October 30, 2007

New This Week: The Ab Wedge

Things are slowing down in fourth-quarter DRTV land and, as a result, I only have one new item to report on this week.

THE AB WEDGE (2 pay, $14.95) is a wedge pillow that supports your back while you do ab exercises. The main claim: “Six pack abs without the pain.” The bonuses are a workout poster, DVD and carrying case. www.TheAbWedge.com
Product (D7) Score: 2 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: OK**
There seems to be no end to the number of ab products that succeed on DRTV, but that doesn't mean any ab item will work. The problem I have with this product is there's nothing unique or interesting about it. Plus, it's a bit pricey for DRTV and for what it is.

That's it! Hungry for more SciMark content? Check out my recent rethinking of how I determine if an item is a hit, and my short list of five bona-fide hits from the last 90 days.

Source: “New Spots for Week Ending 10/26/07,” IMS

* See my July 24, 2007 post for a complete explanation of the D7 product score.
** See my October 22, 2007 post for a complete explanation of my commercial rating system.

Five Bona-Fide Hits: Perfect Pushup, Listen Up, Samurai Shark, Green Bags and the OneTouch Jar Opener

Using my new methodology, I took a look at the IMS and Jordan Whitney charts for the past several months and came up with a surprisingly short list of bona-fide DRTV hits.

The items below are new (launched this year) and have appeared on the Jordan Whitney for at least 12 consecutive weeks. They have also appeared on the IMS chart enough times to validate their success. (Each item is linked to its Web site in case you need a refresher.)

1. Perfect Pushup (31 weeks)
2. Listen Up (28 weeks)
3. Samurai Shark (18 weeks)
4. Green Bags (16 weeks)

Click play above to watch the Listen Up DRTV commercial.

Several additional items are nearing the 90-day (12 weeks) mark, but haven’t quite made it yet. I also found several items that inexplicably appear on the Jordan Whitney week after week but have never once appeared on the IMS chart in the last 90 days. They include: Zorbeez (34 weeks), Tater Mitts (30 weeks) and Huggable Hangers (17 weeks). These may be true hits, but lacking second-source verification I have to exclude them.

I also searched for items that have consistently appeared on the IMS chart over the last 90 days and appeared on the Jordan Whitney enough times to validate their success. The result of that analysis is only one additional item:

5. OneTouch Jar Opener

That’s it! Just five new hits in the last 90 days.

Now for the really interesting part: How they stack up against my Divine Seven product criteria and/or predictions.

1. Perfect Pushup – I never reviewed this item, but I did assign it a D7 score of 4 out of 7. It failed my test when it came to: a) solving a problem, b) having the right price for DRTV (it’s $40), and 3) being appropriate for the older DRTV consumer. Despite these weaknesses, it is THE big hit of the year so far. Apparently, a lot of young guys are buying this, and they are willing to pay to “get ripped.” Is this an outlier, or should the D7 be reconsidered? Only time will tell.

2. Listen Up – This IdeaVillage item launched in 2006, but it didn’t roll out until 2007. I did not publish a review, but I did evaluate it using the D7 criteria. My score: 6 out of 7. The one area I questioned was credibility. Would people believe the product worked as advertised? The answer turned out to be yes.

3. Samurai Shark – When I reviewed this SAS Group item in April, I wrote it was “unlikely to succeed” because it was entering “a crowded category with lots of similar solutions” and there was “nothing unique” about the product. As it turns out, I underestimated the Billy Mays factor. As for the D7, I gave this item 6 out 0f 7.

4. Green Bags – For some reason, I never saw or reviewed this Allstar item: at least not in its current incarnation. But back in 2005, I reviewed its predecessor, EverFresh Green Bags. Back then I wrote, “This is the item that keeps doing well on shopping channels, and I can see why. I think it will be a winner in this format as well.” Since this pre-dated the D7, I never gave it a score.

5. OneTouch Jar Opener – This is the only item on the list that received 7 out of 7 on the D7. When ARM launched it in May I wrote, “We have a winner at last! This product gets high marks in every category.”

So with the exception of the Perfect Pushup, which seems to have snuck up on everyone, the D7 methodology for evaluating new items is holding up fairly well. It seems items are succeeding if they are weak in one area, but items weak in more than one area are not making it. That said, if more Perfect Pushups pop up, I will have to rethink the criteria and test a new system of evaluation! Stay tuned ...

Oh, and if you think I missed any items, feel free to post a comment.

October 29, 2007


My method for determining whether an item has become a hit is flawed and needs to be reconsidered.

