October 19, 2012

Fuel Mizer

Description: A fuel economy monitor
Main Pitch: "The new way to use less gas and save more cash"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: None
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Kerrmercials
Website: www.GetFuelMizer.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I used to believe that a fuel-saving product was a lay-up in times of gas-price spikes, and I once spent months actively looking for such a product. After all, it's a painful problem that's always in the news. But when I did some more research, I discovered that the government is a major impediment to success. (See, for example, this Dura Lube action from 2000.)

Over time, I also thought more carefully about the value propositon of a fuel saver and realized it would be hard to convince people to spend $20 at retail (or $50 on the phone) in order to slowly recoup that outlay over time. It's the same challenge energy-saving products face, and the reason they don't ever seem to find success. "It pays for itself!" doesn't work well if that takes months and months.

This product faces an added challenge: It's a 'nanny device.' Most people are already irritated by those dings and bongs and flashing lights that are constantly nagging them to close their door or put on their seatbelt. The last thing they're going to want is some new device criticizing their driving all the time. You're braking too hard! You're accelerating too fast! It's like paying to have a cranky old lady in the car with you at all times.

Perfect Fries

Description: A french-fry maker
Main Pitch: "The fastest, easiest way to make delicious homemade, natural-cut fries in seconds"
Main Offer: $10 for the cutter and recipe guide
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H), Perfect Fries Basket
Starring: Steve Harkey
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Dynamic TV Marketing
Website: www.PerfectFries.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I would have predicted success for this item if I hadn't Web tested a home fry maker about a year ago and seen the dismal results with my own eyes. Apparently, people really don't want to make homeade, natural-cut fries. That could be because frozen fries are so readily available at supermarkets. Or it could be that fries are a guilty pleasure people enjoy infrequently when eating out.

Weekly Round-Up

Ontel employs the 'pro strategy'

  1. Akira. Marketer: Allstar. Producer: Paddock Productions. Pitch: "Japanese precision blades give you the perfect shave." Comments: Great value proposition, but wet shaving is the ultimate crowded category, and I can't see most men choosing this razor over the latest 54-blade, lighted, ultrasonic razor. [ss]
  3. Blade Buddy. Pitch: "Maintains the sharpness of your razor blades for months, saving you money." Comments: This product was tried last year under the name Razor Rx. [ss]
  5. Can Cooker. Pitch: "An updated version of the old cream can, which was used by farmers/ranchers to cook a hot, hearty and homemade meal while everyone worked." Comments: Jeff Foxworthy called. He says, "If you buy this product ... you might be a redneck." [ss]
  7. Dr. Frank's Comfort Bites. Pitch: "An easy and tasty way to help your dog be comfortable and move easily." Comments: Dr. Frank returns to DRTV. His pain sprays were DRTV hits in 2007 and 2008. [ss]
  9. Curvassure. Pitch: "Tone, tighten and firm your butt without exercise." Comments: Although I appreciate the cleverness of the name (pause between syllables and you'll get it), this is a really bad idea. Why? Because of this and this. [ss]
  11. Foot Fridge. Pitch: "The only innersoles that massage with every step." Comments: Insoles are on my list of bad categories. I can't think of a single one that has ever been a DRTV success. This amateur hour project from "down under" is unlikely to be the exception. [ss]
  13. Iron Gym Max. Marketer: Ontel. Producer: LoudMouth TV. Pitch: "Get strong ... get ripped ... faster." Comments: Ontel is employing what I call a 'pro strategy' here. By introducing 'new and improved' versions of hit items every few years, some marketers are able to extend the life of hits at retail. The classic examples are IdeaVillage's Finishing Touch and MicroTouch hair trimmers, now in their fifth? sixth? reincarnation and still selling strong. Iron Gym was a solid hit in 2009. Let's see if the 'pro strategy' works in fitness. [ss]
  15. Moth Blocker. Pitch: "The clear, odorless moth protection that applies in seconds." Comments: A solution in search of a problem. [ss]
  17. My Twinn. Description: A doll created to resemble a child between three and 12. Comments: I'm going to order one of these, and I shall call him ... mini-me! Seriously, am I the only one who wouldn' buy this for fear it would come to life at night? [ss]
  19. No Blade Fan. Marketer: Allstar. Pitch: "A smooth, cool breeze without the danger of blades." Comments: Another 'fast fail.' [ss]
  21. Scoop Free. Pitch: "The world's first self-cleaning litter box you can leave alone for up to 30 days." Comments: This is an old idea (see Litter Maid), and the Allstar hit Sift & Toss (No. 38 on my True Top Spenders list) is $9.99 at retail with no strings attached. [ss]

