July 30, 2010

Vince Update (2): LiLo 'n Vince

TMZ is reporting that Lindsay Lohan will play "a gun-toting Marilyn Monroe" in the upcoming re-release of Vince Offer's Underground Comedy Movie.

First Eminem and now LiLo ... Vince sure does know how to generate buzz!

July 28, 2010

MMA: The New Trend in SF Fitness

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is one of the fast growing sports in America. UFC pay-per-view events now routinely beat both WWE and boxing events in terms of revenue generated ... and the DRTV industry has taken note.

It's now clear that despite its high price point, Body By Jake's Tower 200 -- starring UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture -- is a bona-fide hit. It was No. 9 on the April True Top 50 (although it did not appear on the May chart). As a result, DRTV marketers are trying to replicate its success, looking to find their own "Randy" to help them succeed in the burgeoning short-form men's fitness category, which I believe is fueled by the MMA crowd even when its heroes do not pitch the product.

Two new examples of this trend are Ontel's Iron Arms, starring UFC nice-guy Rich Franklin, and something called the Body Action System from MMA veteran Bas Ruten.

Ontel's item is a line extension of Iron Gym. It was produced by Annika Kielland's LoudMouth TV, the same shop that did the aforementioned hit, and is another example of her fine work in fitness. As for the product, the positives are that it's unique and costs just $19.99 -- well below what seems to be the impulse-price threshold for this category.

The only negative is the product is focused on just one part of the body: the forearms. In one sense, the strategy is laudable. Most marketers tend to play it safe when it comes to short-form fitness and target only the abs/core. But while this focus has produced many hits, it keeps getting harder to come up with something people haven't heard before.

These days, in fact, the hits tend to be items that focus on new parts of the body. BodyRev's Perfect Pushup comes to mind, as does Fitness IQ's Shake Weight. These winners also demonstrate that a narrower focus is needed in short-form to succeed, which makes sense given the limited amount of time available to explain the product. But the focus of Iron Arms may be too narrow. Getting a firm chest and toned arms is one thing, but how many people want stronger forearms?

At the other end of this spectrum is the Bas Ruten item. It is expensive (starting at $299.99) and the focus is a full-body workout. However, I think it will have less appeal than similar fitness items because it's a large contraption. It also seems to be primarily for people who want to learn martial arts as opposed to just getting in shape. I suppose the theory is this could be the next Tae Bo, but Bas Ruten is no Billy Blanks. His bicep-kissing shtick will only appeal to a certain segment of the male population.

So is going "MMA" the new way to ensure DRTV success in the fitness category? Only time will tell, and I for one will be watching closely.

AJ on Wendy Williams

AJ went on The Wendy Williams Show today to showcase some recent DRTV products. Items presented (in order) were:

July 27, 2010

Interpreting the News

According to the Associated Press:

With unemployment stuck near 10 percent and the stock market having wiped out gains made early this year, Americans are skittish about spending. A continuing stream of sobering economic data — from disappointing job figures in May and June to weak housing numbers — is increasing worries that the economic recovery is stalling just as government stimulus programs are disappearing.

One component of the Consumer Confidence Index, which measures how people feel now about the economy now, declined to 26.1, from 26.8. The other barometer, which measures respondent's outlook over the next six months, declined to 66.6, from 72.7 last month.

The index — which measures how shoppers feel about business conditions, the job market and the next six months — had been recovering fitfully since hitting an all-time low of 25.3 in February 2009.

The full story is here.

I asked Dick Wechsler, CEO of Lockard & Wechsler Direct, for his take on what appeared to be sobering news for our industry. I asked: How will this affect our business this quarter and next?

Dick replied:

My feeling is that this is old information. The pickup in response that we’ve seen since early July is a real indication that consumer confidence is finally on the rise. While the media market is a leading economic indicator, consumer confidence is a lagging one.

Over the past year, the DRTV world has been caught in a double whammy. High rates from a robust media market, an early indicator of recovery, coupled with low consumer response from a lack of confidence has made it extremely difficult to scale campaigns. July brought a major improvement in consumer response.

While rates remain high, improved confidence and response have allowed more campaigns to achieve efficient scale.

Here's hoping this positive trend continues.

ERA Awards Change Name, Approach

The ERA just announced that it has renamed its annual awards the "ERA Moxie Awards" and that, for the first time, it will feature a "People's Choice Category."

New this year, YOU get to decide who has the best short form AND long form infomercials of the year. Between now and August 6, vote for your favorite in the People's Choice Category.

