December 28, 2010

Snuggie in the Times: A Missed Opportunity

It's always interesting to see how the mainstream media covers our industry. In the December 21st issue of The New York Times, advertising reporter Andrew Newman writes at length about Allstar's Snuggie. From a PR perspective, it's a major score for Allstar. But from an industry perspective? Not so much.

The problems start with the caption for the story's main image (shown above). It reads: "New ads for the Snuggie have a holiday theme but skip the toll-free numbers for ordering, because the blankets are now sold largely in stores" (emphasis mine). Ouch. I cringe along with the executives of Allstar and any other DRTV marketer trying to squeeze a little extra advertising subsidy out of direct buyers.

Then there's the second paragraph:

Consumers purchased about four million Snuggies during the 2008 holiday season, according to Allstar Products Group, its maker. Typically, a success story for a kitschy infomercial product would end there, with the Snuggie going the way of items like the Clapper (“Clap on! Clap off!”) and Pocket Fisherman (“The biggest fishing invention since the hook!”). But not so for the blanket with arms, which, from a marketing perspective, turns out to have legs as well.

There are two significant errors in just the bit I highlighted. The first error is implying that a successful DRTV campaign lives and dies during a single holiday season. The second error is using The Clapper as a negative case study. Sorry, Mr. Newman, but if Snuggie goes "the way of ... the Clapper," everyone involved will be thrilled. After all, The Clapper is still at retail after 26 years, and its brand name and slogan must have close to 100% recall by now. Talk about having legs!

Newman (or "Newman!" as Seinfeld would say) also gets confused, as most of the media does, when trying to explain the short-form business model. In explaining Allstar's shift from 120s to shorter commercials meant to support retail, he writes: "[T]hey are not, by any standard measure, infomercials since they are only 30 seconds long and do not seek a direct response from consumers." Not sure what "standard measure" he means given an "infomercial" is a half-hour long.

He continues: "The Snuggie has, in fact, evolved nearly completely from a direct-response brand to a retail brand, with about 95 percent of current sales coming from bricks-and-mortar retailers." But that's the plan for all short-form products these days. Snuggie didn't evolve: It just became one of the few to meet, and then wildly surpass, DRTV-to-retail expectations.

Perhaps this is all just quibbling, but I think Mr. Newman missed an opportunity to explore the real reasons why Snuggie is important and what advertisers can learn from its success. The problem is that journalists who write about advertising come from a 'brand advertising' bias that looks down on DRTV as, in Newman's words, "kitschy" and "corny." This blinds them to its genius and turns every story about our industry into essentially the same story: Some fly-by-night cornballs got lucky and became legitimate.

In a future post, perhaps I'll answer my own challenge and explore what Mr. Newman didn't. In the meantime, the full article is here. Let me know what you think.

December 21, 2010

Review: Fast Brite

Description: A cleaner for cloudy headlights
Main Pitch: "Brings your headlights back to showroom new in as little as 30 seconds"
Main Offer: $10 for one bottle of polish, one bottle of protectant
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay S&H)
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This commercial features what I sometimes call a "contrived" problem. That's when you start with a product and try to contrive a DRTV-level problem for it to solve. In this case, the creative team did their best, but I seriously doubt most people are going around concerned about hazy headlights -- especially since that concern is all about prevention (i.e. preventing an accident).

Another way to evaluate advertising, in general, is to focus on the promise an ad makes. In this case, the promise is restoring your headlights to "showroom new." But I can't think of anyone who would care about that. Restore a car's finish to "showroom new"? That I get. But its headlights? It's an odd idea and more evidence that this one's a stretch.

AJ Goes to Extremes to Find Next Great Pitchman

Since the industry has (wisely) given up on trying to replace the late, great Billy Mays, I guess AJ decided to look for a child with the potential to become him! Actually, these kids are more inventors than pitchmen, but they do a pretty good job explaining their products on national TV.

Video above and here.

December 15, 2010

Review: Clever Cupcakes

Description: Silicone baking cups
Main Pitch: "The fast, easy way to make perfectly shaped, gourmet cupcakes at home"
Main Offer: $10 for a 12-piece set with recipe guide
Bonus: 2nd set, just pay P&H, plus free decorating kit
Marketer: National Express
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Fun baking items that don't solve a strong problem have a terrible track record on DRTV. The only exception I can think of is Allstar's Big Top Cupcake, and that was a super-cool product with strong "kid appeal." Another category that has been terrible on DRTV is silicone bakeware. That means this is a "double whammy" product that is highly unlikely to succeed.

December 09, 2010

Review: Royal Ring

Description: A replica of Lady Di's engagement ring
Main Pitch: "Celebrate the royal engagement with this timeless heirloom ring"
Main Offer: $39.90 for one
Includes: Velveteen box, certificate of authenticity
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: ?

This is not my area of expertise, but I see a lot to like here. Hits like the Obama coin proved DRTV marketers can capitalize on the public's momentary passion for certain figures.

I guess success or failure really depends on how excited the American public is about these events in England. Lady Di certainly made anglophiles of a lot of people. Perhaps her son and her ring have the same power, which would create an interesting play on the words "halo effect."

Review: Classy Covers

Description: A spandex cleavage cover
Main Pitch: "Covers your cleavage with a touch of class"
Main Offer: $14.99 for two (solid black, black lace)
Bonus: Two more (solid white, white lace), just pay processing
Marketer: IdeaVillage/Miss Oops
Producer: Concepts TV
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This idea is obviously a winner, but I don't think this product is different enough from Ontel's Cami Secret to work on DRTV. The problem it solves is essentially the same, and the argument made against camisoles (they "ride up and add unwanted inches") doesn't ring true given their popularity.

In many ways, DRTV success is all about timing, and the timing for this one is wrong. In a few years, though, it could be a big hit.

On a side note, I do love the original name Miss Oops gave this product: Boob Tube. Now that's clever!

Review: Strap Magic

Description: A non-slip accessory for straps
Main Pitch: "The ultimate solution to stop purse straps from slipping down your shoulder"
Main Offer: $10 for three (black, brown and red)
Bonus: Three more (tan, ivory and navy), just pay P&H
Marketer: Ontel
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

When I first saw this type of product on QVC, I loved the idea. Then I did some market research and learned many women don't view 'slipping straps' as a pressing problem. At least not one worth "calling now" to solve. It will be interesting to see if the research was right.

Review: Diva Dangler

Description: A hanging earring organizer
Main Pitch: "Display and organize all of your earrings in just seconds"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one in pink and gold
Bonus: 2nd one in leopard and silver (just pay S&H), ring stand, pair of earrings with enrollment in Earring of the Month Club
Starring: Irene and Sharon, the inventors
Marketer: The inventors
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

These ladies seem nice, and I wish them well in general. I try to be objective, though, and the idea of hanging your jewelry has been tried before on DRTV (see Blingeez). So I've seen enough to know this idea is a tough sell on DRTV. Also, this particular offer is confusing and has a string attached (club enrollment) that will supress sales.

December 04, 2010

AJ on the The Early Show

Telebrands CEO AJ Khubani went on The Early Show recently to discuss the industry and some popular DRTV products. Video above and here.

