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."

August 30, 2010

Review: iRenew

Description: A bracelet for balance and strength
Main Pitch: "Uses natural frequencies to promote strength and wellness"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay additional P&H)
Starring: Art Edmonds
Marketer: iRenew® Bio Energy Solutions
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Prediction: Likely to succeed, but ...

Two words: Q-Ray (ordered to pay up to $87 million in fines).

Or how about three words: Kinoki Foot Pads (subject of a 20/20 special titled, "Ridding Yourself of Toxins, or Money?" and later charged with deceptive advertising).

If this campaign is successful (and it's a great commercial I am seeing quite a bit), I wouldn't spend the money.

(Note: This post has been updated to clarify earlier comments.)

Review: Grease Release

Description: A pan with a grease reservoir
Main Pitch: "Healthier cooking grill pan keeps grease away from food"
Main Offer: $10 for nine-inch pan
Bonus: Six-inch pan (just pay separate S&H)
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

In the post-George Foreman Grill era, I don't think this product has a chance. The "problem" is the Foreman Grill is still on the market in a dozen different varieties (or more). Put another way, this Phoenix (see my Mighty Thirsty review) hasn't burned out yet. When it does, after a while, maybe then someone can make the concept of "grease-reducing indoor grilling" rise from the ashes.

August 26, 2010

SciMark Report from August Response

My newest "SciMark Report in print" is now live on the Response Magazine Website (links to PDF).

For this issue, I did something a little different and reviewed six recent items pitched by Anthony Sullivan, including:

Review: Gone In One Minute

Description: An anti-aging serum
Main Pitch: "Look years younger in just one minute!"
Main Offer: First 100 callers get a risk-free trial (just pay S&H)
Bonus: None
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This commercial goes along fine, and then we get to: "The secret is oxy-gen." Suddenly, it feels like P.T. Barnum wrote this copy, and I'm supposed to be one of those suckers born every minute! That's really the only problem with the commercial. Otherwise, it is well done, and the offer can't be beat.

However, there are also key problems with the category and the product. First, the category is super-crowded with brand-name products. If Telebrands is a brand (and one could argue it has become one) it certainly doesn't stand for beauty and can't compete on that playing field. The only play here is value, but cheaper isn't necessarily better when it comes to this category -- and credibility is everything. On DRTV, many similar products have also been tried and have failed ... Which brings me to the product.

Full disclosure: I have inside information that a similar product was tried recently, and it failed. It's unlikely Telebrands did enough here to turn a loser into a winner, although I do like the positioning and clarity of this version a lot better.

Review: Zone Dancing

Description: A dance fitness program with a device that provides tension
Main Pitch: "The hottest new fitness sensation"
Main Offer: $29.99 for Zone Sculptor and three dance/workout DVDs
Bonus: Bonus DVD and workout mat
Marketer: Savvier
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Savvier knows how to make short-form fitness work, so this campaign has higher-than-average odds of success. On its own, though, the product isn't very interesting. It's hard to understand exactly what it does for you, or how it works. Confusion is a sales killer.

As for the commercial, it's beautifully shot and has a real brand feel (similar to those famous iPod commercials). However, what builds brands and what sells direct to consumer are often two very different things, and this spot sacrifices selling time for style.

August 25, 2010

Review: Safety Speak

Description: Hands-free speaker phone
Main Pitch: "Lets you listen to your cell phone through your car's FM radio"
Secondary Pitch "Instantly finds the best available unused FM station to keep on the clerest channel, no matter where you live or travel"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one with Insta-Mount and screen cleaner
Bonus: Insta-Stick Organizer
Marketer: DevTel Products
Producer: Dynamic TV Marketing
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

All together now: "There's only room for one." Or if you're a Highlander fan: "There can be only one." And when the one is Telebrands (see Jupiter Jack), you probably shouldn't bother to draw your claymore.

On a separate note, this campaign is noteworthy because it is the first from DevTel, a new DRTV company created by the founder of Cash 4 Gold (see news release here).

Review: MagnaBlade

Description: A device that uses magnets to extend the life of a razor blade
Main Pitch: "Helps razors last up to six times longer"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay processing)
Marketer: Magna Blade Company
Prediction: Bomb

I spent a lot of time pursuing a solution for extending the life of a razor blade. It went nowhere. That experience taught me this problem isn't as painful as I wanted to believe.

It seems logical: Big brand razor blades are ridiculously overpriced, and every time Gilette or Schick introduces a new product, the price goes up. But apparently people don't care as much as I thought, or disposables and generics have met the need of the people who do care.

True, Save A Blade was a modest success, but if that's the best we can do on DRTV, this one doesn't have a shot. A big reason is this campaign's claims make Save-A-Blade's claims seem almost credible. Even if it's true that magnets have a positive effect on blade life, no one is going to believe it.

Review: Style Snaps

Description: An adehsive snap hem
Main Pitch: "The world's first snap and hem solution"
Main Offer: 16 for $10
Bonus: 16 more (just pay additional P&H)
Starring: Lori Leland
Marketer: Merchant Media
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I have inside information that a similar product (adhesive only) didn't do well in a test. Although the snap feature improves on the idea, I doubt it will be enough to turn a loser into a winner on DRTV. But I can see this selling well in other channels.

