July 30, 2015

Mouse Around

Description: A cat toy
Main Pitch: "The amazing new toy that is a real game of cat and mouse"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

Yet another attempt to prove Cat's Meow wasn't an outlier. The Website is already down, so I'm going to guess the attempt failed. Incidentally, this product is very similar to two earlier projects that failed: Mouse Chaser (2010) and Cheese Tease (2014).

S7 Analysis: Pets is an interesting category. It's a segment of segment, but that doesn't seem to matter -- sometimes. Other times, it matters a lot. That is to say, the target can be as elusive as, well, a mouse. These projects also strain the needed criterion. How many times can we solve the problem of cat boredom or clawed drapes? More to the point, how long before that "problem" sounds contrived?

Palm Pro

Description: A can opener
Main Pitch: "Fits perfectly in the palm of your hand ... the fastest, easiest way to open a can"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H), can strainer (free)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Concepts TV
Watch the spot

One of the trickiest things about picking products for DRTV is evaluating 'wow' factor. We know that a "wow" reaction can overcome weaknesses in other areas (e.g. lack of problem-solving), but how necessary is it in general? A boring product that solves a painful problem can certainly find success, but how much of a liability is that? What does that lack of luster do to your odds of success?

I don't have the answer, but I do think the question applies to this project -- and can openers in general. In fact, the only can opener with any real 'wow' that I've seen is the One Touch Can Opener, a 2006 hit that Telebrands has now brought back as the TouCan. And that's an even bigger problem for this project. Generally speaking, there's only room for one. When the one is a cool, electric product that requires zero effort to use, and you want to compete with a manual alternative, that rule becomes even more formidable.

S7 Analysis: From a criteria perspective, I pause at different; i.e., Is a palm-sized can opener different enough to generate a strong impulse to buy?

Attached at the Hip

Description: A hip bag
Main Pitch: "Attaches at your hip for hands-free freedom"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

Can the fanny pack make a comeback? Some would argue that for certain groups, it never went away. But hip bags certainly aren't mass market the way they used to be. In my career, I've been pitched several attempts to bring back the pack -- everything from the fashion forward (which was almost a trend in 2011) to the fitness friendly. The latter idea even made it to TV, where it was never heard from again (see IdeaVillage's Go Belt).

In the best-case scenario, this would be like trying to sell a purse on DRTV. In the worst case, it's like trying to sell a really ugly purse.

S7 Analysis: It's hard to imagine a scenario where you could argue this product is needed. Some quick research reveals those with a concealed-carry permit favor the concept, which makes sense. But for anyone not toting a gun, there are better options for carrying your stuff around.


Description: An LED cat toy
Main Pitch: "The wobbly motion and the lively LED light will keep kitty occupied for hours"
Main Offer: $10 for choice of green, blue or pink
Bonus: 2nd one in same color (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Concepts TV
Watch the spot

This is the DR/value-priced version of a fancy cat toy I always like called FroliCat. The difference is this one is manual, and I think that could hurt the project's odds. Relying on the cat to tip the product seems unlikely. Cats never do what you want them to do. And if you have to tip it yourself, you may as well buy a laser pointer and torture your kitty with that. Not that this sort of logic will kill the sale -- people buy on emotion -- but it may unconsciously lead people to be less than impressed with this toy.

S7 Analysis: As I explain in my Mouse Around review, the elusive target buyer for this type of product and challenges with the needed criterion make this sort of project unpredictable.


Description: A Bluetooth padlock
Main Pitch: "No more combinations, no more keys ... you just click to open it"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

This is a "wow" product at an unbelievable price. If not for everything I know about the DRTV buyer, I'd predict a hit!