Some pretty standard stuff, but he does talk a bit about his criteria for DRTV products. Given I learned a lot of what I know about the business from AJ, you'll notice my Divine Seven echoes many of his points.

December 02, 2010

Weekly Round-Up

Update: The original version of this post incorrectly identified the producer of Splatter Chef and Sit Right as Sullivan Productions. I regret the error.

Catching up after the holiday, so here's a long round-up of the latest items I didn't have time to give full reviews:

  1. Aluma Wallet. Pitch: "Fashion meets function with this trendy aluminum wallet." Marketer: Telebrands. Producer: Sullivan Productions. Comments: With the exception of Slim Clip, a personal triumph, wallets haven't been great on DRTV, especially ones targeted toward women. This one is supposed to be unisex, but I think it's more female-oriented and, as a result, unlikely to succeed. On a side note: This is the first Sullivan production I've seen in a while without Sully as the pitchman. [a]
  2. Celebrity Sweat. Pitch: "Go behind the scenes with Hip-Hop sensation Nelly as he takes you to the gym and shows you some of his favorite workouts for building muscle-tone." Starring: Nelly. Comments: I'm not going to tell him the problems with his campaign. Might see him at a show. You tell him! [a]
  3. Eye Lovely. Pitch: "The fast, cosmetic-free way to take the bags away." Comments: The site is already down, which is never a good sign. In any case, the positioning seems too narrow. Everyone has wrinkles, for example, but not everyone has puffy eyes. [a]
  4. Nano Bamboo. Pitch: "A virtually indestructible (bamboo) cleaning cloth with nano technology" Starring: Saul Judah. Comments: I've never seen the "clean with just water" pitch work. Cleaning cloths in general seem to be a tough sell. Super-asborption works, but not much else. [a]
  5. Night Bright Mat. Pitch: "It's a floor mat. It's a light. It's the Night Bright Mat." Comments: Cool idea, but it's been tried before without success. Good pitch, though. If I were coming at it cold, I'd give it even odds. [a]
  6. Poof Comb. Pitch: "Instantly volumize your hair and add inches of height." Marketer: Telebrands. Producer: Concepts TV. Comments: I think this one has credibility problems. If a comb could accomplish this, no one would have gone for Bumpits. [a]
  7. Push Up Max. Pitch: "From the makers of Iron Gym ... the most extreme push-up you'll ever do." Marketer: Ontel. Producer: LoudMouth TV. Comments: As a retail strategy, this makes a lot of sense. [a]
  8. Rapid Roaster. Pitch: "Cuts cooking time by 50 percent." Comments: The creative is weak, and the product is only useful on occassions where a full bird or roast is being cooked. I'm not sure how often that is for the average family, but I'd wager it isn't very often. [a]
  9. Santa's Genie. Pitch: "The easiest and fastest way to hang and store your Christmas lights." Marketer: Inventor's Business Center. Comments: Sometimes seasonality can be overcome (e.g. with summer items), but this is the worst-case scenario. Not only is media scarce in fourth quarter, planning inventory for Christmas has got to be a nightmare. That's because there's no "tail" on sales to bail you out. I'd never even attempt it. [a]
  10. Secret Styler. Pitch: "Look thinner and sexier in seconds." Comments: This one is a lot more style than solution, and that's always a problem. I think it's unlikely to succeed. [a]
  11. Sexy Legs. Marketer: IdeaVillage/Guthy-Renker. Starring: Leeza Gibbons. Pitch: "Cover spider veins, bruises, blemishes, tattoos and more." Comments: Great idea for a product, and with these two companies teaming up? Prediction: Hit. [a]
  12. Sit Right. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "The new way to ensure you sit 'posture perfect' at home, in the office, or in your car." Comments: This one seems pretty lackluster to me. To use S7 terminology, I'm not sure it's really needed. The car angle is the only one that made sense to me. For work or home offices, you can buy this style of chair at most retailers. Anywhere else, you aren't sitting long enough for it to matter. [a]
  13. Splatter Chef. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Easily prevents kitchen splatters and stovetop and microwave messes." Comments: This is a classic "Swiss Army knife" product, and such multi-function items never seem to work on DRTV -- especially kitchen items. Also, Allstar tested the exact same item with the same pitch about a month ago. The site is no longer active. [a]
  14. Tie Pods. Marketer: Zoom TV Products. Pitch: "A better way to secure almost anything when you're on the move." Comments: I think this solves a major problem -- with bungee cords. The question is how often your average person uses a bungee cord. The demos didn't strike me as very "every day." [a]
  15. Twist Scarf. Pitch: "The most versatile fashion accessory ever." Comments: I reviewed a better version of this product idea recently for the forthcoming December issue of Response magazine. It's called Scarfy. I declared it "unlikely to succeed," so I think this one is even less likely to succeed. [a]
  16. Whoa Buddy. Marketer: Jarden. Pitch: "Helps your dog eat up to 5x slower." Comments: I like this commercial. They led with real-people testimonials as a way to introduce the problems the product solves, and it works really well. I'm a lot less enthusiastic about the product. Pet bowls have a poor track record on DRTV so far (see Tidy Table), and this concept has been tested before with poor results. I think that's because the problem isn't universal and this is "segmenting a segment" (targets the segment of the dog owner segment that has a dog who eats too fast). [a]

December 01, 2010

Good to Know

"Because of the high risk of failure, hair color is one of the categories with the highest consumer resistance to trying private label or new brands."

Colin Hession, global beauty consultant
Quoted in Advertising Age, 10/18/2010

SciMark Report from November Response

Last month's SciMark Report in print is now available on the Response Website. Reviews include: EZ Moves, Touvit Forte and the Sideshow Skillet. [a]

Review: Itty Bitty Brella

Description: A tiny umbrella
Main Pitch: "Opens in your car"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one
Bonus: None
Prediction: Bomb

Amateur hour. This is also a terrible category for DR. I'm not even talking about the fact it's a crowded category. Umbrellas are an impulse item, but the impulse is usually generated by rain. And when it rains, you need an umbrella right then -- not in 4-6 weeks. Buying an umbrella long before it rains is a bit like prevention, so it better be a groundbreaking umbrella. A revolutionary umbrella. The last umbrella you'll ever need. A mini-umbrella, which can easily be found at retail, doesn't hit that bar.

Plus, while less umbrella is good inside the car, it's a problem outside the car. On rainy days in NYC, I see ladies getting soaked all the time. Their dainty, pretty umbrellas that fit in their handbag just don't do the job. My umbrella may be the size of a Scottish claymore and horribly inconvenient to lug around, but I don't get wet. Bottom line: This is one of those products that may actually create a problem instead of solving one. And what good is an umbrella that doesn't address the core problem an umbrella was meant to solve?

November 19, 2010


After livin' on the edge for a while, Trojan has released a new spot for their Vibrating Tri-Phoria. Not sure why the guy at the end is so excited, but I like the catch-phrase. Suh-weet!

