November 29, 2012

Weekly Round-Up

The Doorman: Old Lead?

  1. Card Lockers. Pitch: "Blocks scanners from stealing your credit-card information." Comments: Been there, tried that. [ss]
  3. Comfort Smart. Pitch: "Fireplace with exclusive new infrafred technology that heats up to 600 square feet." Comments: There are a lot of these in the marketplace, and this one is no real bargain at 4 payments of $49.99. [ss]
  5. The Doorman. Marketer: Emson. Pitch: "The amazing new portable intercom system that works just like a walkie-talkie." Comments: This is a revival of an item I reviewed back in April of 2008. Although I liked the original product a lot, it never went anywhere. If a revived hit is "old gold," what's a revived flop? Old lead? [ss]
  7. Drop Down Drawer. Pitch: "The amazing, hanging storage solution." Comments: I maintain my theory that with the exception of random outliers (Swivel Store) and shoes (Shoes Under), storage solutions aren't mass-market enough for DRTV. [ss]
  9. ElimiTag. Pitch: "Painlessly eliminates your pesky skin tags." Comments: There's only room for one, and Tag Away is the one. The commercial claims the product is the original, but to quote the great Al Ries: "First in the marketplace is worth nothing. First in the mind is worth everything." [ss]
  11. Metaball. Starring: Greg Plitt. Pitch: "An entire gym in one ball." Comments: I like the product, and I know kettle bells are hot ... but I know very little about the business model for trial-offer fitness items like this one. [ss]
  13. Tailor's Secret. Marketer: Allstar. Pitch: "Pants too tight? Instantly add up to two extra sizes." Comments: Another 'fast fail.' So far, it seems Perfect Fit Button (see #4 under "Got It Wrong") is an outlier, not a category.
  15. Wraptastic. Starring: The ubiquitous Marc Gill. Marketer: Hampton Direct/Lenfest. Producer: Hutton-Miller. Pitch: "The super-smart dispener that lets you pull, press and wrap -- just like that." Comments: I'm too close to this one, so I'm just 'posting for posterity.' [ss]

November 27, 2012

Push Pan

Description: A cake pan
Main Pitch: "Makes perfect cakes the first time, every time"
Main Offer: $19.99 with bake stand
Bonus: 6-inch personal pan (just pay separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This commercial runs out of demos about halfway through, moving from familiar to odd-looking dishes and resorting to strained arguments like "show off your baking skills." That's usually a good indication the product isn't right for DRTV. Add to that the fact most people only bake cakes for special occassions (if they bake at all), and this one is a real long shot.


Description: An eyelash enhancer
Main Pitch: "The eyelash boosting serum that will help your own lashes become fuller, longer and sexier in just four weeks"
Main Offer: 30-day trial (just pay P&H)
Starring: Taylor Baldwin
Marketer: Hutton-Miller
Producer: Media Enterprises/Plymouth Direct
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

My prediction here is based on DRTV history and past experience. Several products similar to this one have been tried without success. As I wrote in my review of Guthy-Renker's Lash Appeal, I think that's because "Latisse owns the market, and it [this type of product] is not DR-friendly."

I mentioned past experience, and that story is worth telling. When Latisse was new, well before any of the usual DR players had thought about lashes, an outside company decided to bring their lash enhancer to market using DR. With a little trial and error, they got it mostly right and launched their test. However, during the testing period a mixed blessing occurred -- a talk show host decided to start raving about the product on her show. This resulted in a huge surge in sales and a ridiculously low CPO (the blessing part), so they decided to push the spending the following week. However, the hype died quickly and the campaign died with it (the mixed part). The moral of this story has nothing to do with lash products, but it did teach me something about the dangers and limitations of buzz-based marketing strategies.

Returning to this project, everything else worked for me. I liked the way the offer was handled ($9.95 P&H to try, $29.99 later). I even liked Taylor's perverted sense of humor (once again) in the opening. If it weren't for the category history, I might have predicted success.

Orgreenic Flip Flap

Description: A ceramic-coated pan
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one, batter pitcher (just pay separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands

I've lamented the demise of 'gentlemen's rules' in our industry before (see here and here), and this is another example.

As I recounted in my most recent column for Response magazine, Merchant Media & Allstar introduced the original Perfect Pancake in 2002, and it became the No. 2 hit of the year. A decade later, at the end of this September, they brought it back with the a new twist. Now comes this competitive product, which is essentially the original pan in green.

A few months ago, this would have been my first 'Dueling Old Gold' feature. But at this late date, it is hard to see it as anything but what it appears to be.

