June 11, 2009

Q&A with John Cammarano

So far I've experimented with guest experts and guest reviewers in an attempt to make the blog even more interesting and relevant to my readers. Well, my next experiment in "mixing it up" is to interview industry players when they have something interesting to say.

Today is my first foray. My subject: John Cammarano, an industry veteran formerly of AdSouth/Vertical Branding (and Think Tek before that), now founder and president of a new venture called Zoom TV Products.

John recently told me about a new DRTV-to-retail initiative he is working on, and I thought it was timely enough to turn into an interview. The number that got my attention: 18,000 new doors. Here's the interview ...

TSR: What led you to leave Vertical Branding and start Zoom TV Products? What is the purpose of this new venture?

Cammarano: Upon the sale of my company AdSouth to Vertical three years ago, I agreed to stay on and develop new items as well as their retail sales. I positioned the Hercules Hook with them first and then Steam Buddy, Zorbeez, the MyPlace laptop table and others. However, I felt the need to embark on another venture where I am the principal because I needed the autonomy to work at a rigorous pace and capitalize on the success of both the industry as a whole compared to overall retail sales.

I have been quite successful in building unique ASOTV endcap programs at retailers such as Staples, Best Buy, Office Depot, Stop & Shop, Pet Smart, Toys "R" Us and several others. After witnessing the success that these retailers have enjoyed after finally reaching outside their normal core assortments, it was apparent that the industry is thriving and in need of new and novel items.

I will be looking to partner with several of the vendors that I have brought into the ASOTV programs in order to allow them to utilize their substantial infrastructure, allowing me to focus on product and campaign development for proprietary and licensed products.

TSR: How does your new retail program work?

Cammarano: What I have done is positioned the program with the retailer in a way that affords them filtered knowledge and historical data for all current items. The information that we provide allows them to simply lean on one primary vendor or category captain that also maintains the trust of all the vendors. I negotiate the terms with the retailer, build a virtual set and obtain a green light from the vendors and retailers alike, then monitor the weekly sales, watches sales trends and look for anomalies, suggest in-and-out promotions; for example, Staples and Snuggies. It was a huge success and now fourth quarter is already planned out.

The industry players have really rallied behind the program because we have reached retailers that historically never merchandised these types of items. Finally, in their quest for incremental sales, they have realized that there are several demographic crossovers regardless of their core assortments.

TSR: Will the chains take any product, or does it have to be something that fits their theme (e.g. pet supplies)?

Cammarano: I try to cater the program ever so slightly. For example, the Toys "R" Us build was very female oriented whereas the Best Buy build was almost all male-oriented items due to their young male demo.

TSR: Can any DRTV company participate? If so, how do they get involved?

Cammarano: Any TV vendor can participate. However, I try to select viable vendors that will always be there with consistent campaigns as well as the financial wherewithal to support any potential clean up or product discontinuance. And even more important, shipping on time is monumental.

TSR: What led you to pursue this new strategy?

Cammarano: Simply put, it was an opportunity that needed to be capitalized on. Specific retailers were struggling due to economic issues that forced them to seek incremental sales. To date, we are currently servicing over 18,000 doors that have never sold these types of items before because there was never an orchestrated program that allowed the retailer to merchandise them all together. In the past, vendors would present to individual category buyers, so products were splintered and merchandised across the store. But they didn't enjoy the success they do when the program is housed in one location, managed by one buyer and one category captain that is an industry insider.

I should mention I couldn't have done any of this without the support of Nancy [Duitch] and the team at Vertical Branding. Their support was undying.

As I said, this new interview feature is an experiment, so please let me know what you think of it (or John's interview) by using the comments link below.


  1. Recently, John Cammarano & Zoom TV products have started marketing a new item known as a Fushigi ball. In doing so, they have exploited much of the work of the contact juggling community, as well as the work of physical artist Michael Moschen. Fushigi has aggressively positioned themselves within the community (as if they had been there all along) and have mislead several members of our forum, www.contactjuggling.org , to appear in their advertisement. They were invited to be in a 'national TV advertisement', and didn't understand what was being created until after they saw the final product. None of the jugglers in the video stand behind the product, we unanimously feel that this is an unfair representation of a difficult and complex art form.

    Many performers of contact juggling now have to deal with an audience who believes that what they are doing is a 'children's toy' or a 'gimmicked floating ball trick.' The damage that has been done to this small, relatively unknown group of several thousand jugglers in the world is significant. All in the name of misleading a young audience and manipulating them into purchasing a dissapointing product, and putting another few million in sales on his portfolio. Because he saw something that hadn't been exploited yet, and saw an opportunity to aggressively turn a profit off the work of a passionate community of jugglers.
    For shame!

  2. Hey Ryan - Guess how many people had heard of Contact Juggling before the Fushigi Ball came along? Your mother and no one else. The Fushigi Ball has brought your passion to the masses. My kids quickly realize that to master the Fushigi Ball or contact juggling requires a lot of practice and effort, much like playing the guitar. I suppose those like you who suck the life out of every room they enter could cry about Guitar Hero has turned the sacred guitar into something kids think they can approach and enjoy. Gasp!

    Perhaps you wish you would have exploited Contact Juggling first, but I suppose you are too late. Now all you can do is cry about how the Fushigi sucks magic gravity balls - http://www.magicgravityballs.com

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  4. Ryan's right. Fushigi was an epic scam and a testament to the power of false advertising.