November 18, 2010

Weekly Round-Up

It's bad out there ... but that hasn't stopped DRTV marketers from launching more items than I have time to review. Here's a round-up of the latest:

  1. Ab Radical. Pitch: "The radically fast way to tone your abs anywhere." Comments: The Website is already down, so I guess we know the outcome. Abs is one of those great categories that delivers one big hit per year, but a dozen other products crash and burn. [a]

  2. Beauty Cups. Pitch: "The new strapless bra cups that fit you perfectly, can add a cup size and are a fraction of the cost of a regular bra." Comments: Telebrands had some success with a product called Natural Bra a few years ago, but I don't think the concept will play as well today. Plus, the product isn't as good as that one was. [a]

  3. Bungee. Pitch: "Let your lost items find you" with this "virtual lost and found." Marketer: Telebrands. Comments: This is a bit too complicated for DR. More important, it's prevention and prevention ... [a]

  4. Celeb Curls. Pitch: "Work like magic to transform your look from drab to fab." Marketer: Emson. Comments: The "look like a celebrity" pitch is way too tired and obvious to work today. Moreover, I can't think of a single hair curling product that has worked on DRTV. Feel free to post a comment and remind me of one. [a]

  5. Charge Buddy. Pitch: "Has four USB ports, so you can charge four devices at the same time." Comments: A tech-oriented commercial featuring young kids and teens is not a recipe for success in DRTV. It's just a matter of demographics. The majority of DRTV buyers don't have young kids or teens, and they don't use a lot of gadgets. Oh, and the price of this is $29.95? Prediction: Bomb.  [a]

  6. Memory Paw. Pitch: "Now you can honor the memory of your cherished pet." Marketer: Telebrands. Comments: Another site that is already down. I like the "emotional blackmail" approach (HT: Fred V.), but you still need to solve a problem to be successful in the pet category. [a]

  7. Bell +Howell Micro-Cam. Pitch: "One of the world's smallest DV camcorders." Marketer: Emson. Comments: A tech item for three payments of $19.95? Prediction: Bomb. [a]

  8. Nail Wow. Pitch: "The nail design that goes on fine every time" Comments: Amateur hour. Prediction: Bomb. [a]

  9. Sunny Seat. Pitch: "The (cat) bed you put on your window." Comments: I didn't make it past the part where it mounts to glass windows or doors using "industrial strength suction cups." Most DRTV products solve a problem. This one could actually create one. [a]

  10. Skedaddle. Pitch: "The pet-friendly way to keep pets off the furniture." Marketer: SAS Group. Producer: Blue Moon Studios. Comments: I like this one. First there was Bark Off; now there's "Keep Off!" If it works, this will be the second time someone discovered a strange dichotomy in the marketplace. Ontel was the first with Cami Secret, since it appears both enhancing cleavage and hiding it are winning ideas on DRTV. [a]

Review: Dual Diamond Scrubber

Description: A scrubbing sponge
Main Pitch: One side "scours like a steel-wool pad" while the other side "lifts, traps and removes food, dirt and grime"
Main Offer: $10 for four plus a "mega size" and dusting mitt
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay shipping)
Starring: Joe Campanelli
Marketer: Merchant Media
Producer: The Schwartz Group
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

There's nothing wrong with this commercial. I even applaud the attempt at a new approach (more on this later). It's the product I think has zero shot. For one thing, Ontel already tried it. For another, scrubbing sponges are a common item at stores across America. That means this is a "better than" product pitch, and that makes the odds of success very low.

As for the commercial, I like the technique of using a skeptical "everywoman" ("Judy") to play off the pitchman. I hope the creative team will use it again.

Review: Swivel Store

Description: A swiveling spice rack
Main Pitch: "Conveniently keeps all your spices in less than four inches of space"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar & Merchant Media
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

If I didn't know the history of this category, I would probably declare this campaign "likely to succeed." After all, the product meets my criteria and the commercial is, of course, solid. It's the category that's the killer for me.

In its broadest sense, the category is "organization." We know some organizational items always do well on DRTV. Closet organizers are one. Shoe organizers are another. But in the kitchen, it's a different story. With the exception of Smart Spin, I can't think of an item that has been successful. (And half the story with Smart Spin was the huge value: The current offer is 98 pieces for $19.99!)

In many ways, I think the market for organizational items is like the market for "germaphobe" items or "green" items. There are millions of people out there who are passionate about killing germs, saving the planet or organizing their cabinets and drawers. But using national DRTV media to reach them is like using a shotgun to hit a fly. It's just not efficient.

Put another way, I believe the mass market is closer to the Oscar Madison end of the spectrum than the Felix Ungar end, and that this sort of product will only get the Ungars of the world excited enough to buy on impulse. (Under 30? Click here now.) That's my theory, anyway. It's quite possible that when it comes to using spices, the activity is so common that organization is a pressing concern. In other words, spices could be like shoes or closets. I guess we'll find out.

On a side note, this commercial gave me a new DRTV catch-phrase to add to my collection:

"Turns any cluttered mess into an organized success."

It's a great line I've heard enough times now to declare a keeper!

November 16, 2010

Review: My T Driver

Description: A screwdriver with super-torque
Main Pitch: "Allows anyone to drive screws effortlessly into virtually any surface"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: Belt pack (just pay P&H)
Starring: Bart Baldwin
Producer: Meltzer Media
Marketer: Harvest Direct
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This campaign meets most of my criteria. The product is different and solves a problem, and the creative is well done. So why the negative prediction? It's the category. With the exception of Bit Shooter, which had a ridiculous premium (a free power drill), I can't think of a successful short-form campaign for a tool of this kind. I think that's because at retail, there are so many varieties of screwdriver available.

I also think it's tough to find success with an item that downgrades from power to manual. This hasn't worked well in other categories (e.g. Kitchen King Pro, a manual food processor, never caught on), and I don't think it will work well in this category.

Review: Walkie Way

Description: A dog collar with a built-in retractable leash
Main Pitch: "The first ever all-in-one leash and collar"
Main Offer: As low as $19.95
Bonus: LCD safety light, ID holder
Starring: Nikki Moustaki, author and pet trainer
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Although I see a lot to like here, I'm pretty sure I've seen this type of product before and it has been tested. I just can't remember the details. More important, the price is going to be a problem. The only version of this product that's $19.95 is the extra small. The small is $29.95, and the medium is $39.95. That means the consumer's answer to my biggest question about this campaign -- Is a quick leash needed enough to buy on impulse? -- will most likely be a "no."

Also, I question whether the spot does a good enough job of engaging people. It takes a long time to get to what I think is the main problem/solution here: "controlling your dog" quickly and no longer "fumbling to get a leash attached." The opening VO touches on this idea, but the visual doesn't reinforce it or make it clear. And the secondary problem in the opening -- "searching for a leash when it's time for your dog to go" -- doesn't seem like it would be a common problem for most people.

November 14, 2010

Review: IncrediBelt

Description: An adjustable belt for women
Main Pitch: "Slides and clicks for a perfect fit no matter what style you're wearing"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one in black with silver buckle
Bonus: 2nd one in brown with gold buckle (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

A few years ago, Ontel launched a similar product called Slim Belt. Since it never made my "bona-fide hits" list, it seems it wasn't a hit. This product is pitched differently, but much of the core problem/solution stuff is the same. So my guess is this product will meet the same fate as its predecessor. Or is this more like Telebrands' Perfect Fit Button, which I didn't like either but seems to have done well?

