July 31, 2013

MicroTouch One

Description: A single-blade razor
Main Pitch: "The modern version of a timeless classic"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one with deluxe case and 12 blades
Bonus: 12 more blades (just pay shipping)
Starring: Rick Harrison (from Pawn Stars)
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Website: www.OneRazor.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This is a second chance for an item that was originally tested under the name Akira. Although I like this commercial better, my thoughts about the product are the same: "Great value proposition, but wet shaving is the ultimate crowded category." And at retail: "I can't see most men choosing this razor over the latest 54-blade, lighted, ultrasonic razor."

I speak from experience. Years ago, I led the marketing charge for an IdeaVillage product called Titanium Turbo. Because of a great value proposition ($10 for a titanium-coated electric razor), the item did well on DRTV. But when it got to retail and faced competition from the likes of Remington and others, it struggled.

The only shot this product has is if enough men buy into Mr. Harrison's pitch: That all those extra blades are unnecessary and were only added to price-gouge consumers, that the single blade is a timeless classic because it's still preferred by barbers, etc.

It's a long shot, but at least it's a shot.

Dueling Stretchy Lids

Review: Stretchy Magic

Description: Stretching storage lids
Main Pitch: "Just stretch and press for a perfect seal every time"
Main Offer: $10 for a 6-piece set
Bonus: 2nd set of 6 (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Mark (sic) Gill
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.StretchyMagic.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Review: Stretch and Fresh

Main Pitch: "Just stretch, grip and press for the perfect seal"
Main Offer: $14.95 for a 3-piece set
Bonus: 2nd set of 3 (just pay S&P)
Starring: Joe Fowler
Marketer: Unknown
Website: www.StretchandFresh.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

My first review of Stretch and Fresh was when the site wasn't yet live, leading me to believe it was a 'fast fail.' It seems this campaign is still alive -- but not for long. For one thing, it's now facing the toughest possible competition and, in this duel, Telebrands has all of the weapons. Stretchy Magic has a stronger offer, the industry's top pitchman and a dominant distribution network behind it.

Loosely speaking, this item can also be considered an 'Old Gold' play because of its similarities to Chef Tony's Smart Lidz. However, that hit from yesteryear captured people's imaginations because it was new and unique at the time. Now that people understand how well the concept works (or doesn't work, as the case may be), they most likely won't get sold again. And since the time of Smart Lidz, big brands like Glad (see Press’n Seal®) have come out with their own solutions to the problems shown in these commercials.

Bullseye Pee Pads

Description: Wee-wee pads for dogs
Main Pitch: "Specifically designed so your dog only pees in the center"
Main Offer: $10 for 30 pads
Bonus: 30 more pads and a Crazy Critter (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.BullseyePeePad.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Dog products, in general, face the 'segment of a segment' problem. Only a percentage of households have pets, and only a percentage of that percentage have dogs. When you get into a situation where you're talking about small dogs and puppies that do their business indoors, you are slicing the market pretty thin for DRTV (a percentage of a percentage of a percentage of a percentage).

Otherwise, I like the uniqueness of the product and the value proposition of the offer. As a niche item, I think it would do quite well.

Strap Jellies

Description: Comfort pads for bra straps
Main Pitch: "They make any bra super-comfortable, and stop bra straps from falling"
Main Offer: $10 for two
Bonus: Two more (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Monte-Brooks
Website: www.StrapJellies.com
Prediction: On the fence

This product gets high marks in the two main areas required for DRTV success: It solves a painful problem (literally), and it's unique. The commercial also communicates these selling points with crystal clarity. I especially liked the "little pillows" illustration.

The reason I'm on the fence: The market for this product is a segment of a segment. Not all women are large enough for this to be an issue. Whether that segment is large enough for this one to find DRTV success is the key question here.

Wow Cup!

Description: A no-spill cup
Main Pitch: "Kids can roll, jump and spin -- and the drink always stays in"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.BuyWowCup.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Gyro Bowl was unique and interesting because it applied the "sippy cup" idea to a bowl. This product applies the "sippy cup" idea to ... a cup. Not quite as unique.

Making it look and drink more like a regular cup certainly helps broaden the market beyond toddlers, but the category in general is already quite crowded.

What DR firms and hedge funds have in common

Too funny not to include!