What a novel idea. At the risk of sounding egocentric, I wonder if it has anything to do with my criticism of last year's nominees and subsequent praise of the DRMA event? I certainly wasn't alone in my thinking.

So why "Moxie Awards"? According to the ERA release:

The word “moxie” suggests energy, initiative, determination, skill and the ability to face challenges with spirit and courage—all characteristics that embody the DR marketing industry.

For you Mainers out there, it's also a popular brand of soft drink, which I happen to like and from which the word derives.

On a side note, both the soft drink and the term are antiquated. Appropriate? I report; you decide.

July 26, 2010

Moving Men: Old Gold?

Current/Original Marketer: Telebrands
Original Hit Year: 2001 (No. 41 on the JW Annual)
Website: www.BuyMovingMen.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

With products such as EZ Sliders a staple at big chains like Bed Bath & Beyond, this item won't be different enough to motivate an impulse purchase.

Dangers of DIY DR (4)

What the ..?

Oh yeah, it's also $69.90 for one.

You can watch the commercial here.

July 19, 2010


Description: A ozone-generating device that freshens and deodorizes clothing
Main Pitch: "It's like having a dry cleaner in your closet"
Main Offer: Free for 30 days
Bonus: Wrinkle remover, accessory bag for shoes, pillow sanitizer, 12 scent neutralizers
Marketer: Ambitious Ideas
Website: www.FreshCloz.com
Prediction: Bomb

The two best arguments for this product, in the words of the campaign's Website, are:

  1. "Reduces the high cost of professional dry cleaning"
  2. "Doesn't contain Perchloroethylene (Perc.) commonly used by dry cleaners"

Argument No. 1 is the only one that has a shot of turning the average viewer into a buyer. The problem is the product itself is "high cost," especially for an impulse purchase. A "free" trial fools no one these days. People know there's a big credit card hit coming, and the first thing they do is check to see what it will be (in this case, $79.95 on top of $14.95).

Moreover, if people liked the idea of dry cleaning at home to save money, they would buy P&G's Dryel. But a quick search online shows that item is hard to find at retail.

As for argument No. 2, only a minority knows what Perchloroethylene is or cares about what it does (it may cause cancer). But as I have explained in earlier postings, such people (like the so-called "Greens") cannot be reached efficiently using mass media.

There is no other good argument for this product except perhaps the convenience of "instantly" (in 40 minutes) freshening a garment you want to wear. But then, the last-minute types who would need this the most are unlikely to think ahead enough to purchase this device and set it up in their closet "just in case."

July 13, 2010

Inventor's Day at Telebrands

Today I attended Telebrands’ "Inventor’s Day" as a member of the press. I hadn't been to the event before, so I was curious to check it out in person.

Most of the media will report the event the same way. The quirky people and odd inventions will get all the press. But I'm taking a different approach I think is more appropriate for my readers.

Below are 10 items that were presented during the morning session. Let's all pretend we're on AJ's panel of decision-makers and have to help him make the call. Your choices are "pass," "fail" or "maybe." What would you decide? At the end, I will share AJ's opinion and my own.