It's a shame, too. Under d├ętente, this idea would have been brought to market via a partnership. And who knows? It might have been a happy success. The ceramic cookware craze is bigger than anyone imagined, and there could certainly be room for expansion. Done this way, however, the project makes little sense. If pursued, it will be more bad PR for an industry that has worked very hard to overcome the stereotypes of the past.

As if the hose war isn't bad enough!

November 26, 2012

Hot in Australia

Apparently, I'm all the rage 'down under.' At least, I was interesting enough to be interviewed for PreneurCast, a popular podcast for entrepreneurs run by business phenom Pete Williams.

If you have an undying fascination with my ideas and about 45 minutes to kill, you can listen to the interview here.

SciMark Report from November Response

My SciMark Report for November is now available on the Response Website.

In the column, I discuss "old gold" and review two revival items: Perfect Pancake [ss] and Back Relief Belt [ss].

SciMark Report from October Response

Although it doesn't appear on the department page, my SciMark Report for October is available on the Response Website.

The items reviewed are: Rocky Mountain Pure [ss], FrostyBowlz [ss] and Dura Wallet [ss].

November 25, 2012

No Slip

Description: An anti-slip spray
Main Pitch: "Literally turns your home into a no-slip zone"
Main Offer: $19.95 for a jumbo can
Bonus: Double the order (just pay P&H)
Starring: The ubiquitous Marc Gill
Marketer: Harvest Direct
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Phil Swift did something that was once thought to be impossible: He took a 'chemical in a can' and made it into a huge DRTV hit. Before Flex Seal (No. 1 on my True Top 50 of 2011), there were only negative case studies. The question everyone has been asking since then: Was it a fluke? Or did Mr. Swift discover something we can learn from?

My answer: Apparently it was a fluke. For my evidence I turn to ... Phil Swift. Since Flex Seal, Mr. Swift has tried three other chemicals in a can -- Blast Off, Foamazing and Slick Fix (amusingly, the opposite of this product) -- none of which seem to have gone anywhere. In fact, the only successful item he's had since Flex Seal is ... Flex Seal in white. It seems there was a good reason for the common widsom.

Getting to this product, that's the major problem I see with it. I also think this is a prevention item that will only appeal to super-cautious seniors, and history has shown there aren't enough such people to sustain a DRTV campaign.


Description: A microwave steamer
Main Pitch: "[The] flexible silicone solution for steaming all kinds of food"
Main Offer: $12.99 for one with recipe book
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay separate fee)
Starring: Anthony Sullivan
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Sullivan Productions
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

As I explained in my recent review of Rapid Red Express, I think microwave cooking is a dead DRTV category -- and even the industry's top pitchmen (Marc Gill in the previous case, Sully in this case) can't sell past that fact.

Not that some of the solutions being offered lately haven't been interesting. For instance, I really liked the Perfect Micro Crisper because the idea of making crispy food in the microwave is novel -- albeit hard to believe. This item has the reverse problem: It's believable (microwaves can certainly steam food), but the food options are fairly limited. The lead item in this spot is a steamed omelet, which (besides sounding awful) should tell you something.

Much of the rest of the pitch mimics Lovin' Leftovers, which flopped, so I don't see this one going very far.

Kitty Carousel

Description: A cat toy
Main Pitch: "Keeps your kitty entertained at play both night and day"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Lenfest
Producer: Concepts TV
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I'm generally down on pet toys for DRTV. Every one I can think of has failed, including items like this one (see Mouse Chaser). That's because the pet category is not immune to the requirements of the Divine Seven -- with the possible exception of price. The issue here: Not solving a problem.

The best pet items for DRTV are the ones that solve a problem for both the pet and the owner. Emery Cat, for example, satisfied a cat's natural urge to scratch while keeping cat owners from the unenviable task of trimming their cat's claws. Incidentally, that spot was also done by Concepts, the experts in 'cat DR' -- if there is such a thing.

The bottom line is that items like these are really just novelties intended for amusement (in the same way teasing your cat with a laser pointer is amusing). Like in some other categories -- hair gizmos come to mind -- there's a 1 in 50 chance you could hit it just right and find a toy that resonates with a majority of cat owners. But those are pretty long odds for anyone who wants to keep their shirt in this business.


Description: Toe-separating slippers
Main Pitch: "Dense memory foam insoles cushion and cradle your feet in heavenly comfort"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one pair
Bonus: 2nd pair (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Monte-Brooks
Prediction: On the fence

This product is a cross between an 'Old Gold' item (Comfort Pedic slippers) and an unsuccessful item (Toe Align) I worked on years ago. The latter was a pair of toe-separating socks (similar to these), so it seems the toe idea alone is not enough.