S7 Analysis: At the risk of sounding like a broken record these days, the issue here is the target. The typical DRTV buyer is older and fairly technophobic. The target for this type of product is young and tech-savvy. Figuring out how to reach the latter buying group with DR advertising is the next big challenge facing of our industry.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Trunk Caddy. Marketer: American Direct. Producer: Rocket Response. Pitch: "All-in-one trunk organizer and portable storage solution." Comments: This has been tried at least twice before in DRTV history: Once by the late, great Billy Mays and once by Telebrands (Trunk Valet). I don't think the third time will be the charm, either, because of the "Odd Couple" problem. As for the creative, the "junk in your trunk" opening skit is pretty funny! [ss]
  3. Bug-A-Salt. Pitch: "Fires a small, lethal (to flies) projectile of ordinary table salt." Comments: A fun novelty item sure to be enjoyed by the sort of folks who made Billy-Bob Products successful. Not sure there are enough national networks to find those folks efficiently, though. Then again, the more I watched the spot, the more I wanted one! Must be the military in me. [ss]
  5. Go Plate. Pitch: "The one-handed party plate." Comments: This is one of those 'first-world problems' products that keeps popping up in various forms. There was Plate Caddy in the summer of 2012, and Drink and Plate the summer before that. [ss]
  7. One Drop Fry Pan. Marketer: Global TV. Pitch: "Fry just about anything with only one drop of oil." Comments: This one had a decent shot although fat-free cooking hasn't really been a hot topic since the Foreman Grill. [ss]
  9. Self Click. Pitch: "The easiest and quickest 'selfie' stick." Comments: If 2014 was the year of the 'selfie', then 2015 is the year of total selfie saturation. That is, there are so many selfie products on the market -- including dozens of selfie sticks at every price imaginable -- that this one has no shot. This is also a 'third time is seldom the charm' situation. It's interesting because it seems Quik Pod and 2013's PicStand were tried too soon, my 2014 Self Ease project was tried just as everyone was jumping in, and this project is being tried too late. In other words, there doesn't seem to have ever been a right time to launch this! [ss]

July 29, 2015

Dueling Phone Holders

Fone Ring

Main Pitch: "A secure, single-handed hold while texting, browsing, chatting or snapping"
Main Offer: $10 for one with phone hook
Bonus: 2nd one with phone hook (just pay S&H)
Marketer: American Direct
Producer: Rocket Response
Watch the spot

Wedding Ring

Main Pitch: "The must-have accessory for your smart phone"
Main Offer: $10 for one in black
Bonus: 2nd one in white (free)
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

According to a study conducted last year, marketers went 0 for 15 in the category of phone and tablet accessories. I've mentioned before how DRTV is like gambling. Ask yourself: Would you sit down at a table with those odds?

By the way, that statistic also tracks with what I've recorded on this blog. In fact, the only type of phone accessory that has been successful is phone holders for the car. Allstar's GripGo was a 2013 True Top Spender, and Emson's Clever Grip looks like it will make the list for this year. Outside the car, phone holders have not fared well. Years ago, Ontel had a limited run with a product called Smart Clip. That's probably the best-case scenario here.

As for the creative, both went after the 'married to your phone' joke. I don't think it works well as humor, let alone a sales pitch, but I guess you have to do something clever when the product presents like an item you'd get out of a gumball machine. Speaking of which, these offers are going to be a tough sell. Telebrands elected not to charge an additional fee for the second one, which I think is the right move given the perceived value.

Easy MD

Description: A USB flash drive bracelet
Main Pitch: "Carries all of your health and identifying information on your wrist"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Bluewater
Watch the spot

Fear, prevention and technology. That's a bad recipe for DR. I can think of only one fear/prevention product that had success: SAS Group's Black Out, which helped prevent identity theft and was No. 50 on the Jordan Whitney annual in 2011. Meanwhile, Telebrands' Card Lock, which claims to prevent electronic pick-pocketing, is in rollout this year after several previous attempts failed. We'll see what happens with that one.

In any case, both of those are non-technical solutions. This project has the added disadvantage of requiring some tech savvy. There's a case to be made that it will appeal to the same customer that buys Life Alert -- most likely a concerned relative who can help with setup -- but that strikes me as only a slim ray of hope.