From "Hedge Funds Are for Suckers" in Bloomberg Businessweek:

One chief investment officer at a $5 billion institution breaks down the typical hedge fund life cycle into four evolutionary stages. During the early period, when a fund is starting out, its managers are hungry, motivated, and often humble enough to know what they don’t know. This tends to be the best time to put money in, but also the hardest, as the funds tend to be very small. Stage two occurs once the fund has achieved some success, when those making the decisions have gained some confidence ...

Then comes stage three — the sort of plateau before the fall — when the fund gets “hot” and suddenly has to beat back investors, who tend to be drawn to flashy success stories like lightning bugs to an electric fence. Stage four occurs when the fund manager’s name is spotted as a bidder for baseball teams or buyer of zillion-dollar Hamptons mansions. Most funds stop generating the returns they once did by this stage, as the manager becomes overconfident in his abilities and the fund too large to make anything that could be described as a nimble investing move.

'The bigger a fund gets, the more difficult it gets to maintain strong performance,' says Jim Kyung-Soo Liew, assistant professor in finance at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. 'That’s just because the number of opportunities is limited in terms of putting that much money to work.'

In my career, I've worked with DRTV companies in all different stages of their life cycle. Change a few words, and the above is a fairly accurate description of those stages. Companies start out "hungry, motivated, and often humble enough to know what they don't know" -- and can never really know (i.e. what the consumer will buy). Then they get hot, and their managers gain confidence. This is when the owners tend to buy exotic cars, giant homes and prime office space.

Finally, the companies become "overconfident in ... [their] abilities" and "too large to make anything that could be described as nimble" moves. This is the phase when companies either start to crumble under the weight of their overhead or get smart and begin to import projects from ... smaller, nimbler companies in the early stages of their life cycle.

The core problem is what Prof. Kyung-Soo Liew describes: "[T]he number of opportunities is limited in terms of putting that much money to work." Or as I have put it: This business doesn't scale linearly. There are only so many hits, and just because a company went 1 for 5 when it was small and testing 20 spots per year, that doesn't mean it can go 1 for 5 when it's big and testing 100 spots per year. Four hits per year may be the maximum, or near maximum, for any one company in a given year -- regardless of the company's size or wealth.

What do you think? Post a comment.

July 21, 2013

SciMark Report from July Response

'Jazzy' Evan Winchester

The print edition of the SciMark Report for July is now available on the Response Website.

Everyone deserves a second chance (except maybe the guy above), but is the same true of every DR product? This month, I explore that question with a look at three second attempts: NY Cones [ss], Party Animals [ss] and Plate Topper [ss].

July 18, 2013

Turbo Roaster

Description: A cooking gadget
Main Pitch: "The new way to cook moist, tender, juicy chicken in half the time"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Flavor Infuser, Chef's Knife (just pay S&P)
Starring: Chef Tony Notaro
Website: www.TurboRoaster.com
Prediction: Likely to succeed

This project nails almost every one of my SciMark Seven criteria. What I especially like is that it's truly different, a high bar most DRTV items fail to hit.

The only weak area I can see is with regard to the needed criterion (also known as problem solving). The need for a solution like this is more intense with larger birds that take hours and hours to cook. However, most people only eat large birds (e.g. turkeys) during the holidays.

Other than that, I have nothing but praise for this one. The demos and comparisons are right on target, and Tony is on his game, doing what he does best. If this one doesn't roll, it will only be because DRTV buyers are fickle creatures.

Solar Bling

Description: Solar-powered string lights
Main Pitch: "Can be hung anywhere without extension cords ... they power themselves"
Main Offer: $12.99 for a string of white or multicolored lights
Bonus: 2nd string (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Kerrmercials
Website: www.GetSolarBling.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

The only time this product would solve a real problem is during the holidays. The rest of the year it is a 'nice to have' item that is far from a necessity and really dependent on individual tastes.


Description: A dog toy
Main Pitch: "The stuffing-free toy with the silent squeaker that dogs hear but you don't"
Main Offer: $10 for the fox & raccoon
Bonus: Skunk & squirrel (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Lenfest
Website: www.BuyHushies.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

I continue to believe Crazy Critters (aka Skinneeez) was an outlier ... frankly because I don't understand its DRTV success. (I also haven't seen a successful dog toy since it left the charts.) Additionally, there is something odd about a squeaker toy that doesn't squeak. And, last but not least, this pitch faces the 'selling the invisible' problem -- or, in this case, 'selling the inaudible.'

