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
Website: www.BigBossBlender.com
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
Website: www.BuyNutriLyze.com
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
Website: www.AbSaucer.com
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 (?)
Website: www.GetGadgetGenie.com
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
Website: www.TushTurner.com
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
Website: www.BuyTwiceAsNice.com
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
Website: www.BuySecretGlo.com
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
Website: www.TouchUpBuddy.com
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
Website: www.BuyEasyFeet.com
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
Marketer: IDTag.com
Website: www.SmartTags.com
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
Website: www.BuyBlendBuddy.com
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
Website: www.EasyShaper.com
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
Website: www.Nubod.com
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.