With this item, even if you don't buy into the benefits of toe separation, you at least get a pair of memory-foam slippers. Whether that's enough to take this over the top is hard to guess.

Rapid Red Express

Description: A microwave cooker
Main Pitch: "The amazing new pressure-cooking sensation that works right inside your microwave"
Main Offer: $10 for one with recipe guide
Bonus: Double the offer, Ever-Sharp Knife (just pay separate fee)
Starring: The ubiquitous Marc Gill
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

My prediction is based on the recent track record of microwave cookers. Every recent example I can think of (EZ Eggs/Egg Gourmet, Magic Meal, etc.) has struggled or been a 'fast fail.' It seems DRTV buyers are no longer interested in this type of solution.

November 15, 2012


Description: Reusable rug grippers
Main Pitch: "Keep rugs and mats in place ... to prevent slips and trips"
Main Offer: $10 for eight
Bonus: Eight more (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar/Lenfest
Producer: Opfer
Prediction: On the fence

Marketing expert and Jack Trout co-author Steve Rivkin says that one way to innovate is to look at an existing product and ask, "What else could it be?" The famous example of this is John Osher's SpinPop, which became Dr. John's SpinBrush and then P&G's Crest SpinBrush, earning Osher and his partners $475 million.

While this item is likely to earn its inventors much less than that amount, it is an example of the same principle at work. Someone looked at the material used to make Vince Offer's Schticky and Telebrands' Sticky Buddy and asked, "What else could it be?" (The team was no doubt also inspired by the bonus item for their earlier hit, GoJo Hands Free.)

Whatever the case, I like the product and the focus. The product solves a common problem, and the focus is narrow (on rugs), which is usually a good thing in DR.

On the other hand, good DR commercials usually start narrow and then expand with other uses for the product that broaden its appeal. In this case, however, there are no other uses -- and that might limit the appeal.

Wax Vac

Description: An ear cleaner
Main Pitch: "The safe and effective way to clean and dry your ears"
Main Offer: $10 for one with 8 tips, cleaning brush
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay separate P&H)
Marketer: Lenfest/Hampton Direct
Producer: PB&J
Prediction: N/A

This item is already No. 15 on the IMS, so it is too late to make an honest prediction. However, I will cop to my original prediction: highly unlikely to succeed.

My (clearly wrong) opinion was that Q-Tips are a 'good enough' solution to the problem of dirty ears -- despite the supposedly dire warnings (which seem to have no impact on robust and regular cotton-swab sales). I was told of people that have problems cleaning their ears properly -- and told of all the problems that go along with that -- but I didn't believe there were enough of these people to sustain a DRTV campaign. For instance, the guy in the opening of this commercial probably shouldn't be left alone with a fork or any other pointy object.

What can I say? I was wrong. I'm not as smart as I think I am. On a related note, kudos to the guy who is as smart as he thinks he is and got this one right (you know who you are).

Weekly Round-Up

(Editor's Note: This posting has been corrected. The original version erroneously reviewed the bonus for the Zmart Switch instead of the switch itself.)

Splot stain remover

  1. Pant-O-Rama. Pitch: "Pants designed to slim the stomach, eliminate muffin tops and enhance and lift the buttocks." Comments: Amateur hour. [ss]
  3. Rotator Rod. Pitch: "The shower rod that gives you the space you need when in the shower and then ... rotates to get out of the way." Comments: This is a solution to a solution. That is, it solves a problem with a new product most people don't yet own -- which is about as logical as it sounds. [ss]
  5. Splot. Pitch: "The instant stain sucker." Comments: This is an over-engineered solution to a problem currently being solved by any number of brand-name cleaning products. [ss]
  7. Zmart Switch. Pitch: "The revolutionary wireless remote switch that lets you control any light from anywhere." Comments: Back when we did Handy Switch with the late, great Billy Mays this was a relatively new concept. These days, not so much. I recently did some market research for a similar product, and it became clear the idea is no longer unique. [ss]

November 08, 2012

Insta Grip

Description: A reusable adhesive tape
Main Pitch: "The fast, easy way to hang, hold and make virtually everything stay"
Main Offer: $10 for a giant roll, mini roll & 2 sheets
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H)
Starring: Art & Michelle Edmonds
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Prediction: Likely to succeed

This one is all about the work that went into the creative. The product itself would probably fail to generate excitement at most of the product meetings I attend. But the creative really sells it, and reminds me of the great work this production team did on Mighty Putty back in the day.