All of that said, if the stuffing-free dog toy is poised to make an 'Old Gold' style comeback (after just three years), this project is a plausible attempt.

Handy Shelf

Description: Under-sink shelving
Main Pitch: "Turn your unorganized cabinet disaster into a spectacular solution"
Main Offer: $19.95 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Cole Media
Website: www.GetHandyShelf.com
Prediction: On the fence

I am generally down on organizational products because of the category's poor track record and certain beliefs I have about the mass market. However, this creative moved me from 'unlikely to succeed' to 'on the fence.' (I also want to commend the scriptwriter for his or her restraint. Some have been unable to resist forcing the rhyme when writing lines like the main pitch above.)

The saving grace is the versatility of the product and the potential space optimization it offers. Unlike organization, space optimization has a good track record on DRTV, so this could be the exception that confounds the rulemaker!

Weekly Round-Up

Brand Extension Attempt No. 2

  1. Detail Doctor Wiper Rx. Starring: Danny "The Count" Koker. Marketer: IdeaVillage. Pitch: "Re-sharpens and restores your blades' dull edge." Comments: This was IdeaVillage's second attempt to brand-extend Detail Doctor (Wheel Jelly being the first), but the site is already down. You can still watch the spot here.
  3. Amp Booster. Pitch: "The fast, easy, portable way to pump up the volume on all your mobile devices." Marketer: SAS Group. Comments: Similar to IdeaVillage's Egg Beats, but with a much better spot! Same value question applies, though: Why buy this when you can buy a real mini speaker at Wal-Mart for just a few bucks more? [ss]
  5. Ball Pets. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Fun plush balls with a pet pal inside." Comments: Surprising to see Telebrands jumping into this given the competition -- not to mention this is plush test No. 456,789. At least this one didn't have a cutesy jingle ... although I'm not sure 'kid rap' is much better. [ss]
  7. Bathroom Secret. Pitch: [Same as last time.] Comments: This is a second attempt with a less juvenile-sounding name. My other concerns still apply, however. [ss]
  9. Easy Ties. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "The fast, easy shoelaces you never have to tie." Comments: A 'fast fail.' In DR, the third time is never the charm (see Loafer Laces and Ready Laces). Interesting that Telebrands has tested all three! [ss]
  11. Hair Genie. Marketer: InvenTel. Pitch: "Not your ordinary hair turban." Comments: Actually, it looks just like your "ordinary hair turban" to me. More to the point, these are still widely available at retail and this item is still not 'Old Gold'. The site is down, but you can watch the spot here. [ss]
  13. Instant Vanity. Marketer: Allstar. Pitch: "The easy-to-use makeup organizer that sticks to your mirror." Comments: Another 'fast fail,' but you can still watch the spot here. [ss]
  15. Kevin Trudeau's Financial Freedom. Pitch: "Two national best sellers offered together for the first time." Comments: This is Free Money and Debt Cures in one package. [ss]
  17. Screen Magic. Pitch: "Screens look new in just minutes ... Just spray it on and it's done." Comments: Amateur hour. [ss]
  19. Sleevey Magic. Starring: Lisa Brady. Pitch: "Now you can feel comfortable, confident and stylish when you wear your sleeveless tops and dresses." Comments: This item is second to market long after IdeaVillage's Amazing Arms, and it is $10 more expensive. Not exactly a recipe for success when competing with one of the industry's top retail players. [ss]
  21. Whipper Snapper. Pitch: "The whisk that does the hard work for you." Starring: Anthony Sullivan. Marketer: Telebrands. Comments: A 'fast fail' and more proof that the third time ... (See Sonic Whisk and Better Beater.) You can watch Sully's pitch here. [ss]