October 16, 2012

Next Up on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

If you thought Shake Weight was sexually suggestive, wait until you see this! (email readers click here)

Unlike Tug Toner, this is an actual infomercial from Korea (HT: Anderson Live). So let's have some fun writing one-liners for Jimmy Kimmel's next show. You can use the comments section to share yours. Here are mine:

  • If they also showed the models using a Free Flexor, they could put this one on pay-per-view.
  • Rumor has it the producers had to bring in a steel-reinforced couch for this casting session.
  • In the American version, a leering Tony Little will stand next to the models yelling, "You can DO IT!"

You've been a great audience. Don't forget to tip your waitress.

October 15, 2012

'Pitch Battle' on Steve Harvey

DRTV pitchman and super nice guy Beau Rials (most recently of Half Time Drill Driver fame) emailed to give me the heads-up on a fun 'pitch battle' that's going down this afternoon on Steve Harvey's new show (promo above or here).

Beau, Anthony Sullivan and Marc Gill are the participants. It airs at 3pm on NBC here in the greater New York area. Set your DVRs!

October 11, 2012


Description: A multi-purpose cleaning sponge
Main Pitch: "The biggest technological breakthrough in stain removal in years"
Main Offer: $14.95 for 12
Bonus: 12 more, plus 2 scrubbies & 2 shammies (just pay P&H)
Starring: The ubiquitous Marc Gill
Marketer: Harvest Direct
Website: www.BuyShabam.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Poor Marc Gill has gone from speaking French to speaking Ebonics in the space of one month!
(I'm teasing, Marc. You know I'm a big fan.)

Moving on, I'll start with the positive: the creative. It's really good, and it's not just Marc. Whoever came up with the idea of having him start the spot by writing directly onto the screen -- thereby doing the key demos 'in your face' -- is brilliant. (That's assuming it's an original idea, as you never know in DR.) If only great creative were all that was needed to sell a product, this would be a guaranteed winner!

Of course, it's not. And this product will ultimately fail because it has already been done and you can buy it everywhere. As a general rule, going up against a billion-dollar P&G brand is never advisable.

(Author's Note: I didn't bother to address the argument that "this product is different/better" because I have too much respect for the players involved to believe they used that as a rationale for going forward. There must be some other rationale of which I am unaware.)

Triple Sonic

Description: A 3-head sonic toothbrush
Main Pitch: "Proven to thoroughly brush the front, back, sides and top of your teeth, all at the same time"
Main Offer: $10 for one with extra head & stand
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: David Jones
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.TripleSonicToothbrush.com
Prediction: On the fence

Back in the day, one of the fastest ways to achieve short-form success was to identify a successful long-form product and create your own, value-priced version. (I am choosing my words carefully so as not to imply judgment.) Lately, that approach has become less common -- although it hasn't gone away entirely. The Ahh Bra/Genie Bra example comes to mind.

This is another case in point. The long-form success is 30 Second Smile from Ideal Living (formerly Sylmark), which sells for 2 payments of $29.95. This value-priced version has a very similar pitch (get results in 30 seconds, brush all parts of your teeth at once) but sells for just 1/6th the price. A guaranteed winner, right?

Not necessarily. If ever there were a chance to prove the theory that price communicates quality (a dubious idea, in my opinion), this is it. A $10 professional-quality sonic toothbrush should be a contradiction in terms. But the bigger issue for me is that 30 Second Smile has been on the market for years. If there was ever a short-form opportunity, I think it has passed. We'll see.