S7 Analysis: The shortcoming here is the target, and that's all about the psychology of our customer; i.e. "prevention doesn't sell," preparedness is the opposite of impulsiveness and older buyers are generally technophobic. Otherwise, this project stacks up pretty well, and that includes the creative, which has a very credible spokesperson and overall feel.

Car Cane

Description: A portable handle
Main Pitch: "Get in and out of your car with ease"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: Travel bag (free)
Brand: Bell + Howell
Marketer: Emson
Producer: Kerrmercials
Watch the spot

It’s a little late to make a DRTV prediction about this project – it has reached the top spot on the Jordan Whitney Greensheet – but it still might end up struggling at retail. I’ve seen it before with products for seniors. Whether it’s all-terrain canes, large-print keyboards or the like, strong CPOs don’t seem to translate into strong retail numbers.

Part of the problem is that seniors are a segment of a segment. That they happen to be a segment within the biggest buying group for TV products only exacerbates the problem. A sober analysis would show the customer profile doesn’t match up well enough to support placement in the high-turn, ‘As Seen on TV’ endcap at most mass-market retailers. The drug accounts are a likely exception, but they are only a portion of the normal distribution for DRTV items.

S7 Analysis: In S7 terms, the issue here is the target again. Some senior products have gotten around this limitation by credibly broadening their pitch. For instance, hearing-assistance devices are called “sound amplifiers,” disguised as music players or phone accessories, and pitched to eavesdropping neighbors. But this product is quite obviously an assistance device for elderly people. That makes me think seniors will be unlikely to buy it for themselves, which would mean the whole campaign hinges on people buying it for their senior loved ones – and I don’t love those odds.

Trim Dazzler

Description: Tape-on trim
Main Pitch: "Add dazzling trim for the hottest trends"
Main Offer: $10 for 20 ft of tape, 20 ft of trim
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

This is pure fashion, which I interpret as 'low odds of success.' Assuming the commercial is correct and this look is "trendy" (I have no way of knowing), they could get lucky. But going back to my gambling analogy, that's like betting on one square of the Roulette table ... in the high-roller section ... where the minimum bet is five figures.

S7 Analysis: This project fails my first, and perhaps most important, criteria: It isn't needed. Consider the contrived problem opening: "Tired of that worn-out wardrobe?" If the viewer's answer is yes, the solution is obvious: go shopping. At least, that would be the solution given by every woman I know!

Hot Shaper

Description: A waist trainer
Main Pitch: "Instantly shapes and slim your waist into the perfect hourglass shape"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one in black
Bonus: 2nd one in nude (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Tristar
Watch the spot

This appears to be a cross between Tristar's Genie Hour Glass and a product they tried back in March called Hot Belt. Or is it a repositioning of a failed item informed by the success of waist trainers? In either case, I think the "gross factor" (promoting sweat) will still be a turnoff for women.

S7 Analysis: Once again, it's the target criterion that gives me pause. To be sure, there is a group of people that loves to sweat. Call them the P90X/Insanity crowd (the latter infomercial actually took pride in showing puddles of sweat on the ground). But fitness nuts like that would never need or want a product like this.

July 23, 2015

Woof Washer 360

Description: A dog-washing system
Main Pitch: "Washes your dog in less than one minute"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Microfiber quick-dry mitt (free)
Marketer: Telebrands/R&H Direct
Producer: Concepts TV
Watch the spot

I'm really excited about this project. Not because I love the product – in fact, the category history is not at all promising – but because this will be a much-needed case study in the correlation between viral marketing and DRTV marketing. In the past, many have touted social-media success with little sales success to show for it. That has led me to believe that buzz and bucks have little in common. That said, I’m open to the possibility that people have been reading their viral data too optimistically because no one ever bothered to share said data or put it into any kind of context for me.