July 11, 2013

Weekly Round-Up

Pure Food Porn

  1. Bacon Bowl. Pitch: "The easy way to make delicious, edible bowls out of bacon." Comments: This commercial is pure food porn. The only people it won't appeal to are vegetarians, people on statins and observant Jews or Muslims. Everyone else is going to want to try it immediately! [ss]
  3. Bagillow. Pitch: "It's a bag. It's a pillow." Comments: Unfortunately, it's also going to be a bomb due to seasonality issues and limited usage occasions. [ss]
  5. Forever Lighter. Pitch: "The battery-powered, USB rechargeable lighter." Comments: Smokers are a rapidly shrinking segment of a segment. Lighters of every imaginable variety, including lighters like this, are also a staple of any corner convenience store. [ss]
  7. Icential. Pitch: "The light, flexible cooling wraps with the cooling power of a whole mountain of ice." Comments: This is a neat idea that could definitely find a market. I just don't see people buying it off TV. [ss]
  9. Sit N Cycle. Starring: Dorothy Hamill. Pitch: "A new kind of fitness bike designed for busy Baby Boomers and active Seniors who want to stay fit." Comments: I'm on the fence about this one, but only because of the price. Otherwise, I think a standard stationary bike would be preferred by most. [ss]
  11. Slim Swim. Pitch: "The revolutionary swim wear that will transform your body." Comments: A cross between shapewear and swimwear is a good idea, but one that is already being exploited by established brands (e.g. Spanx). There is a decent value play here, but the price is still a bit high for the DRTV customer. [ss]
  13. Smooth Secret. Marketer: Ontel. Producer: Blue Moon. Pitch: "Removes chest wrinkles while you sleep." Comments: This is a second attempt under a new name. I reviewed the first attempt on Valentine's Day (although I didn't love it). [ss]
  15. StretchKins. Pitch: "The life-size super-stretchy, super-cuddly friends." Comments: More cutesy plush stuff. Hooray. [ss]
  17. Thumper Bumper. Producer: Infomercials Inc. Pitch: "The easy way to protect your car from dents, dings and scratches." Comments: This commercial is visually redundant. It is also repetitious. But I don't blame the creative team: The product only does one thing in one situation, which is pretty much the opposite of what you want when trying to create an engaging DRTV commercial. Perhaps that's why the site is already down. [ss]

July 08, 2013

Dueling Dusters

Magna Clean

Description: A duster, sweeper and wipe
Main Pitch: "Attracts dust and dirt like a magnet"
Main Offer: $14.99 for the set of three
Bonus: Telescoping pole (just pay S&H)
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Website: www.GetMagnaClean.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

Tiger's Tail

Description: A duster
Main Pitch: "The brand new way to attack the dust in your home"
Main Offer: $10.00 for one large & one mini
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Paddock Productions/SciMark
Website: www.BuyTigersTail.com
Prediction: N/A

The main product in both of these commercials is an 'Old Gold' item called Static Duster or Magna Duster, depending on your perspective. And what an item it was! 'Old Platinum' would be more like it if there is any truth to the sales figures I've heard. So will this be a Phoenix that rises again?

Having written the Tiger's Tail commercial (also below), I find it hard to be objective ... at least about the core item. (Side note: The Tiger's Tail duster is actually made of two materials, only one of which is the original 'static' fiber.)

From a strategy perspective, however, I think it makes much more sense to focus on the duster than to complicate things with a three-tool system. I know I would have struggled to fit all three items into my commercial, and it is clear from watching the competitor's spot that he struggled with the challenge as well.

At best, the weaker item(s) take precious time away from the item(s) people want. At worst, no item comes across well and clarity (always the desired outcome) is sacrificed.

Bug Out Brella

Description: An umbrella cover
Main Pitch: "Lets fresh air in and keeps the bugs out"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Sullivan Productions
Website: www.BugOutBrella.com
Prediction: On the fence

I like this concept a lot, but in addition to the seasonality issue it may be slicing the market a bit too thin. The Allstar hit Magic Mesh, for which this product would have been a great line extension, worked on any door in the house. Since all houses have at least one door, the "every household in America" ideal for market size was achieved. But not every household has an outdoor table with an umbrella -- although there may be enough households for this to work. We'll see.

As for the commercial, I thought it hit all the right notes. I especially liked the main pitch, but something about it sounds familiar?


Description: A toothbrush for kids
Main Pitch: "Talking toothbrushes ... come in many of your favorite Pillow Pet characters"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Pillow Pets
Producer: Dynamic TV Marketing
Website: www.BrushPets.com
Prediction: On the fence

This is a cute idea, but it only makes sense as a retail brand extension (if retail-only extensions make sense) or bonus item. As a stand-alone DRTV item, it has very long odds because the toothbrush category is cluttered with character toothbrushes of every variety.

Even if we were to assume Pillow Pets is a real brand with sufficient fans (a huge assumption), there are much more powerful brands out there competing for kids' attention.