Interestingly, this might be a better product for men. We're the ones who are known for adjusting our belts, especially after a big meal. And "plumber's crack" is a much bigger problem in our society than what a woman might accidentally show. However, men are only mentioned at the very end of this commercial. That means this could be one of those cases where positioning, one of the three things I believe can significantly impact a CPO, might make all the difference.

Turbie Twist: Old Gold?

Original Hit Year: 2000 (No. 25 on the JW Annual)
Original Marketer: Smart Inventions
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This is a commodity item now, and it's clear that whoever is pursuing this DR strategy isn't planning to get a payout. (At least I hope not.) I'm guessing this is brand support for the stores that carry the product (e.g. Bed Bath & Beyond).

November 11, 2010

Review: Ready Reacher

Description: A telescoping "grabber"
Main Pitch: "The incredible, extendable handy helper that grabs and gets what you can't get to"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: Upgrade to deluxe version with light, then double the offer (just pay P&H)
Starring: Anthony Sullivan
Marketer: Ontel Products
Producer: Sullivan Productions
Prediction: Likely to succeed

I like this one. The campaign meets almost all of my S7 criteria. The only questionable one is needed -- as in, "Is this needed enough to succeed?" Sully and the team hit on all the right possibilities, so this one is entirely up to the consumer.

Ontel has a good track record in this category (see Gopher), so the odds are in their favor.

November 03, 2010

SciMark Report from October Response

Last month's SciMark Report in print is now available on the Response Website. Reviews include: Dropps, Banjo Blade and Clean Beam. [a]

October 22, 2010

Weekly Round-Up

Time for a little "fall cleaning." Here are 17 quick reviews of campaigns that have been sitting in my folder for a while.

  1. Chef Basket. Pitch: "The 12-in-one kitchen tool for dozens of everyday uses." Marketer: Telebrands. Comments: This one could do well. The only problem is the multiple functions. Always hard to get across in two minutes. [a]

  2. Comfy Control. Pitch: "The new dog harness that combines comfort with control." Marketer: Telebrands. Comments: The problem/solution is weak, and I don't think this one is different enough from what's already in pet stores to break through. [a]

  3. Comfy Cot. Pitch: "Raised pet bed perfect for all cats and dogs." Marketer: Telebrands. Comments: The issue here will be perception. A cot is a makeshift bed used for camping, etc. For everyday use, why would a pet owner downgrade their pet from a bed to a cot? [a]

  4. Criss Angel. Pitch: "Over 250 MINDFREAKS that you can perform." Marketer: IdeaVillage. Comments: This is the second recent attempt to sell magic on DRTV (Fushigi was the first). It's too early to tell if the experiment is successful, but this one has the best shot given the powerful brand behind it. Otherwise, I have mixed feelings. For kids, I think magic could have the necessary "wow" to work. For everyone else, the odds of success are low. [a]

  5. Happy Caps. Pitch: "Lock in freshness and get a spill-proof pour every time." Marketer: Telebrands. Producer: Blue Moon. Comments: Many packages already have this feature built in, and this category hasn't been good on DRTV. [a]

  6. Hinge 'N Hang. Pitch: "The instant clothing rack." Comments: Simply "tap out your old door pin"? Ouch. This one is DOA. [a]

  7. Ideal Umbrella Stand. Pitch: "The most versatile and best made beach umbrella stand anywhere." Comments: Narrowly targeted. Seasonal. Weak problem. This one had no shot. [a]

  8. Kickin' Ink. Pitch: "Tattoo sleeves ... let you have fabulous tattoos in an instant." Comments: Wrong demographic for DRTV -- and a sure way to get beat up for being a "poser." [a]

  9. Lift 'N Fix. Pitch: "The ultimate system for fixing your sagging upholstery." Comments: This item isn't very exciting, but it meets the criteria. It could become something. [a]

  10. Magic Crisp. Pitch: "Turns your microwave oven into a magic, food-crisping machine." Comments: Items like these worked years ago, but I'm not sure they have the same cachet today. [a]

  11. Motato. Pitch: "Say 'no' to boring old potatoes." Comments: Sully's pitch is better. [a]

  12. My Scent. Pitch: "Refillable atomizer for your favorite perfume." Marketer: SAS Group. Producer: Blue Moon. Comments: Some women think refreshing their perfume during the day is overkill, so this wouldn't solve a problem for them. Otherwise, the campaign meets the criteria. [a]

  13. Pocket Chair. Pitch: "The chair that fits in your pocket." Marketer: Adam Jay. Comments: I don't see the need for this one. I can't imagine people carrying this around just in case they need a chair. And if it's a "planned need" (beach, fishing, gardening), they'll probably buy something more substantial. [a]

  14. Scrub Glove. Pitch: "Clean easier, clean faster." Comments: Combining two cheap, easy-to-find cleaning items isn't a winning strategy in my opinion. [a]

  15. Vibra Toes. Pitch: "The world's smallest hypoallergenic flexible foot massager." Marketer: Telebrands. Comments: This is a vibrating version of an earlier Telebrands campaign (Pampered Toes) that didn't roll out. I doubt this new feature is going to make a difference. [a]

  16. Yonanas. Pitch: "Dessert anytime that's just bananas." Comments: Know what's really bananas? Trying to sell a $50 product that makes banana desserts on DRTV! [a]

  17. Zip Do Combs. Pitch: "The most comfortable way to hold your style all day." Comments: Hair products are a 1 in 50 category on DRTV. For every Bumpits or EZ Combs, there are 49 failures. I don't like those odds. [a]

October 20, 2010

Review: Big Boss Blender

Description: A single-serve blender
Main Pitch: "Create a never-ending menu of delicious dinners, drinks and deserts in no time flat"
Main Offer: $29.95 for one with multiple accessories
Bonus: Recipe book
Marketer: Emson
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Allstar's Blend Buddy has a better offer and pitch, so if any campaign goes forward it will be that one. More the point, the same challenges apply: The price is $10 too high for DRTV, and a Magic Bullet is $50 at Wal-Mart.

Review: Nutri-Lyze

Description: Poison control for pets
Main Pitch: "Absorbs life-threatening toxins ... buys you the precious time you need to get your pet to the vet"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one dose
Bonus: Free dose of Stable-Lyze (restores digestive balance)
Marketer: Bomac Vets Plus
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This commercial employs a great technique I call "emotional blackmail." (I'm pretty sure I stole that from someone, but I can't remember who it was.) If you have a pet you love, this spot will make you feel guilty if you don't buy the product. Unfortunately, the problems with the product will overrride that feeling of guilt.

The first problem is it's a prevention item and, for the second day in a row, I get to remind everyone that prevention doesn't sell. It's just human nature: We don't take action until the need is immediate. This is especially true with rare problems like the one highlighted in this spot. True, pets may eat things that aren't good for them regularly, but things that put their life in jeopardy? That's either a rare problem or Fido isn't going to be around for very long.

