June 22, 2009

Review: Flies-Away

Description: A hanging bag that traps flies
Main Pitch: "Stop swatting, shooing and spraying," each trap can "catch and eliminate over 20,000 flies"
Main Offer: $14.95 for two traps
Bonus: A third trap free (just pay shipping and processing)
Marketer: Zoom TV Products
Producer: Unknown
Starring: Billy Mays
Website: www.FliesAway.com
Product (D7) Score: 6 out of 7
Commercial Rating: Good

There's nothing more annoying or disgusting than flies buzzing around your food. They immediately bring to mind excrement, and thinking about that is a sure-fire way to ruin a good barbecue. So I like this item because it solves a real problem ... during the summer. That, of course, is the big weakness here. This item can only do well a few months out of the year.

I'm about to digress, so let me first say a few words about the commercial. I like it. Billy does a solid job as always and even throws in a few fun rhymes ("get the ultimate green invention for your fly prevention!"). The only comment-worthy flaw I saw in the commercial was that an obvious objection wasn't answered. The line that raises the objection: "Within minutes, Flies-Away starts to put out a scent that drives the flies crazy." This is accompanied by animation showing wisps of strong odor coming off the bag and drawing in flies.

Going back to my opening about what flies bring to mind, the first thought I had is the bag must smell like [fill in appropriate expletive], and no one wants to hang a bag of [repeat expletive] near their food. Anyway, it's a simple fix to address that objection if consumers agree with me.

Now, my thoughts on seasonality and DRTV ...

I believe DRTV products shouldn't be seasonal for obvious reasons, not the least of which is that you can't possibly test and scale media, then maximize retail, all in a single season. That inevitably means you're banking on coming back for a strong second season, and I don't like those odds.

Ultimately, the risk with seasonal items is the same risk that occurs when a DRTV marketer isn't prepared to roll out a program (say, because of manufacturing issues) and decides to wait. It's a strange phenomenon, but a hot item can die in as little as three months -- whether you maximize the opportunity or not. I chalk this up to that old adage, "the only constant is change." The marketplace is changing every day, and it's impossible to know what changes will kill your USP, or even just dampen the enthusiasm a product originally generated (which is just as big of a killer in direct-response selling).

That's not to mention that if you find a good solution to a common problem (a key requirement for DRTV success), chances are a dozen other solutions to that problem are preparing to hit the market. It's funny how that works. And if competitors aren't planning when you first launch, they are surely going to start planning when they take notice of your success.

There's also the importance of being "first in the mind," a branding concept introduced by the great Jack Trout and Al Ries. For example, despite several attempts by big-name companies, no one has been able to outsell IdeaVillage's Finishing Touch in the micro-trimmer category or Telebrands' Ped Egg in the foot file category. Why? Because by the time the big guys came in, those DRTV brands had already taken the first position in millions of consumer minds -- and it's very difficult to change a mind with advertising (another Trout and Ries axiom). Seasonal items take a big risk in this regard: Just as the brand is starting to stake a claim in the mind, it disappears until next season.

Despite all of this, several seasonal DRTV items have defied the odds. They started small their first season, disappeared from view and then came back stronger in subsequent seasons. I think of Allstar's Topsy Turvy tomato planter (for the warm weather) and Hampton Direct's Twin Draft Guard (for the cold weather).

That's why although I made "weather proof" one of my criteria for DRTV products, I put it on "The Secondary Seven" list, a list of less-important considerations that complements "The Divine Seven." (You can download a PDF of the full checklist here). I think it's important to review these criteria often to see if any are changing. A decade ago, "weather proof" would have probably topped every DRTV marketer's list.


  1. Have had the "Flies Away" stink bag hanging for three days; hasn't caught a single fly. They would rather land on the cat food 20 ft away...Maybe I should put catfood in it...

  2. The automated selection process on the phone was confusing. I wasn't sure if the order I placed was correct (buy one get one free-- it asked if I wanted TWO), and IMMEDIATELY called the company to make sure I didn't get more than one. I was reassured that the order was cancelled. Today my husband got a charge of over $60.00 on his credit card. There is nowhere on the website where I can type in a complaint, the order is pending, and now we have to deal with returning an order we don't want. If anyone from the company sees this, please call me at 1-310-514-0203. I was reassured months ago that this order would NOT go through!

  3. Absolutely worthless! 2 days in a high-fly area and ZERO flies in bag. A rip-off. Caveat emptor