February 27, 2009

Review: Slim Belt

Description: An "invisible" belt with a flat buckle
Main Pitch: "Eliminates sags, gaps and bulges" and "gives you a slimmer appearance"
Main Offer: $10 for one belt in clear
Bonus: Second belt in black (just pay separate P&H)
Marketer: Ontel Products
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Website: www.BuySlimBelt.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7
Commercial Rating: Good

This product is positioned toward slim young women. Unfortunately, that group is under-represented among DRTV buyers. There is a way to position it toward older, larger women, but I recognize the challenges of showing such women in a commercial. Still, I think it has to be done to make the product sell. I would reconsider the creative, which is very well done otherwise, from that perspective.

Then again, maybe the problem this solves is too small and the item is too much of a commodity to excite the impulse to "call now." Women also view a belt as an accessory, which means personal taste and the rules of fashion come into play. Any time this is the case, the odds of DRTV success decrease significantly. Sometimes the rules can be broken, especially when the utility of a product is strong (Buxton Bag is a case in point). But many times women put fashion above functionality, and that kills the sale.


AJ Khubani, president of Telebrands and a Founding Father of DRTV, appeared on CNN recently to explain why our industry is a "bright spot" in an otherwise gloomy economy. His description of DRTV media buying ("beachfront property at trailer park prices") is an instant classic.

Review: Easy Bake Sheet

Description: Silicon baking pan
Main Pitch: "Bake food evenly without the
sticky mess"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one tray plus the book, "50 Better Baking Recipes"
Bonus: Titan Peeler plus a second tray
(just pay S&H)
Marketer: Tristar Products
Website: www.EasyBakeSheet.com
Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7
Commercial Rating: Good

My thoughts on this product are the same as my thoughts on Harvest Direct's Sili Strong, since the items are similar. In my December review of the product, I wrote that silicon bakeware "has some potential," but worried that it's too "widely available at retail, and most people get by fine with their regular bakeware and some tinfoil." This product has a much better name, but it faces the same challenges.

As for the commercial, it did a better job selling me on the product than the Sili Strong spot, but I still found a few areas for improvement. Both spots focused too much on the strength of the pan, in my opinion, when it's really the "no-stick" message that's compelling. For example, this commercial's magic demo is the pan supporting a dumbbell. I'm not sure why that's important. Instead, I would have loved to have seen a "torture test" where the stickiest mess imaginable is baked in and then, like magic, slides right of the pan with no residue left behind.

I also think the color choices for both products is odd. Red seems to be the favorite color. This product also comes in teal. For some reason, those colors make the product seem less credible. Why not just go with "pan gray"?

February 23, 2009

Review: HD Vision Readers

Description: HD Vision sunglasses with built-in bifocals
Main Pitch: "Like two glasses in one" (sunglasses and reading glasses)
Main Offer: $19.99 for one pair
Bonus: Second pair (just pay S&H)
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Morgan James
Website: www.HDReaders.com
Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7
Commercial Rating: Good

Full disclosure: I worked on this campaign.

IdeaVillage seems to have discovered a magic formula with its HD Vision line of sunglasses. Years ago, the original HD Vision sunglasses were a solid hit (No. 25 on the Jordan Whitney annual for 2002). Last year, the company introduced HD Vision Wraparounds and discovered another bona-fide hit that continues to sell well (currently No. 38 on the IMS Top 50).

In December of last year, IdeaVillage reintroduced its original product under the name HD Vision Ultras. So far, there's been no evidence of success despite a 6 out of 7 rating by me and a very strong offer. The curse of the line extension in reverse? Maybe. But I don't think that will apply to this product. Here's why ...

While HD Vision lenses alone may not be enough to have a hit these days, HD Vision lenses plus a unique twist seem to do just fine. In the case of HD Vision Wraparounds, the twist was that they fit over prescription eyeglasses. In this case, the twist is that they have reading glasses built in.

What's truly amazing about the success of these products is also the reason why I can only give them a  6 out of 7: They target a niche market -- people who wear glasses. I suspect the reason this doesn't seem to matter is that this group isn't a niche when you're talking about DRTV buyers, a group consisting mostly of Baby Boomers and Seniors, people who tend to suffer from age-related vision problems.

Review: Wizzit

Description: A pair of electric tweezers
Main Pitch: "Finds, grabs and removes unwanted hair from the roots, and keeps it from growing back for weeks"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one unit with carry pouch
Bonus: Multi-piece manicure kit (just pay additional S&H)
Marketer: Unknown
Producer: Unknown
Website: www.BuyWizzit.com
Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7
Commercial Rating: Poor

This product has been done before and done better -- as Tristar's Tweeze. In fact, Tweeze is still on the market and selling strong, from what I can tell.