Smart Sprinkler

Description: A sprinkler
Main Pitch: "Lets you control the spray, so you can water exactly where you need it"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Smart Timer (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Ontel
Website: www.BuySmartSprinkler.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

The problem this solves doesn't register very high on the pain scale, so I don't see this one going very far. It's also out of season now. Otherwise, this is a pretty neat item, and I can see it doing well in other channels -- maybe even at retail if people understood what it was and were presented with the option when sprinkler shopping.

Solar Top Light

Description: A solar-powered outdoor light
Main Pitch: "The wireless, self-charging light that turns on at night"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Kerrmercials/Paddock Productions
Website: www.SolarTopLight.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I will soon be officially 'eating crow' about another light product from this particular marketing team (i.e. Olde Brooklyn Lantern). So does that means I am rethinking my position on the lighting category in general? Not at all.

As always, I follow the 'one is an outlier, three is a category' rule -- even when we are talking about category re-boots. And I've seen no second or third success out there that would lead me to believe the lighting category is back. If anything, I'm still seeing lots of failures, especially when pre-DRTV tests (e.g. Web tests) are taken into account.

As for this specific item, I like it but have had no success with this pitch in the past. People either don't view outdoor lighting as a pressing problem, or they don't trust DRTV products to get the job done.

Pop Arts

Description: A food cutter
Main Pitch: "Create stunning, edible masterpieces ... in just minutes"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one "popper" with 14 cut-out shapes
Bonuses: Recipe book, skewers, tomato corer, strawberry huller
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Infomercials Inc.
Website: www.PopArts.com
Prediction: On the fence

I have always thought that an at-home Edible Arrangements kit could be a DRTV success. This will be a good test of that hypothesis. My only issue is the creative is all over the place. Where it focused on fruit arrangements, I thought it was really good. When it started showing elaborate cookie arrangements and the like, it lost me. Only Martha Stewart could pull off some of the ideas shown!

Other than that, I liked it -- especially the repeated use of "sonic branding" (aka the "pop" noise) to drive interest and make the product memorable.

October 05, 2012

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Codee. Producer: Hutton-Miller. Pitch: "Follow the coded combination of numbers, symbols and letter" to "twist, click and create." Comments: This seems a bit complicated and involved, but the H-M production team knows a lot more about this type of DR than I do. [ss]
  3. Dr. Belt's Back Fix. Pitch: "Sleep well, feel well, live well." Comments: No magic and too simplistic to sell anyone. [ss]
  5. Doodle Gelz. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Producer: Hutton-Miller. Pitch: "Just doodle, peel and stick." Comments: I am too close to this one to give an unbiased review. [ss]
  7. EZ-Sweetz. Starring: George Stella. Pitch: "The delicious liquid sweetener that's truly zero calorie, zero carb and zero glycemic index." Comments: No one is buying a sweetener off TV, no matter who pitches it. [ss]
  9. Micro Pedi. Marketer: Emjoi. Pitch: "Make your feet baby soft, simply and safely." Comments: Great product, but similar items have failed. Also $10 too expensive for DRTV. [ss]
  11. My Pill Wallet. Pitch: "The easy way to store and organize your pills." Comments: There are hundreds of these at retail and in catalogs, and the few previous attempts to market a pill organizer have all failed. [ss]
  13. Perfect Pane. Marketer: Allstar. Pitch: "The new glass treatment that protects windows for up to 12 months, guaranteed." Comments: Written by yours truly. (Watch the spot above or here.) [ss]
  15. Rivet Strips. Pitch: "The convenience of a peel-and-stick tape with the powerful bonding strength of a permanent epoxy." Comments: This is only the second time I have ever seen a man in a gorilla suit used in a DRTV commercial. I think it will be as successful as the first time. [ss]
  17. Seat Pets. Pitch: "Buckle up and snuggle up." Comments: Attempt #403 to hit it big with a plush toy and emulate Pillow Pets' success. It's a seatbelt! It's a pet! [ss]
  19. Track N Go. Marketer: Allstar. "Amazing pedometer records steps, calories and more." Comments: A 'fast fail.'