August 03, 2010

Interview: Mark Rothman on DRTV & Celebrities

This is the second installment of my new "guru interviews" feature. In February, I interviewed Travis Gomez from Cambridge Commerce about a crackdown by major credit card companies on certain aspects of the DRTV business model.

For my second interview, I spoke to Mark Rothman of Platinum Rye Entertainment about something a little more entertaining: celebrities ... and how best to use them in DRTV.

Platinum Rye is an international firm based in New York City that specializes in connecting Fortune 500 companies with celebrity talent. Mark has been responsible for developing the firm's DRTV division and is fast becoming the go-to guy for this area of the business.

TSR: Let's start with the misconceptions. What can't a celebrity do for your DRTV campaign?

Mark: A celebrity can’t make your product work in that if the product isn’t effective or doesn’t solve a problem, no matter the name or face you use, it will still probably fail. Celebrities can bring more visibility and credibility to your product, but if the product is a dud then there is nothing the celebrity can do except maybe lift sales a little. But eventually customers will stop buying. If you look at some of the best celebrity DR campaigns, they usually have a pretty good product behind it and the celebrity just lends it more credibility and helps it stand out from the rest of the clutter. This works especially well in the beauty and fitness categories.

TSR: Does a celebrity have to use and genuinely like your product to be effective as a spokesperson?

Mark: According to the new FTC guidelines, the answer is yes. But in general, as with any campaign (DR or not), it should be believable that the celebrity would use the product. It wouldn’t make sense if you had a teen star endorsing an anti-aging cream, an older actress touting an acne medication or a well-known bachelor promoting a cooking device that feeds a whole family. The goal is to make the endorsement seem as organic as possible even though the celebrity is getting compensated. It is important for the celebrity to try and like the product before they agree to endorse it, which prevents them from coming to the set and not being able to work the gadget or breaking out in a rash from your beauty product (it's happened). If the celebrity truly likes the product, it will come across in the spot and make it all the more effective.

TSR: Speaking of the new FTC rules, what effect if any have they had on celebrities' willingness to work in DR?

Mark: It hasn’t changed their willingness so much as it has changed the amount of time and review that their legal team, agents and managers must spend reviewing the deals and the products. Celebrity representatives are very wary of future legal action that could be taken against them and their clients. The positive effect is that you get better contracts that protect everyone involved. Also, when a celebrity signs on you now know that he or she believes in the product and has used it. Obviously the money is still a big factor in getting them to sign on the dotted line, but it is no longer the only reason.

TSR: Earlier you alluded to categories and/or types of products where celebrities make sense. What would be your top five?


  1. Beauty. There are so many of these products out there that if you are a new brand, the only way to get noticed is either to have your spot on all the time or to have a celebrity that will get people talking. You can almost throw acne treatments in as a separate sub-category because this is so popular and has done well with celebrities in the past.
  2. Fitness. Again, there a ton of products out there and seeing a bunch of fitness models show you their abs and bodies isn’t the same as seeing your favorite athlete or celebrity telling you that this is how he or she stays in shape. It makes the product stand out more and usually does not require as big or costly a star as a beauty campaign.
  3. Kitchen products. With the influx of celebrity chefs and the increase in cooking shows, this is a growing category and may even overtake fitness in the next few years. Again, having a celebrity chef or food network star will lend your product credibility and help it stand out. Plus, most chefs will cost you much less than a major celebrity.
  4. Financial services. This category has seen more and more celebrities and or athletes in the last two years. I have seen how celebrities spend money, which makes me cautious about taking their advice on how to spend mine! But having a celebrity definitely makes the average viewer stop and watch as opposed to some supposed “financial guru.”
  5. Household products. This makes sense if your spokesperson is someone you can see doing chores like cleaning or organizing, etc. For example, a TV mom would work well for a vacuum or space-saving device. Otherwise, it's important to realize most of these celebrities have housekeepers.

TSR: What process would you recommend marketers use to help decide if the product should be the "hero" or a celebrity is needed?

Mark: Their budget and their guts. If you have the budget to afford a celebrity, you might as well test it out against the spot without it because that is the only way to know 100% if the celebrity will work. Also, if you think you need an A-lister and can only afford a D-lister, you are probably better off not using a celebrity. But if you can find someone in-between that makes sense for the brand and that you can afford, it's worth the risk. Finding those in-between celebrities is one thing we specialize in.

A lot of times, though, it comes down to gut feelings. That is how a lot of deals are done. Someone feels strongly that a certain celebrity will make the product a hit, and they do whatever it takes to get the deal done. Results vary when doing it this way, but you want to put your best foot forward. If you feel a celebrity is going to do it for you, then you have to try it because if the campaign fails without that celebrity it's going to be costly to mount another production and get the celebrity for a product that has already failed.

Got a question for Mark? Feel free to email him at

SciMark Report from June & July Response

My newest "SciMark Report in print" is now live on the Response Magazine Website (links to PDF).

Reviews include: Flex Shaper, The Little Red Chef and Hear Kitty.

I also neglected to post an update when the the June report was published. It's here. Reviews included: Pet Hair Picksy, Stack Mates and Total Pillow.