  1. Woofy Mitt (see above, upper right). This item was presented by two ladies from Lake Tahoe. It is essentially a better oven mitt. It goes over your first two fingers and your thumb and allows for better dexterity than a mitt. "In the service industry, everybody loves it," one of the ladies said.
  2. Split Decision Blanket. Some people come well prepared to pitch a DRTV company. These ladies dressed in pajamas, brought an air mattress and even played a testimonials reel they had put together. The press ate it up. The item is a blanket for married couples that splits evenly down the middle if someone tries to hog the blanket (it's held together with magnets).
  3. Double Bake Pan. A dad and son from Michigan presented this item. It allows you to bake a cake and cupcakes in the same pan at the same time.
  4. Sock Angel. Another well-prepared presenter, this lady from Chicago had even mocked up her own packaging. The product is a mesh bag with a zipper that keeps a pair of socks together in the wash. It also has a protruding label that is used to identify the socks by color, owner, etc.
  5. Canned Food Press. A couple from Massachusetts pitched this item, which opens and drains canned meat. You simply put the can in the device and press down. The main use is for removing the water from cans of tuna. According to the inventor, some two millions cans of tuna are sold per day. He also revealed that he lost 20 pounds on a diet that involved eating lots of tuna, and the daily annoyance of pressing his tuna dry by hand is what drove him to invent the product.
  6. Hidden TP (see above, upper left). Toilet paper rolls are unsightly and invite kids and pets to make a mess, so this couple from Indianapolis invented a toilet paper storage unit you install in your wall. It keeps the roll out of sight until you need it, and it comes in several sports and kids' themes. The inventors said it sold like crazy outside a Colts game last season.
  7. Bottle Buddy. From the former home of LeBron James and the current home of the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum and, according to AJ, deep-fried pickles (Akron, Ohio) comes this device for getting every last ounce of value out of your purchases. Here's a summary version of the pitch: Hate throwing away that detergent bottle when you just know there's more product inside? Simply put the bottle upside-down on this special stand and let gravity go to work. You'll be amazed at how much product the special cup collects in just 12 hours! The inventor said she left a bottle of lotion on the stand for 24 hours and got a full collection cup, or what she calculated was 13.8% of the bottle's contents she might otherwise have thrown away.
  8. Quick Alarm. If someone breaks the window of your car, you may learn the hard way that most car alarms won't go off. The normal solution is something the inventor called a "bump alarm," but he said they cost $1,200 or more. This is the $19.99 version of the product. It goes off when there's a loud noise or when it's bumped. The sensitivity can be adjusted. The inventor is from Houston and owns 13 electronic video game stores. He had some mall pitchmen sell the item at kiosks one weekend, and it blew out.
  9. Steam Genie Pro (see above, lower right). This item keeps a section of mirror clear when the rest gets steamed up from the shower. It's a circle that simply clings to the glass by static attraction. You peel it off when you're done showering, and then you can shave, put on makeup, etc. The couple who pitched the item brought a clothes steamer and mirror to demonstrate that the item works, which is does. The product was also completely developed with finished packaging and even a storage case.
  10. Picture Pages (see above, lower left). Last but not least is this item from a couple based near Ann Arbor, Michigan. In a nutshell, it's a hanging picture album. The pages are embedded with magnets, so the album stays open to the place you want. This one even comes with a slogan: "As life changes, you turn the pages."

OK, so what do you think? Which ones should go to the next stage, and which ones shouldn't? Any "maybe" items?

In an interview during lunch, AJ expressed definite interest in two items: Steam Genie Pro and Picture Pages. He was on the fence about Woofy Mitt, Hidden TP and the Quick Alarm.

As for me, I would have asked for more information on just two items: The Quick Alarm and Picture Pages. I think the former item has many more applications than the inventor mentioned and the latter item is just one of those products women will like. That said, only Quick Alarm solves a real problem, and it's a prevention item.

Feel free to post a comment and let me know what you think.

CORRECTION: May True Top 50 Revised

Because of how TNS presents information, campaigns airing different commercials at the same time appear multiple times on a report. This led to two "repeats" (HT: Bob K.) on the original version of the May True Top 50.

The error has since been corrected. The highest-ranked commercial stayed and the lower-ranked commercial was removed from the chart. That opened up two slots, so Plaque Attack has re-joined the Top 50 as No. 49, and Ab Circle Pro has re-joined as No. 50. Both items have slipped in the rankings, month over month. The former was No. 34 and the latter was No. 44 in April.

Looking at the chart in this new light, Little Giant Blueberry, which we had listed as "NR" originally, did appear on the chart in April. It was No. 46. That means the campaign is on the rise, moving up 14 spots to No. 32.

This same confusion had a minor effect on April's chart as well, which has also been updated. The single change: The lower-ranked version of one campaign that appeared twice was removed, and Lipozene entered the Top 50. That means that campaign is also on the rise, up eight spots to No. 42 in May.

We'll try to make sure the True Top 50 is more "true" in the future!

July 12, 2010

May True Top 50

By Eddie Wilders
Research Director, Lockard & Wechsler Direct

(Editor's Note: This posting has been corrected.)

The May rankings are finally out, and there was a bit of a shift at the top of the rankings. Proactiv and Bowflex flip-flopped the top spots, while Your Baby Can Read remained in the number three slot.

Other campaigns in the Top 10 were Live Butterfly Garden (which jumped from 27 to 4), EZ Cracker (improving from 11 to 7), Uglu (entering at 9 from 23) and Pet Zoom (moving six spots from 16 to 10).

Looking at the Top 20, Topsy Turvy slipped from 6 to 12, while Depil Silk moved up from 17 to 13. Pillow Pets showed some life as well, moving from 31 to 16, while Wandarama fell from 10 to 20. Rounding out the Top 20 were two products that didn't even make the Top 50 in April: Mighty Fixit at 18, and Space Bag to Go at 19.