That’s a realization I came to recently. What I do now is wait 90 days to see if an item “crosses over” – that is, makes it onto the two charts that monitor DRTV success (produced by the Infomercial Monitoring Service and Jordan Whitney). If an item is around 90 days after launch, I figure it has to be for real. But there are two problems with this:

1. Many items I know are successful aren’t appearing on the charts.

This can happen for several reasons. Sometimes companies intentionally under-report their spending numbers to stay off the radar (thereby preventing knockoffs from entering the market). Such a tactic would only affect the Jordan Whitney chart, however, since they are the only service that factors in self-reported numbers as well as monitoring actual airings.

The IMS chart is based strictly on monitoring, but that brings up a second reason why a hit commercial might be missed: It isn’t airing heavily on the stations being monitored. Such stations are limited for obvious reasons (manpower, logistics). A third and final reason a hit commercial might be missed is that the marketer is busy solving internal problems, such as getting production ramped up or changing agencies, and isn’t ready to roll out (even though the numbers are excellent).

2. Several items I know aren’t successful are appearing on the charts regularly.

This is the dark side of DRTV: People of questionable ethics and integrity manipulating what many perceive to be impartial information. The simplest way is to report intentionally inflated spending numbers, which is one reason I use both lists as a check against each other. Another technique is to spend heavily for a few weeks (at a loss) just to get noticed. There are other techniques, but explaining them here would be a little like printing the recipe for a dirty bomb. Suffice to say, it can be done and it is being done way too often.

So what to do? How can one account for these distortions and know what’s really a hit and what isn’t? Here are my new rules:

  • “Hits” must survive 90 days. It may seem like a subtle change, but it’s going to make a big difference. Instead of waiting 90 days and checking the charts once, I will check the charts each week for new items that have been on the charts for at least 90 days consecutively. Doing so will correct for unethical marketers who are pumping spending to create a false perception and ethical marketers who are just taking time to get their act together.

  • Both charts must be considered together. This is a current rule that is important because it corrects for false reporting and under-reporting. If a product has been appearing on the Jordan Whitney chart for 90 days but hasn’t appeared on the IMS chart at least a few times, something is wrong with that result and it must be discarded. Conversely, if an item has been appearing on the IMS chart week after week and has never appeared on the Jordan Whitney, someone is trying to suppress a winner.

Is this a perfect methodology? No. But short of having inside information and confidential reporting for every DRTV product marketed, there is no better way I can think of right now. Feel free to post your disagreements!

In my next post, I’ll share the results of a recent analysis using this new methodology.

October 24, 2007

New This Week: 1001 Cleaner & Degreaser, 3-in-1 Slow Cooker, Touch N Brush and more

Back on schedule at last! Below is my report on the latest DRTV commercials.

You’ll notice that in addition to a product score, I am now including a commercial rating. For an explanation of this rating, see my earlier post. I haven’t stopped critiquing spots using the T&T criteria, but I will be reserving that for full reviews that I’ll be posting separately (and randomly).

1. 1001 CLEANER & DEGREASER ($19.95) is a spray-on cleaner with a special nozzle that lets you dial the concentration you want. It features a “dual chamber” system: one is concentrate and the other is water. The main claim: “Replaces dozens of cleaners with one.” The bonus is a second bottle of concentrate. This is a WD-40 Direct product. www.1001Cleaner.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: Good/Excellent**
This is a well done commercial for an interesting item with real potential. But will it sell? I see two barriers. One, the problem this solves isn’t terribly painful. Sure, it’s more efficient to have one cleaner instead of several, and it saves you money to put your own water into your cleaning products instead of paying a premium for someone else to do it for you. But those arguments aren’t compelling enough to motivate people off the couch, in my opinion. Second, and this is the biggest problem I see, the idea being pitched runs counter to consumer perception, which has been created by years and millions of dollars worth of marketing. To cite one example: Windex has convinced the consumer that their brand is specially formulated to prevent streaking. Now that same consumer is being asked to accept that a diluted (dialed down) general-purpose cleaner can do the same job on windows.

2. 3-in-1 SLOW COOKER (2 pay, $29.95) is a slow cooker with removable stoneware that comes in three different sizes. The bowls come in 2, 4 and 6-quart sizes, and they double as serving dishes. The pitch: “A home-cooked meal every night, no matter who can -- or can't -- make it to dinner.” The bonus is a recipe book. This is a Hamilton Beach product. www.3in1SlowCooker.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: Good**
I’ve long been a fan of Hamilton Beach products and commercials. They do DR with a brand feel very well. This particular commercial is a little slow, however, and lacking in excitement. As for the product, it’s innovative and presents the consumer with a “better than” solution. However, it doesn’t solve a particularly pressing problem and the price is high for DRTV.