The second problem with the product is it's an unknown, un-branded substance. Pets are loved liked children. Many people get a dog instead of having a baby, and then treat that dog like their baby. This is important to understand because asking a pet owner to give a dog an unfamiliar medicine is like asking a parent to give his or her baby an unfamiliar medicine. All the same doubts and concerns apply, and a trusted brand is probably what's needed to overcome them.

October 19, 2010

Review: Ab Saucer

Description: An exercise system for abs
Main Pitch: "Twist your way to the toned, sexy stomach you've always wanted"
Main Offer: $10 for a 30-day trial (2 pay of $39.99 afer that)
Bonuses: Exercise chart, instructional DVD and meal planner
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: LoudMouth TV
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I like the product and the commercial, but I predict the hidden costs are going to kill the campaign. The perceived value just doesn't justify the ultimate price. If this had been done for a more reasonable price, such as $19.99 or even $29.99 (like Ontel's Iron Gym), I would have predicted success.

Review: Gadget Genie

Description: A bag that removes moisture from gadgets
Main Pitch: "In as little as 24 hours, your device will be mositure free and ready to go"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one (?)
Bonus: None (?)
Prediction: Bomb

I feel sorry for the people behind this campaign because they obviously know very little about DRTV and have wasted their money. As for the product itself, people are only going to want it if they are experiencing the problem it solves right now, in which case even 24 hours is too long to wait (let alone 2-6 weeks). Otherwise, it's a prevention item and I'm going to have to go with a classic: prevention doesn't sell.

October 14, 2010

Keeping Score: Summer 2010

Every few months, I go back and evaluate my ability to predict DRTV successes and failures. I do it by checking my predictions against the charts. Well, now that I've posted the Summer True Top 50, it's that time again.

A few notes before I do. First, I could run up my tally by talking about all the bombs I successfully predicted. But while that might be good for my ego, it doesn't mean anything. As Andy Khubani, president of IdeaVillage, once said: "It's easy to make predictions in this business. Just predict 'bomb,' and you'll be right nine times out of 10."

Second, this accounting will exclude old items that have been running and successful for several years now, or items I have already featured in a "Keeping Score" update. Examples include Shake Weight, Bender Ball and ShamWow! It will also exclude items I don't normally write about, such as continuity programs (e.g.Proactiv, Nutrisystem), ingestibles (e.g. Alteril), kids' products (e.g. Live Butterfly Garden), educational programs (e.g. Your Baby Can Read), coins (e.g. $50 Gold Buffalo), long-form support (e.g. Bowflex) and brand support (e.g. Space Bags).

I know that's a long list, but the industry has gotten a lot more complicated! As my readers know, I like to focus on "old school" DRTV -- hard goods that fit the traditional, short-form DRTV model.

That leaves 25 campaigns. Here's how I did:


  1. Slim Ts (No. 7) - I thought the market was too narrow. I guess I was wrong about that. Men of America, what's going on? You're wearing girdles now?
  2. Crazy Critters (No. 34) - Technically, a 5 out of 7 isn't getting it wrong. But I re-read my review, and I clearly hated the product and thought it would fail. Since I don't own a dog, I was relying on a few dog owners I know for their opinion -- a classic mistake.
  3. Belly Burner (No. 36) - I still think the credibility issues and claims will be a problem, but it's obviously working.
  4. Total Pillow (No. 44) - Totally blew it on this one. I guess consumers didn't see it the way I thought they would see it (e.g. as a travel pillow).
  5. EZ Cracker (No. 49) - I still hate it. America, what the heck?


  1. iRenew (No. 4) - This was a "back-handed" success prediction, I admit. I liked the creative a lot but thought the product claims were dangerous. We'll see.
  2. Cami Secret (No. 16) - This one met my criteria, but I hedged on my prediction because it's a fashion item.  Still, I'm giving myself credit for this one because in conversations I defended its potential for success.
  3. Heel Tastic (No. 21) - Telebrands. The 'foot repair' category. A no-brainer, really.
  4. Sonic Pet Trainer (No. 25) - See Bark Off.
  5. U-Glu (No. 32) - I always liked the product, although it surprised me in that it was a late bloomer.
  6. Bark Off (No. 40) - Telebrands. The pet category. Again, a pretty easy call.
  7. Sobakawa Pillow (No. 42) - I had doubts, but a 5 out of 7 under the old system meant I thought it could succeed. Plus, it had a history and was clearly a bed pillow, so I didn't have the same issues I had with Total Pillow.


  1. Water Jet (No. 10) - I missed it until it was too late and I knew it was doing well.
  2. Tower 200 (No. 11) - I avoided commenting until it was too late because I was focused on a similar project.
  3. Depil Silk (No. 14) - I recused myself due to inside information, but liked the item originally.
  4. Flirty Girl Fitness (No. 17) - I missed it completely. I have no idea what I would have predicted.
  5. Wonder File (No. 19) - I recused myself, but I hated the item originally. Kudos to Fred Vanore for seeing what few did and making this one a hit.
  6. Mister Steamy (No. 23) - I missed it until it was too late and I knew it was doing well.
  7. Solar Animal Repeller (No. 27) - I missed it completely, but I would have deemed it "unlikely to succeed." (I don't get how it's working).
  8. Pasta Boat (No. 35) - This one is a reincarnation of a campaign I reviewed in 2008 (Pasta 'N More). I guess they finally found a strategy that works.
  9. Page Brite (No. 39) - One of my own projects, so I didn't review it.
  10. Kangaroo Keeper (No. 47) - I recused myself due to inside information, but I probably would have been on the fence given I helped launch Purse Brite (No. 70 on the Jordan Whitney Annual for 2005) and know the strengths and weaknesses of the category. Its degree of success did surprise me, though.
  11. Pillow Pets (No. 48) - I missed it until it was too late and I knew it was doing well. I know very little about predicting kids' items or crazes, so I probably would have avoided making a prediction anyway.


  1. Yoshi Blade (No. 13) - John Miller and Peter Hutton reviewed it for me. I'll leave it to them to declare if they were right or wrong.
  2. Bare Lifts (No. 28) - I wasn't hot on the original campaign (Invisi-Lifts), but John and Peter fixed it and made it a hit. Kudos to them.

Review: Tush Turner

Description: A swiveling seat cushion
Main Pitch: "Makes getting in & out of any car easy and pain free"
Main Offer: 2 pay of $10 for two cushions
Bonus: Windshield Wonder (just pay separate S&H)
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This item has been around for a while, and it has been tested in many different ways. I don't think anyone has ever tried this exact approach, but I doubt a clever name and a clever offer is going to be enough to turn a past failure into a winner.

The main problem for DRTV is it's really a "seniors only" product. While seniors represent a significant percentage of DRTV buyers, that percentage isn't big enough to sustain a rollout campaign on its own.

That said, I've always liked this item, and I think it could definitely find a home at retail, especially at drug chains. If that's the strategy, I predict success.

Review: Twice As Nice

Description: A knife and kitchen shears combo
Main Pitch: "Powerfully cuts then instantly becomes a pro-quality chef's knife"
Main Offer: $14.95 with ceramic peeler
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Shadowbox Pictures
Prediction: N/A

The Website for this campaign is already down, so I'll refrain from making an obvious prediction. I only posted this review for future research purposes. Items have a way of recycling.