With this project, there can be no doubt it’s a viral hit. According to a recent article in Entrepreneur magazine, the inventor posted a video on his Facebook page and it was "viewed no less than 60 million times" in just two weeks. The article also claimed that R&H Direct “sold out of the product” (ostensibly before partnering with Telebrands). So this is it! If any buzz-backed project is going to do the dollars, it’s this one.

Mighty Mend It: Old Gold?

Current Name: Liqui Sew
Starring: Brian Hyder
Current Marketer: Tristar
Original Hit Year: 2008 (No. 61 on the JW Annual)
Original Marketer: Media Enterprises/Plymouth Direct
Watch the spot

While it has been long enough for this Phoenix to rise again, the failure of mega-hit Mighty Putty to have a second life (as Mighty Putty Purple) does not bode well for this project. Of course, this project doesn't bear the "Mighty" name -- for better or worse. In fact, it bears the name of the original live-shopping hit that inspired Mighty Mend It.

This is actually the second time this brand has been tried on DRTV. The first time was after the huge success of Mighty Putty and immediately following the introduction of Mighty Mend It. Maybe now that it's not second to market behind a hot brand, it will find success.

As for the commercial, I continue to admire the hard-working Hyder. There hasn't been a pitchman this willing to put his safety on the line to make an exciting commercial since the late, great Billy Mays.

SciMark Report from June & July Response

The Pearl Epil-Pen from Telebrands

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

This month I cover IdeaVillage's Pocket Barber, Telebrands' Epil-Pen and Ontel's Lock Wallet.

Also on the site is my June column, which I neglected to promote when it was posted. That report covers a duel between Emson's Roto Chop and Telebrands' Zip Chopper as well as IdeaVillage's The One Cafe.

Coming Soon

In the upcoming August issue, I'll be writing about the second triple duel of the year (here's the first), a face-off between TechnoSource's Zippy Sack (featuring creative by Hutton-Miller), Tristar's Zip Blankies and Ontel's Zipit Bedding.

Weekly Round-Up

Don't pop a gasket, this one isn't going very far

  1. All Open. Pitch: "Multi-purpose kitchen tool that opens bottles, cans, jars and much more quickly and with minimal effort." Comments: Another Swiss Army opener. We've been down this road before. If Old Gold is an attempt to bring back a successful concept, what do you call an attempt to bring back a failed concept? Old Fool's Gold? Six and seven-in-one didn't work. Let's try eight! [ss]
  3. On the Go Pill Pro. Pitch: "Keep your medications, vitamins, and supplements by your side." Comments: Pill organizers are definitely on my extended list of bad categories, so this bulky, over-engineered water bottle, cup and pill organizer has zero shot at success. [ss]
  5. Precious Pearl. Pitch: "Now you can enjoy the beauty of a naturally cultured pearl grown in its own real oyster." Comments: SAS tried this in 2011 under the name Perfect Pearl. It was never heard from again. It's a neat concept in an incredibly difficult category for DRTV, and the 'gross factor' may outweigh the 'wow factor.' [ss]
  7. Smart Back. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Pitch: "Back brace that instantly adjusts your posture to alleviate pressure on your back." Comments: No need to repeat myself. Read my review of Tristar's Posture Fix, factor in the added challenge of competing with two DRTV powerhouses, and I'll bet you can guess what I would predict for this one. Timing is everything. [ss]
  9. Shoo Away. Pitch: "Keep flies and bees away from your food." Comments: Neat item, but I've seen too many promising items in this category fail. My theory is the seasonality makes it hard to hit the pitch just right. [ss]