3. MEAL MAKER MULTICOOKER (2 pay, $44.95) is a combination fryer and steamer. The main claim: “Steam up to 8 ears of corn, or fry a whole 4-1/2 pound chicken in just 35 minutes.” The bonus is a recipe CD. This is a Hamilton Beach product. www.HBMultiCooker.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: Good**
I have the same comments here as I did for the previous Hamilton Beach item. I like the production quality of the commercial and the presentation of the item. But the commercial lacks excitement and the product isn’t sufficiently compelling to drive an impulse purchase, in my opinion. Also, the price is very high for DRTV.

4. CERAMIC EZ PEEL ($10) is a potato and vegetable peeler with a ceramic blade. The main claim: “Cut your peeling time in half.” The offer is buy one, get one free. The bonus is a ceramic blade mandolin slicer. Separate S&H is charged on both the second unit and the slicer. This is a Telebrands product. www.CeramicEZPeel.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: OK**
This is pretty standard fare for DRTV, but the item is unlikely to succeed because it doesn’t solve a problem. It has also been around in other channels and is “old news” as a result.

5. TOUCH N BRUSH ($19.99) is a toothpaste dispenser that mounts to the wall. The main claim: It’s “the first hands-free, mess-free toothpaste dispenser that works with just a touch.” The offer includes two “multi-surface super grip discs.” The bonus is a Sonic 4X toothbrush. This is a Merchant Media product. www.BuyTouchNBrush.com
Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: OK**
This item will really only appeal to children because it’s fun and easy to use. For adults, it will seem like a solution in search of a problem, in my opinion. Also, the idea that this will work perfectly and get all the toothpaste out of the tube is lacking in credibility, a problem that is compounded by the over-the-top “here’s how it works” segment. They actually say, “the secret is vacuum force”!

6. ULTIMATE BODY SCULPT ($49.95) is an exercise program on DVD featuring someone named Gilad. The offer includes three DVDs. www.Gilad.tv
Product (D7) Score: 3 out of 7*
Commercial Rating: OK**
There isn’t much to distinguish this program from any other, and Gilad isn’t well known enough to bring credibility to the product.

Sources: “New Spots for Week Ending 10/19/07,” IMS (1-3, 6); "Vol. XVII, No. 1-B, 10/12/07," Jordan Whitney (4-5)

* See my July 24, 2007 post for a complete explanation of the D7 product score.
** See my October 22, 2007 post for a complete explanation of my commercial rating system.

October 22, 2007

New ratings for commercials

As part of my quest to make this blog as good as it can be, I am simplifying the system I use to evaluate commercials and including a rating with every new commercial on which I report. Here are the new ratings:

  • EXCELLENT - This commercial is of exceptional production quality and/or hits all of the key DRTV techniques.
  • GOOD - This commercial is well produced and/or hits most of the key DRTV techniques.
  • OK - This commercial is mediocre. The quality is just passable and several of the key DRTV techniques have been overlooked.
  • POOR - This commercial is poorly produced and most of the key DRTV techniques have been ignored.
  • AWFUL - This commercial is just bad. It should never have been aired.
This new rating system will replace the occassional T&T Score I have given commercials. I will continue to use the T&T framework, but only when writing full reviews of commercials (which I will post separately and randomly).

October 19, 2007

New & Recent: Scrub & Rinse Wand, Razor Thin, Mighty Putty and more

Summertime craziness and a West Coast vacation have put me a few weeks behind on my new items monitoring. I returned to find a sizeable stack of tapes and papers, a pile that I only recently managed to get through! Below is a condensed report to bring you up to speed on what’s new on DRTV …

1. SCRUB & RINSE WAND ($19.95) is a scrubbing wand for tubs and showers that also rinses. It has a hose that connects to the shower head so it can dispense water with the press of a button. The offer includes the scrubbing wand, hose and shower head connector. The bonus is five disposable scrubbing pads loaded with cleaner and a storage bag. www.ScrubAndRinseWand.com
Product (D7) Score:
6 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: Generally speaking, I like this item. It’s different, practical and priced correctly for DRTV. The only problem I see is that it doesn’t solve a pressing problem. It’s just a “nice to have” kind of product that people won’t be terribly motivated to purchase.

2. QUICK DRY (2 pay, $49.95) is a garment drying station. The pitch: “Dry clothes faster and wear them sooner.” The offer is for a unit with five drying shelves and a drying fan. The bonus is triple-drying hook attachments for hang-drying on the sides of the unit. This is a Hamilton Beach product. www.QuickDryOffer.com
Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7
(What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: This is an innovative solution to an unsolved problem: It takes forever to air-dry sweaters and delicates. That said, the commercial does a poor job of explaining why people must have the product, and the price is too high for DRTV buyers.

