blog is now live. Last month, I was asked to find a way to connect March Madness and DRTV. This article is the result. Click here to read it now.

Shameless Self-Promotion Update: I am now four for four. My last report for the ERA blog ("The Rise of 'Feeders' in Direct Response Television") was No. 1 yet again, leading the top five blog posts for March.