July 16, 2015

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Ray Away Visor. Starring: Brian Hyder. Marketer: Tristar. Pitch: "Tame the sun’s blinding rays." Comments: Too soon after Norman's Easy View and its follower, HD Vision Visor. Both were 2014 True Top Spenders. There are points of difference, but I don't think they're significant enough. [ss]
  3. Elite Copper. Marketer: Global TV. Pitch: "Scientifically engineered to soothe pain and get you back in the game." Comments: Fourth to market with a me-too solution. Same problem as above, really. The magnets aren't a big enough point of difference, and they make the project even riskier from a claims perspective. [ss]
  5. Turbo Blast. Pitch: "Industrial strength, outdoor spray cleaner that removes mold, mildew and stains." Comments: Cleaning has proved to be a tough category even when you have a unique twist and a full-scale DRTV campaign behind the product. When I made cleaning No. 4 on my list of bad categories this January, I added a footnote caveat because of three promising new projects. As it turns out, the caveat wasn't necessary: The category still deserves its place on the list. (Smart marketers take note.) [ss]

July 09, 2015

Bond Wand Triple Duel!

5 Second Fix

Main Pitch: "Fix, fill, repair and seal virtually anything in five seconds or less"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one with case
Bonus: 2nd one with case (free)
Marketer: Ontel
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Watch the spot


Main Pitch: "Uses liquid plastic and revolutionary UV light technology to bond and repair about anything"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Lenfest
Previously reviewed on: June 30, 2015 (read it here)

Lazer Bond

Main Pitch: "Liquid plastic that creates a rock solid bond on virtually any surface"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Previously reviewed on: June 30, 2015 (read it here)

Rumor had it there was a lot of hype around this item earlier in the year. This triple duel confirms it. I assume the hype was based on two factors: 1) the success of mega-hits such as Mighty Putty and Flex Seal, and 2) the awesomeness of the demo. But there are problems with both of those things.

First, whatever fueled past hits has been hard to repeat.. "Fix, fill, repair and seal" is an interesting way to lay it out as there is really only one hit per verb in modern DR history. To be sure, Phil Swift has line-extended the heck out of Flex Seal (it now comes in 12 colors and in a 'shot'' variety), but that's to be expected with a one-item company. As for Mighty Putty, a 2014 attempt to bring it back was not successful.

Second, TV ruins this product's magic demo as I explained in my earlier review. I'm sure it is absolutely breathtaking in person, but in a commercial it looks like obvious trickery. It's a bit like the difference between watching Penn & Teller do their show live and watching this commercial. The marketers watched the Vegas show. Their prospects will be watching the much less amazing commercial version.

All of that means I don't think this product will survive long enough for this crazy triple duel to matter. Ontel is the best at turning weak TV items into retail hits, so I give them the edge if that's the plan. And if it came down to creative, Hutton-Miller would win. They did the best job selecting everyday demos and solved the 'been there, seen that' problem with some original magic demos that haven't been done before. They even managed to improve the wine glass demo that is in all three spots by actually putting red wine in the glass. It's that attention to small-but-important details that sets the H-M team apart.

That said, it's telling that even they had to resort to visual and sound effects to show that the light is supposed to be doing something.

July 06, 2015

Are You a DRTV Expert?

My July Field Report for the ERA blog is now live. This month, I test your DRTV expertise with a short quiz.

Click here to take the quiz and read the report

In other ERA blog news, my previous Field Report ("During a Famine, Remember the DRTV Feasts") was No. 1 among the most-read blog posts of June.

July 01, 2015

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Finishing Touch Freedom. Starring: Anastasia Ashley (pro surfer). Marketer: IdeaVillage. Pitch: "Instant and painless hair removal -- anytime, anywhere." Comments: Yet another line extension of the 13-year-old brand and an apparent 'drive to Wal-Mart' campaign. [ss]
  3. Dough Genie. Starring: Cathy Mitchell. Marketer: Lenfest. Pitch: "The amazing dough preparation station that eliminates mess and puts the fun back in baking." Comments: Seems like this would only appeal to a segment of a segment. Easy baking (e.g. Perfect Brownie) is all that has really worked, and pie items have had no success on DRTV in general. [ss]
  5. Stand N' Type. Pitch: "Get off your seat and back on your feet." Comments: I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the people who buy products with names like "Ab Lounge" (lounge around and get a six pack!) or those electro-stimulation ab belts aren't going to be interested in standing while they use their computers. [ss]