Interestingly, I saw demos in this spot from at least three other commercials that have tested in recent years. None of those products was strong enough to carry a campaign, but I like that this product nails every one of those key demos and more. It's better and more useful than U-Glu, and that campaign had a decent run, so I expect big things.

Speaking of nailing it, the Edmonds husband-wife team is flawless in this commercial. They move effortlessly around each other, feed off each other, tease each other and generally operate as a perfect pitching unit. Kudos to them for the top-notch work.

Heavy Sleeper

Description: A loud alarm clock
Main Pitch: "So loud it's guaranteed to wake you up and get you going"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: The ubiquitous Marc Gill (VO)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

They missed it: This should have been the Marc Gill Heavy Sleeper alarm clock. I doubt anyone could sleep through an alarm that featured Marc's booming voice! And what a great opportunity to cross-sell customers. "Good morning! Marc Gill here for the ..."

Joking aside, I've tested several alarm clocks over the years, and they always fail. I even tried this positioning once. No-go. My guess is this niche is too small, and the category is crowded with too many other options.

Weekly Round-Up

Hug-A-Lots (Attempt #492)

  1. Detail Doctor. Marketer: IdeaVillage. Pitch: "Restore your car to showroom new, instantly." Comments: A second attempt at Crazy Coat with a new name and straightforward creative approach. [ss]
  3. Hug-A-Lots. Pitch: "Soft, comfy friends that give lots of hugs." Comments: People are still trying to be the next Pillow Pets, even at this late date. Actually, this one is more trying to be the next CuddleUppets. I actually like the product a lot, but the timing is still wrong. [ss]
  5. Lock-it Block-it. Pitch: "Burglar proof and child proof your windows." Comments: Fear. Prevention. Amateur hour. [ss]
  7. MaxiBrush. Marketer: InvenTel. Pitch: "Tame frizz and eliminate static with the ultimate adjustable styling tool." Comments: Neat product, but I know of no hair brush that has performed well on DRTV. Perhaps that's because the category is so crowded at retail. [ss]
  9. Nasivent. Pitch: "Anti-snoring device that improves nasal breathing." Comments: Looks uncomfortable! However, snoring is one of those weird categories where people will try anything, so who knows? [ss]
  11. SciRelief. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Reduces sciatic pressure and makes any chair comfortable." Comments: There's only room for one, and Allstar's Forever Comfy is the one. (Or is the seat pillow category like the head pillow category with room for three at a time?) The claims here also seem risky. [ss]
  13. Snap Span. Pitch: "Holds and locks bags open." Comments: A (highly) seasonal product that doesn't solve a painful problem. Prediction: Bomb. [ss]

November 07, 2012

Honeycomb Hangers

Description: A picture-hanging system
Main Pitch: "Hang pictures accurately and professionally in just seconds with no tools"
Main Offer: $14.95 for 6 large, 4 small and 10 hooks
Bonus: 2nd complete set (just pay P&H)
Producer: Infomercials Inc.
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

There are certain types of items I am pitched at least once per year. One (for some reason) is pooper scoopers, which always fail for a reason I recently blogged about. Another is picture-hanging gadgets. But no matter how cool the gadget, the project never rolls out. In fact, this type of item is officially on my 'don't bother' list.

I think the reason is simple: Hanging a picture must be an itch, not a heart attack. Most people have figured out how to do it correctly by now. Yes, it's a nuisance -- but not much more. There is also the matter of frequency. Much like painting, it's hard to catch people at the moment of need. You have to convince them to think ahead to the next time, and preparedness is the opposite of impulsiveness.

I should also note that part of this system is the Hercules Hook, an item that was successful the first time it was tried and unsuccessful the second time it was tried.

On a positive note, I really like the urgency device used about halfway into this spot. A person is shown dialing a phone while the VO says, "Get your phone and get ready to call the number on your screen. There are only about 65 seconds left until the end of the commercial." It's a safe, alternative way to employ the technique that made the line "call in the next 10 minutes" infamous.

Egg Beats

Description: A non-electric speaker
Main Pitch: "The self-powered silicone speakers for iPhones"
Main Offer: $10 for one in blue, pink, orange or green
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay S&H), 2 screen protectors
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Prediction: Bomb

The one doesn't make any sense to me. Regarding the product: Why buy this when you can buy a real kickin' mini speaker for just $5 more? Also, it only works with iPhones. Actually, it only works with new iPhones. Talk about a segment of a segment.

As for the commercial, doing an all-animation spot for an item that is bound to raise questions and believability concerns is a really bad idea. The with/without sound demo is a case in point: It has zero credibility.