Other new entrants to the Top 50 in May included Total Pillow at 31, Page Brite at 33, Slim Ts at 39 and Bark Off at 47. Quite a few campaigns also slipped on the charts, including Flirty Girl Fitness (from 18 to 28), Yoshi Blade (15 to 35), Bareminerals (30 to 41), Perfect Fit Button (28 to 43), Bullet Express (35 to 45), and Lee Majors Bionic (37 to 46).

As always, these rankings are based solely on TV household GRP delivery as reported by TNS Media Intelligence.

July 06, 2010

Review: Literoo

Description: A multi-function worklight
Main Pitch: "A flashlight, a clamp light and it stands up to become a utility light"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay separate P&H)
Starring: David Dodd
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Marketer: Allstar
Website: www.Literoo.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

The only reason I can't predict success for this campaign is the same 'category confusion' issue I mentioned in my Flashlight Man review. When it comes to creative, however, the two campaigns couldn't be more different.

This is a quality commercial with great demos and a gem of a new spokesman who reminds me of the late Matt Lattimore. As I wrote in my other review, if the Telebrands campaign has to compete on creative, it will be at a distinct disadvantage.

This product is also superior, probably enough to command the $5 higher price point. Due in no small part to its name, Flashlight Man seems like a toy by comparison.

Review: Flashlight Man

Description: A multi-function worklight
Main Pitch: "A powerful triple LED tripod light ... head swivels and rotates a full 360 degrees"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay separate S&H)
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.FlashlightMan.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Like the movie business, our industry sometimes gets stuck on a theme. But unlike with disaster pictures or (to be more current) spy movies, cost is not a barrier to entry -- and that means everyone gets to take their shot. Normally, someone establishes dominance early and the "only room for one" rule keeps the smarter players out of the market. However, sometimes no one establishes dominance, and we see a trend like the one we are seeing here.

It has happened before. In the summer of 2006, everyone tried their hand at a stick-up lighting solution. Telebrands led with the Stick-Up Bulb, and Ontel followed with Stick 'N Click.  Both enjoyed some success, so many others tried as well. However, none were able to gain ground against those two retail powerhouses (Ontel's product is still widely available).

Now we see a new trend in "task" lighting. It started with Widget Light, then Flexi-Brite and Hug Light. Now there's this tripod light and Allstar's Literoo. The former three are small and flexible lights with a wider range of uses, and the latter two are more durable and workshop focused. But I put them all in the same general category because, if you watch the commercials, many of the demos are the same.

So who will establish dominance? There are two answers that come to mind.

The non-cynical answer: Whoever has the commercial that catches on with consumers. This "first in the mind" theory reflects a strong belief in the power of creative. If Telebrands must compete on this playing field, they are at a disadvantage here. Their creative is weak in comparison with Flexi-Brite, Literoo and Hug Light. They are attempting a technique that never works in DR (anthropomorphizing the product) and using the 'bare bones' production method for which they have become known. There is no comparison with the fully baked, marketing-savvy creative of Hutton-Miller or Blue Moon Studios.

Then there's the cynical answer: Whoever can persuade retailers their item is going to be the "hot" item in fourth quarter and secure the retail shelf space first. Here Telebrands has more than a fighting chance.

As for my prediction, I am going with answer No. 3 ... no one. I think there is too much confusion in the marketplace right now, and confusion is always a sales killer. My guess is all the activity and the time of year (summer doldrums) will produce tepid results for everyone. No one product will be a runaway winner with consumers, so the smart players will move on and the less-than-smart players will try to force a boulder up a hill. If someone makes it to fourth quarter retail, it will not be in a big way.

July 04, 2010

AJ & Sully on what makes America great

AJ and Sully both appeared on a Fox News Channel special over the weekend. Hosted by John Stossel, "What's Great About America" covered a range of topics, including entrepreneurship in America:

TV pitchman Anthony Sullivan is from Britain, but he says his business didn’t thrive there.

“I found in England if there’s 10 reasons you could do something, there’s 20 reasons why you couldn’t do it you shouldn’t do it, ” says Sullivan. “I found in the states that people will give you a shot” ...

“I have started businesses in the UK and India. It takes at least a month or more just to open doors,” A. J. Khubani, president of TeleBrands says.

More on Stossel's blog.