3. SIMPLY SWIPE ($19.95) is a wood restorative in a compact, handheld dispenser. The main claims: “Restores color, watermarks, scratches, sun fade, oxidation and worn-off finishes.” The offer includes one bottle of the main product and one bottle of Seal & Shine, a finishing product. The bonus is a metal polishing cloth. www.BuySimplySwipe.com
Product (D7) Score:
5 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: This is a classic "As Seen on TV" style product, but in today's environment I don't think it will play well. The product does too much too well in the commercial, and people aren’t going to buy it (figuratively and literally). Its small size also makes it impractical for many of the larger jobs shown.

4. BRILLO CLEANING TOOLS ($14.99) is a set of scrubbing wands and sponges from Brillo. The main claim: They're “uniquely designed to scrub faster and scrape easier.” The entire offer with bonuses and doubling includes two Brillo Scratch Free Scrubber Wands, two Brillo Scratch Free Scrub n Scrapes, two Brillo Scratch Free Scrub n Sponges and two Brillo Abrasive Scrubber Wands. This is a Sullivan Productions commercial. www.BuyBrilloTools.com
Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7
(What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: Brillo is a powerful brand in this category, but is this offer right for DRTV? I say “no” for three reasons: One, the products aren’t new or unique. Two, the offer has too many components to clearly explain in a two-minute commercial. And three, the problems these tools address are already being solved every day using good-enough solutions. Brillo could be successful in the DRTV space; the marketing team just needs to find something innovative and focus their message.

5. RAZOR THIN ($29.95) is an ultra-thin electric razor for men or women. The main claim: It's “smaller than a credit card … thinner than a deck of cards.” The bonus is a carrying case, and then they double the offer. No URL.
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7
(What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: This item is cool in a James Bond sense, but ultimately it's just another travel shaver that doesn’t solve a big enough problem. Yes, there are some men who have a pressing need to shave twice a day and, as a result, could use a deck of cards-sized shaver that discreetly slips into a shirt pocket. But once you sell those 10 guys, what then? (This product is marketed toward women as well, which raises some truly scary thoughts.)

6. TABLE MATE II ($29.95) is an updated version of the successful folding table. The main claim: “With six height adjustments and three tray angles, it’s like several trays in one.” The offer includes one tray, which is now available in wood grain. The bonus is free S&H. No URL
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7
(What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: This is a proven item, but the DRTV pitch has a few weaknesses. The main one is the offer: One folding table for $30 isn’t likely to motivate people off the couch. A secondary issue is the product itself: It’s “evolutionary,” something experience has shown is much less exciting to consumers than products that are “revolutionary.”

7. MIGHTY PUTTY ($19.99) is a super-strength epoxy. The pitch: “Fix, fill, seal and repair anything fast and make it last.” The offer includes two sticks of the epoxy. Then they double and triple the offer, ending up with six sticks. This is a Media Enterprises product pitched by the ubiquitous Billy Mays. www.MightyPutty.com
Product (D7) Score:
4 out of 7 (What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: The main challenges this product faces are that it’s lacking in credibility and it solves unusual and infrequent problems. The commercial claims the product can support 350 lbs, and it is later shown being used to pull a tractor trailer. The first claim is hard to swallow; the second is off-the-charts unbelievable. Then there are the uses. How often do people need to hang a shelf without nails or screws, or mold a new handle for their favorite coffee mug (two key demos in the commercial)? Finally, the offer is a little weak. It’s an interesting product, but the marketing team needs to go back to the drawing board on what will motivate consumers to purchase it.

8. PORTA BOOK ($19.95) is a laptop tray that angles the computer for more comfortable use: According to the commercial, it can also be used as a stand for cookbooks, sheet music, etc. The bonus is a mini-Porta Book. No URL.
Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7
(What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: This is an interesting solution for laptop owners who travel a lot or who like to use their laptops while sitting in bed. Of course, it is also limited by this narrow appeal (potential sheet music applications aside). Also, technology-related items don’t usually work on DRTV because a large percentage of buyers are senior citizens.

9. PLUG GRIP ($19.95) is a tool for installing electrical outlets. It also has a built-in testing light. The offer includes a second tool called the Switch Grip, which is used for installing light switches. The bonuses are a screwdriver set and safety gloves. www.PlugGrip.com
Product (D7) Score: 3 out of 7
(What’s “D7”?)
Quick Comments: This product is way too niche to be on TV. It’s an innovative specialty item to be sure, but the universe of potential buyers is just too small to support a DRTV campaign.

Sources: “New Spots for Week Ending 9/28/07,” IMS (4); “New Spots for Week Ending 10/5/07,” IMS (1-3, 5); “New Spots for Week Ending 10/12/07,” IMS (6-9)