I've used this product, and the sad part is it's really neat! There must be a better way to pitch it on DRTV. This isn't even close.


Description: A knife
Main Pitch: "Light as air, cuts like a razor and nothing sticks"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Bonus: Edge of Glory, Serrated AeroKnife
(just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Anthony Sullivan
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Sullivan Productions
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

No single knife has ever done well on DRTV -- except Yoshi Blade. In fact, one of the projects in my negative case study is Sully's own Zasshu Knife, which was never heard from again.

I think the reason Yoshi Blade succeeded where other single knives have failed is because it was a great value play. People were aware of ceramic knives, but they cost $50-$100. I also think this knife will follow the previous pattern and go the way of the Zasshu.

On a side note, it's good to see Sully having fun with his spots these days. Tongue-in-cheek lines like "you wanna cut the cheese" and "great cluckin' chicken" (shades of Ernie Anastos for those of us from the tri-state) may not sell, but they show the pitchman doesn't take himself too seriously. It worked for Vince Offer ("you're gonna love my nuts"), so I don't see why it wouldn't work for Sully, too. (OK, the rubber chicken might be a bit much.)

November 05, 2012

Going Viral Guaranteed

Great news for anyone who wants their DR campaign to go viral: Using this product, it's guaranteed! (HT: AdWeek)

(E-mail readers click here.)

Texas Fry Basket

Description: A deep-fry basket
Main Pitch: "A quick and easy way to enjoy fair favorites"
Main Offer: $10 for one with 50 fry sticks & recipe guide
(defribrilator not included)
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

VIEWER WARNING: Certain high-risk individuals may need to take a statin before watching this commercial.

This is the Chef Basket with a narrower -- and much less healthy -- focus. I doubt it will work for two reasons. One, Chef Basket did more and is only two years old. Two, I think people want to cook and eat healthy. Going to a fair and having fried food forced upon you (at gunpoint, I swear!) is one thing. Buying a deep-fry product and preparing it at home yourself is another.

That said, and yet again, I like how Telebrands rolls. DRTV theory says "narrow is better" and Swiss Army products don't work. Chef Basket is an exception to the rule, but maybe a more narrowly focused version can also be proof of the rule. If so, Telebrands will find out.

There is also a larger trend/counter-trend rule, which says that for every American who wants their burger joint to have a good salad choice, there's another American who wants their burger joint to have the biggest, greasiest, most tasty burger possible. Telebrands will discover if this rule applies to DR as well.


Description: A zit remover
Main Pitch: "Removes unsightly blemishes instantly and gently"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H), 10X mirror
Starring: Someone named "Liz"
Marketer: TV Goods
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

First of all: Gross! Squeezing zits is right up there with scoopers picking up poop on my list of things people don't want to see on TV. Shock value can sometimes grab attention and improve sales (e.g. the pulsating nerve being cut in that Peticure commercial), but it can also have the reverse effect. For instance, and speaking of which, every excrement-related product I've ever reviewed has failed (pooper scoopers, plungers). Maybe the reason is this: Pain sells, gross-outs don't.

OK, maybe I'm overreacting here. The creative downplays the gross stuff and ends up looking more like a Finishing Touch spot. In fact, it wouldn't be a stretch to describe this as a Finishing Touch for zits. The only problem is the product doesn't have the same credibility. A micro-oscillating loop? This isn't exactly a no!no! device.

The problems here are much weaker as well. We're told that using your fingers to squeeze a zit isn't "so clean." We're also told it can make "acne worse" and "cause skin damage and scarring." But I don't think most people think about that or believe it. That's in contrast to hair removal, where the problems are obvious and commonly perceived.

Uncle Freddy's Leather Wonder

Description: A leather restorer
Main Pitch: "Makes old leather look new again"
Main Offer: $19.99 for a bottle and applicator
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H)
Starring: The ubiquitous Marc Gill
Marketer: Ontel
Prediction: On the fence

I'm honestly not sure where I stand on this product. My gut says the popularity of leather has declined significantly in recent decades, but I have no data to back that up. It just seems a lot less common than in, say, the 1970s and 1980s. Less leather means less need for a restorative product, so this product may end up being a niche item ...

Or I may be totally wrong. There is no recent track record on DRTV for this category, so perhaps it is an opportunity in waiting.

As for the commercial, I felt all of the demos lacked credibility. Even the junkyard and horse ranch demos, which were set up like 'right before your eyes' magic demos, came across as obvious tricks. Like soap and water would have done the same thing. And I think that will hurt sales.