I rarely give a DRTV spot a rating below "OK," but this one deserves its "poor" rating. With the exception of the animation, it does a terrible job of demonstrating the product. The writing could also use work.

If this campaign does well at all, it will be on the strength of the product and the category. But the bottom line is that this product is two years too late and has no shot against Tweeze at retail, which raises an important question: Why bother?

February 06, 2009

Review: Mighty Shine

Description: System for instantly removing tarnish and other "gunk" from precious metals and jewelry
Main Pitch: "The easiest way to bring back the shine to your gold, silver, gemstones and valuables in no time"
Main Offer: $19.99 for two round shine plates, two half-pound bags of activator and two microfiber finishing cloths
Bonus: Large silver shine plate
Marketer: Media Enterprises
Producer: Miller Direct
Website: www.BuyMightyShine.com

Product (D7) Score: 5 out of 7
Commercial Rating: Good

Media Enterprises has developed a knack for taking old product ideas, reinventing them and turning them into blockbuster hits. I'm referring specifically to the "Mighty" line of products. Mighty Putty is a reinvention of epoxy, that previously boring staple of hardware stores. Mighty Mendit (one of seven products recently named a bona-fide hit) is a reinvention of the liquid bonding agents that have been popular on shopping channels and in catalogs for years. Now the company has introduced this new "Mighty" product, which is another reinvention of an old shopping channel/catalog item that was also successful on DRTV two decades ago (as Telebrands' Silver Lightning, which was recently re-tested).

Lots of DRTV companies have tried this "old is gold" strategy, but many fail because they don't do what ME is so good at doing -- namely, improving the form and function of the product and thinking of new and exciting ways to demonstrate it. Part of this genius should be credited to Billy Mays and John Miller, who together come up with the best "magic demos" and biggest TV offers in the industry. The "knight's sword" demo in this commercial is a prime example of the former, while the double offer plus a truly free bonus (no extra S&H) is an excellent example of the latter.

Despite all of this, I do see a few weaknesses in this particular campaign. The biggest one is clarity (one of three major factors that can impact a CPO). It is hard to discern from watching this commercial how the product works. Specifically, it's unclear why you need the silver plates that are featured so prominently throughout the spot.

Another weakness is the credibility of the demos. Because they are so magical, they may create the perception of "too good to be true." I've been wrong on this score before (e.g. the tractor trailer demo on Mighty Putty didn't seem to hurt the campaign at all), but it's worth thinking about if the results aren't what they should be.

Lastly, I'm not confident the market for tarnish products is big enough to sustain a DRTV campaign in this day and age. Years ago, tarnished silverware was a much bigger problem, one that was on every housewife's mind. These days, it's much less of a concern. I don't know if that's because tarnish-free silverware has displaced real silverware, because formal events are less frequent, or both. The jewelry application helps, but most jewelry doesn't tarnish like real silverware either, and tarnish removal is the strongest reason to buy this product.

February 02, 2009

Review: Earth Brite

Description: All-purpose "green" cleaner
Main Pitch: "Eco-friendly ... [it] cleans, polishes and protects for a spotless shine"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one tub with sponge
Bonus: Second tub with sponge for just $5
Marketer: National Express
Producer: Unknown
Website: www.EarthBriteTV.com

Product (D7) Score: 4 out of 7
Commercial Rating: OK

"Green" products are all the rage these days. But as I've reported in the past, the research indicates there's a trick to making such products sell. In a nutshell: Most people don't care enough about the environment to buy a "lesser than" or "equal to" solution. Rather, the product must be "better than" its non-green alternative in some key way.

This commercial failed to convince me that the product has this essential quality. There are no comparisons in the commercial, and while the spot is full of visually compelling demos, they've all been done before.  

It's possible that this product has what it takes to be successful. However, based on what I saw in the commercial, I can only conclude that it doesn't. Moreover, it comes in an odd form similar to car wax. As a result, it faces the inherent credibility challenges that come along with such new forms. Giving the "wax" a strong reason for being might have helped, but here again the commercial fell short.

The one thing I did find praiseworthy in this creative was the unique approach to the offer. It's commonly believed that a bonus item must be free, or rather "free just pay separate S&H," to be effective. Additional S&H has become the new standard because marketers have upped the ante on offers. Response suffers when the expectation of a huge offer isn't met. But this is a Catch-22 because DRTV marketers have to cover their increased costs. They can't increase the base price because that would hurt response even more than a weak offer, so they take the hit on the back-end with customer dissatisfaction over high S&H charges.

This offer represents a bold attempt at finding another way. If charging a modest price for a bonus instead of additional S&H works, we could see a major shift in the way DRTV marketers structure their offers in the future.