As for why it may not have been successful, I think it highlights a point about multi-function products. They rarely succeed because the problem/solution is weak. (Aren't your tired of having to reach in your drawer to get a knife when you're done using your kitchen shears? Neither am I.)

Multi-function kitchen gadgets have a particularly poor record on DRTV. The more "Swiss Army" they are, the worse they perform. This one only has two functions, and it has a cool demo. But once you get past that, there isn't much to get excited about.

October 13, 2010

Summer True Top 50

Quite a few things have changed since the last time I published this feature.

First, I changed my sources of information. For example, Lockard & Wechsler is no longer involved in the creation of this report in any way.

Second, I revised my methodology slightly. The True Top 50 will now be seasonal instead of monthly. I think that's appropriate given there are two services already reporting weekly rankings, and my intention was never to compete with them -- just to provide and use the most "true" information possible. Also, I find 90 days or so to be a good way to correct for those marketers who employ an advertising "pump and dump" strategy.

Along similar lines, I am also now factoring both the number of spots aired and the amount spent. It is my hope this will adequately correct for the various distortions that can make a campaign look stronger than it is. As for the reliability of the data, it comes from multiple, independent sources and does not reflect self-reporting of any kind.

All of that said, I admit even this methodology is still imperfect for the following reasons:

  1. I have no way of accounting for marketers who spend like traditional advertisers to support retail. As a result, it isn't necessarily true that a high-ranked item is working on TV in the traditional sense (i.e. turning a profit).

  2. I have no way of accounting for continuity business models where the cost-per-lead can be high because the average lifetime value of the customer is also high. I could exclude these marketers, but I have chosen not to do so.

  3. There is no good way to correct for periods of low response or poor product selection in general. When consumers' response to DRTV programs is weak like it was this summer, campaigns make it into the Top 50 that wouldn't have belonged there just a few months prior. A similar effect occurs when the top marketers are struggling to find that next big hit. Specifically, the distortive effect of the Ped Egg, Smooth Away and Snuggie campaigns becoming post-peak should not be underestimated. Looking at the campaigns where I know the actual results, I see many mediocre items made it into my Top 50.

That said, I accept the chart for what it is -- the best it can be (although I am always open to suggestions for improvement). In my next post, I will evaluate my predictions against this chart and either crow or eat crow.

Review: Secret Glo

Description: A self-tanning glove
Main Pitch: "Gives you a gorgeous, even tan any time you want"
Main Offer: $10 for four gloves
Bonus: Four more (just pay separate P&H)
Marketer: HSM IdeaTV Corp.
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

As someone who helped launch IdeaVillage's Salon Bronze (No. 30 on the Jordan Whitney Annual for 2005), I know a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of this category in short form. In fact, I need to recuse myself from commenting on this one, for the most part.

I will share this: Having forgotten, I asked a sunless tanning expert I know (HT: Ellen L.) about the seasonality of the category. She reminded me that "the season is March through September with April through July being the sweet spot." In other words, my prediction is based on the fact this is launching too late to maximize potential sales.

Review: Touch-Up Buddy

Description: A squeezable paint applicator
Main Pitch: "Touch up scuffs without a brush"
Main Offer: $19.95 for three with three Paint Pumps
Bonus: Three SpacklePaks
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

The problem this commercial highlights was solved a long time ago by the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. That said, this type of product is needed. But is it needed enough?

Years ago, I agreed with our new products manager when she argued that it was. Then a brand company beat us to market with a better version of our idea (I cannot recall the name) ... and also saved us a lot of money by demonstrating it was a dog.

October 11, 2010

Review: Easy Feet

Description: A device for scrubbing feet
Main Pitch: "Cleans and massages your feet from heel to toe"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay processing)
Marketer: Zoom TV Products
Prediction: Likely to succeed

My first impression of this product: It looks like a flip-flop for a fetishist. Then I realized you don't wear it, you suction it to your tub and use it to clean, exfoliate and massage your feet. The further I got into the commercial, the more I liked it (as a DRTV item, that is).

What's not to like? This category is well established on DRTV and at retail with a string of past hits we all could name. Everything from IdeaVillage's Spin Spa to Ontel's Miracle Foot Repair to the recent Telebrands mega-hit Ped Egg has shown this problem drives sales.

As for this particular solution, it covers all the bases, and the commercial even has a charming pitch for kids. The only weakness I see is the odd look of the product that I joked about at the top of this column. At retail, that could be a liability since this really does look like footwear instead of footcare.

Review: Smart Tags

Description: A lost pet recovery system
Main Pitch: "Guaranteed to find your pet within six hours or your money back"
Main Offer: $19.95 for two (with purchase of Lifetime Protection Plan)
Bonus: Pet First Aid Kit
Starring: Dr. B. Voynick, veterinarian
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I've known about this product concept for some time, and I always loved the idea. With the right creative, I think this one could be a hit.

While this creative isn't terrible from a production standpoint, it's confusing and (to use a favorite expression yet again) confusion is a sales killer. The commercial I saw is a 60, which exacerbates the problem. This product, which is really a service, needs a 120 at minimum to explain. It may even need a longer format like a 5-minute or perhaps a long form to get the features and benefits across. On top of that, the offer is also very confusing, leaving unanswered an important question, "How much will the string that's attached cost me?"

Another problem is the lack of testimonials. More than with other product categories, I think emotion is a major driver of sales in the pet category. There is almost zero emotion in this spot despite all the potential that's there. Lost pets are almost as emotionally devastating as lost children for many people ... and that's all the free consulting I'm willing to give today!

Review: Blend Buddy

Description: A personal smoothie maker
Main Pitch: "The world's only blender that mixes right inside a portable sports bottle"
Main Offer: $29.95 for one with color caps and Smoothie Guide
Bonus: 2nd kit (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: The Schwartz Group
Prediction: On the fence

Years ago, I worked on a product concept similar to this one that never got off the ground because of a cost-of-goods issue. But I liked the concept then, and I like it now. Also, while I rarely talk about the strength of a creative these days because most commercials are typically excellent (if it's a top producer) or typically mediocre (if it's a lesser producer), this spot deserves praise. It's excellent. It flows smoothly, hits every note and is beautifully produced. Kudos to The Schwartz Group team.

Despite all of that, I have two reservations about the campaign. The first is the price, which is what kept us out of the market years ago. Although the BOGO offer helps reduce the "perceived price" of the product, the hard price on-screen of $29.95 is $10 above the known price barrier for a short-form DRTV item. Perhaps the obvious high quality of the product will compensate for that.

My other concern: Is it too soon after Magic Bullet, which is still widely available? True, that product is more costly ($50), more elaborate and doesn't have the same exact features. But if the core market for this type of product has it, they may not be ready for a replacement.

October 07, 2010

Review: Easy Shaper

Description: An exercise bar
Main Pitch: "Hundreds of body shaping exercises in one compact system"
Main Offer: 2 pay of $24.95
Bonuses: Four workouts on DVD, one-year personal trainer helpline, wall chart, eating guide AND buy one, get one free
Starring: Tony Little
Marketer: Fitness Quest
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This commercial is a good example of why most DRTV marketers say you can't do fitness in short form (unless you go narrow like Iron Gym or Shake Weight, but that's another topic).

The issue here is the product does too much and comes with too many bonuses. There just isn't enough time to explain everything ... even if you're a hyperactive fast-talker like Tony Little.

And how does that fast talking come across to the viewer? I think Ron Popeil put it best in an interview he did with me last autumn (yes, that was a shameless name drop). He said such pitches "sound like a machine gun" and that the perception is "they are trying too hard, so it’s too good to be true."

Another problem with such commercials is they create confusion and (to use a favorite experession once again) confusion is a sales killer.

For these reasons, despite the talented people involved, I think this one is going to be a flop -- at least in short form.

Review: NuBod

Description: Shapewear for arms
Main Pitch: "Makes flabby, jiggly arms look lean and shapely instantly"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one in black
Bonus: 2nd one in ivory (just pay P&H)
Starring: Jen Boyett
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Earlier this summer, Allstar tested a product similar to this one called Skinny Arms. The commercial starred HSN's Stella Riches and was produced by Hutton-Miller. I didn't get a chance to review it, and now the Website is no longer live online. Given the players involved, that's a good indication this concept wasn't an instant hit.

One potential problem I see is that most shapewear is under-wear, meaning it's hidden beneath clothing. This product is visible and can only be hidden if a woman is wearing long sleeves. It also targets a narrow problem area that will be of less concern than other areas (e.g. the waistline).

However, I think this product may still have potential. Shapewear is a hot category, as the success of Spanx and similar products demonstrates. If I'm wrong about women's perception of the product, which is quite possible, it could find its market.

October 04, 2010

SciMark Report from September Response

Last month's SciMark Report in print is now available on the Response Website. Reviews include: MicroTouch Max, Hex Light and the Just Air Backpak.

Before everyone bombards me with emails about how I've suddenly gone ultra-negative, please note I've changed the star rating system to reflect more accurately my opinion of a campaign's odds of success.

The old rating system gave a number of stars based on how many of the SciMark Seven criteria were met. However, as I explain in the intro to my September column, one signficant weakness can make an entire campaign unlikely to succeed. For instance, we know the odds of success go way down if the product doesn't solve a problem. That shortcoming can doom an otherwise brilliant campaign to failure.

The new star rating reflects these nuances. Four stars is "likely to succeed," two stars is "unlikely to succeed" and so on. I even have the possibility of a wishy-washy three stars, which I will probably use when I like the marketer and the producer but hate the strategy or product.

As always, I welcome your feedback.

September 24, 2010

Congratulations to Full Service Marketing

From Response Magazine:

"Full Service Marketing ... was awarded the second annual Direct Response Marketing Alliance (DRMA) Marketer of the Year Award Wednesday night, largely due to the continuing success of Your Baby Can Read, launched in April 2008. The award was presented in front of an overflow crowd at a ceremony and cocktail event at Las Vegas’ hottest nightclub, HAZE at CityCenter."

I attended the event, which was again hosted by Response Magazine Publisher John Yarrington and Editor-in-Chief Tom Haire. Allstar's Scott Boilen, who received the award last year, was also on hand to pass the torch.

BJ Global Direct (Kymaro, Duragear) and Fitness IQ (Shake Weight) were also finalists. Other nominees included Green Bullion (Cash 4 Gold), Hampton Direct (Twin Draft Guard) and Tristar (Power Juicer).

Vince Update (3): S'leb Suit

Vince just shot a new viral video for Adrian Grenier's
"Teenage Paparazzo"
(which premieres Monday, September 27 at 9 pm on HBO).

The video pitches a product called the S'leb Suit, which allows celebrities to go about their business without photos of that business showing up in celebrity gossip magazines. It features special appearances by Kim Kardashian, Kristin Cavallari, Bob Saget, Mario Lopez, Ashton Kutcher and others.

As a DRTV product, the S'leb Suit is unlikely to succeed. But I can see it doing well in the niche A-list celebrity market.

September 16, 2010

Review: Mouse Chaser

Description: Electronic cat toy
Main Pitch: "A battery-operated fun house that will keep your cat busy for hours"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: Three Skinneeez Critters (just pay S&P)
Starring: Miranda Khan
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

There's only room for one? Maybe. This time the "one" is a "pet" project of mine, Allstar's Emery Cat, so I'm a little biased. This product is different, but it's different in the wrong direction.

The thing about Emery Cat is the fun is secondary to the problem/solution. The primary pitch is it solves a problem for the owner ("a cat's natural urge to scratch can rip up your whole house") and for the cat ("clippers cut too close to the sensitive inner tissue and nerves, causing pain"). Only later is the "playful kitty toy" mentioned.

In this case, that pitch is reversed. This spot is all about how the motion-sensitive electronic mouse will entertain a cat for hours. They throw in a few hints about why that's important (e.g. "a happy kitty is a good kitty"), but it isn't until almost a minute in that we get, "No more ripped drapes."

September 14, 2010

Review: My BFF

Description: Fish eggs that hatch from a tea bag
Main Pitch: "Grow up to eight full-size fish in just weeks"
Main Offer: $19.99 for the Miracle Fish Pouch and fish food (brine shrimp)
Bonus: Magnifying glass, breeding manual, etc.
Marketer: EWO Corp. (i.e. Nancy Duitch)
Prediction: ?

If there is one card that trumps well-reasoned criteria like my Divine Seven, it's what many in the industry call "wow factor." When this card is played, rational considerations such as "it has to solve a problem" go out the window. When people gotta have it, they gotta have it.

I've turned to this "trump card theory" to explain the success of a few recent outliers, Snuggie being the foremost. Now I've heard all the logical arguments for Snuggie, including the one that goes, "No, really! Blankets slipping off your shoulder is a big problem in America today." Sorry, but I'm not buying it. The only explanation that makes sense is people think the Druid look is super cool (perhaps in a self-deprecating way) and that is driving this (almost literal) cult phenomenon.

Anyway, this attempt to bring back a new variation of the 1960s Sea-Monkeys craze may just be another playing of the trump card. (I note with proper irony that these things eat sea monkeys for breakfast.) This campaign certainly has a lot of "wow" going for it. But since predicting what's going to be considered "super cool" is impossible, all I'm comfortable saying is this: It has potential.

Hey, Snugarena!

What do you get when you cross the biggest cult craze of the late 90s with the biggest cult craze of today? Hey, Snugarena!

September 09, 2010

Livin' on the Edge

Trojan is living on the edge and seems to be doing it well.

I hear their next campaign is going to feature an even edgier product. Here's a rough cut. Call now!

Review: Perfect Popcorn

Description: A popcorn bowl that sifts and mixes
Main Pitch: "Sift out unpopped kernels [and] mix salt, butter and other flavorings quickly and easily"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Bonus: Four bottles of seasoning, recipe book & stovetop popcorn cooker (separate S&H)
Marketer: Harvest Group
Prediction: Bomb

This is a classic "solution in search of a problem," meaning the commercial opens with a contrived problem. People have been eating popcorn for generations. I think they've figured out how to do it without breakig their teeth on unpopped kernels.

Here's how these ill-fated commercials happen: Since everyone knows you need to start a DRTV spot with a problem, writers and producers work hard to come up with one that's compelling. But the approach begs the question. Some products (like this one) don't solve a real problem and should be eliminated from consideration before a commercial is produced.

Review: 30 Second Hair

Description: Hair in a can
Main Pitch: "You can have great-looking hair instantly with no mess for just pennies a day"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one bottle (30-day supply)
Bonus: 2nd bottle (just pay S&P) plus Volumizing Mist
Marketer: Howard-Boscher
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I don't have research to back this up, but my instincts tell me that people with thinning hair have shopped everywhere for a solution to their problem. If that's true, then they've no doubt discovered Toppik, the leading "hair in a can" product. And that means this product won't seem new and exciting. It will seem like a knockoff of something that's been on the market for some time. (Ron Popeil's original "hair in a can," GLH, is even still on the market.)

That only leaves one other rationale for pursuing this campaign: This is a value play. However, a regular bottle of Toppik is $21.95, which means the price difference here isn't going to motivate many people off the couch.

September 08, 2010

Review: Easy Reach

Description: A pulley system for plants
Main Pitch: "Lets you lower and raise plants with just a gentle touch"
Main Offer: $10 for two
Bonus: Two more (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Prediction: Likely to succeed

This campaign meets all of the S7 criteria, except perhaps one. It's a great product idea in a proven category presented with first-rate creative.

My only concern is the targeting. You have to be someone who owns a hanging plant to find the first half of this commercial interesting. I'm not sure how many people that is.

Later in the spot, the uses are expanded to appeal to almost everyone. I think that's the right approach to DRTV creative in general: Start narrow and go broad later. The alternative is to muddy your pitch by trying to be all things early on, but it never works. Viewers need to understand what the product is, what it does and what makes it different in the first 30 seconds. That's because most of the spots they see are branding spots of that length. Trying to fit multiple uses into that first 30 seconds is a recipe for confusion, and confusion is a sales killer.

That said, choosing a narrow position also means taking a risk people won't stay with the commercial long enough to see something that appeals to them. It's a Catch-22 that tortures a lot of DRTV marketers, myself included.

September 07, 2010

Quicksand: Old Gold?

New Name: Sifteroo
Current Marketer: Allstar
Original Hit Year: 1996 (No. 5 on the JW Annual)
Original Marketer: Smart Inventions
Prediction: On the fence

This short-form hit from more than a decade ago was originally marketed under the name Quicksand (a better name). Both the key demo and the concept are as cool today as they were back then. Only one cause for concern: A similar item is readily available at Petco under the name Lift 'n Sift.

Review: Couch Coaster

Description: A drink holder and organizer for a couch
Main Pitch: "The first ever portable snacking station"
Main Offer: $10 for one w/ two free tumblers
Bonus: 2nd one w/ two more tumblers (just pay S&H)
Prediction: Bomb

The best version of this idea -- Allstar's Handy Valet -- didn't take off. Neither did the worst version, Couch Commander (#9). That tells me the problem is most likely the idea itself. People just aren't interested.

September 02, 2010

Review: Wrist Pockets

Description: A wristband with a zippered pouch built in
Main Pitch: "Keep what you really need right at hand"
Main Offer: $10 for three in black, red and tan
Bonus: Three more in purple, pink and teal (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Ontel
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Prediction: Likely to succeed

What's not to like? This meets all of the SciMark Seven criteria and is done by last year's No. 1 production company. The odds of success are high.

Review: Sticky Wicky

Description: A reusable lint roller
Main Pitch: "Will pick up anything: dog hair, cat hair, lint, dust"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: Small (travel) and large (handled) version
Starring: An unnamed pitchwoman
Marketer: Ontel
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Believe it or not, I do not object to the creative approach here. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have a soft spot for old-school pitches. Sure, this pitchwoman's is quirky and her humor is a little odd. But it is also genuine and endearing (instead of tasteless or forced) and the focus is on selling the product. To give credit where credit is due, it's the "Vince Offer Method" done correctly.

However, the product and the commercial both have key weaknesses that make this campaign unlikely to succeed. First, the product is a resurrection of an old item (the "Magic Lint Remover") that was a hit in the 1990s. That's usually a good thing, but sometimes these products just don't have the same impact they had years ago. With so many cheap lint rollers on the market (like this one from Scotch/3M), the need just may not be there. Also, the "reusable" pitch has a credibility issue, but I think the commercial does a good job addressing it. Sticking it to a mirror after it was rinsed was a great demo.

Second, and speaking of demos, the commercial over-uses quads and quick cuts. Inexplicably, the demos the pitchwoman does before your eyes compete with -- or are even covered over (!) with -- "pop up" windows featuring other demos. The effect creates confusion because you don't know where to look. By the time you figure it out, the scene is over. In other words, you never really get a chance to see this thing in action, and that's critical for buying it (figuratively and literally).

If fixed, this campaign could have a shot, assuming consumers disagree with my assessment of the category.

August 31, 2010

Review: Soft Super Cooler

Description: A soft cooler that's also a versatile travel bag
Main Pitch: "It's like three bags for the price of one"
Main Offer: $69.95 for one w/ deluxe shoulder strap
Bonus: Reusable Techni Ice (just pay P&H)
Starring: Jeff Mancini, the inventor
Marketer: East Coast Fisherman Products
Prediction: Bomb

"Swiss Army knife" products don't work in short form (confusion is a sales killer), and $69.95 is about $40 too high for a DRTV spot. (For those who aren't regular readers, see this blog for explanations and evidence.)

Side note: This one was almost a "Dangers of DIY DR" post, except the creative wasn't all that bad. I have a soft spot for old-school pitches.

Review: Slimmettes

Description: Comfortable sandals with a nine-degree incline
Main Pitch: "Walk your way into that slim, tightly toned body you've always dreamed about"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Heelez foot balm (just pay separate S&P)
Starring: Cindy Taylor
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

There is a lot of activity in this space because this idea of shoes that give you a toning workout has captured the public's imagination and seems tailor-made for DRTV. We love this type of pitch, and it has a long history of success. My favorite example is Ab Lounge, a brilliant promotion of contradictions ("Lounge around and get great abs!" Hey, it works. People want the impossible -- to skip the gym and have a great-looking body -- and we promise it to them.

There is a lot of activity in this space because this idea of shoes that give you a toning workout has captured the public's imagination and seems tailor-made for DRTV. We love this type of pitch, and it has a long history of success. My favorite example is Ab Lounge, a brilliant promotion of contradictions. Lounge around and get great abs! Hey, it works. People want the impossible -- to skip the gym and have a great-looking body -- and we promise it to them.

That said, there are two reasons why this campaign is unlikely to succeed. First, the market is already crowded and getting more crowded every day. Second, and more important, there are already brand players in the space. FitFlop (great name) and Skechers Shape-ups have the early buzz and budgets on their side.

On a side note, I have to give this campaign a secondary rating similar to the one I just gave iRenew: Potential to blow up. The claims here set off my warning bells, and the FTC often doesn't decide what's a problem until after there are big-money fines it can issue. The good news is the agency will probably use FitFlop or Skechers as its "clarifying example."