Flea Circus

Description: A flea trap
Main Pitch: "Attracts fleas from as far away as 30 feet"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.BuyFleaCircus.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This is another bizarre item from Telebrands, so it must have some solid sales information behind it. I still can't see it working. For one thing, there are tons of solutions to the flea problem on the market -- to the point where this can no longer be a major issue for most pet owners. (The commercial recognizes as much, so it tries to make a weak argument about those solutions becoming less effective.)

Even if someone still had an unsolvable flea problem, a circus-themed solution is a very strange way to address it. The "bug glow light" inside is interesting, but I think the general idea of an indoor bug trap (no matter how you position it) is ultimately a solution in search of a problem.

On a side note, I continue to be amazed at the number of uses for sticky silicone. Not only can it remove lint and fur from your clothes, keep your rugs in place and mount your phone or GPS in your car, but it can also trap small insects? That is truly some incredible stuff!

July 07, 2013

Three Guidelines for Supers

I've published a few lists of guidelines and criteria over the years, typically covering broad topics. Recently, however, I had occasion to share my list of guidelines for a narrower topic: The use of on-screen text -- i.e. "supers" -- in a DRTV commercial.

It's interesting to note that the vast majority of commercials that air on TV today do not uses supers (as we understand them): The technique appears to be unique to our form of advertising. Moreover, having attempted to review every short-form spot produced in the last 10 years, I've noted quite a wide range of preferences when it comes to their use. Some fill their spots with so many supers, you want to check if your closed captioning feature has accidentally been activated. Others are more judicious.

In any case, here are my three guidelines for supers:

  1. Don't use supers in the opening of a commercial. The opening is a critical moment when you are trying to grab attention and draw people into your spot. Even the best supers are ultimately clutter/a distraction.
  3. Make sure supers and audio match. Brain research suggests that when we read words, we actually "hear" them in our heads. So if the audio in a commercial (e.g. the VO) says the same thing we are reading/hearing in our head, the selling message will be reinforced and clear. But if it says something different, the message will become garbled and confused -- or we will tune out one message and focus only on the other.
  5. Supers generally aren't necessary when the video communicates well. Many scenes communicate well with the audio off. In DR especially, we do a great job of showing people rather than telling them, often to the point where audio is unnecessary. Whenever a scene achieves that aim, a super again becomes unnecessary clutter.

To stimulate further thought and conversation, I solicited feedback from a few of the industry's True Top Producers, which I have reproduced below:

John Miller & Peter Hutton, Hutton-Miller

"Overall, your rules for supers are spot on. One of the other rules to which we adhere is that no more than 60% of the spot should have supers in it. However, our methodology is more about how the spot is written and shot. The supers act to support that. The product is the star of the show, not the supers.

"A good DR spot, or spot in general, should be able to sell you with your eyes closed because the writing is so good. Or sell you if there were no sound because the visuals convey the message so well. The supers are the last thing we do as reinforcements of a written or visual point. And, so as not to draw your eyes away from key visuals, we rarely add effects to supers. We make them static. We also place them so that they guide your eyes to the image we want to be reinforced."

Fred Paddock & Steve Zeoli, Paddock Productions

"Our philosophy is, 'Say a duck, see a duck.' That is, the picture needs to show what the announcer is saying. When supers are used, they should 'enhance and remind' to further illustrate something. Too many supers can end up confusing the primary messaging."

Derek Schwartz, The Schwartz Group

"The only thing I may add is when performing a full demonstration in a spot, we try not to support it with supers so as not to distract from the demo. If we do, we make sure it does not touch any part of the demo that’s in action. Also, we add a lot more supers in our long-form shows (and the spots within the show) than we do in our short-form spots."

Fred Vanore, Blue Moon Studios

"I agree with most of what you are saying. I believe that some video needs to be watched to get the full benefit of the demonstration. In those cases, I'm a firm believer in no supers.

"As for the supers matching exactly what the voice-over says, I differ on this. Sometimes the voice-over is more complex than can be easily supered, but you still want to re-confirm the point in some way -- as long as it doesn't become a distraction from viewing the demonstration.

"One other point: Some commercials have far too many supers. The spot becomes a reading exercise, and the visual message is lost."

What's your opinion? Post a comment here.

July 03, 2013

Sneak a Poo

Description: An odor-prevention spray
Main Pitch: "Stops the smell so no one can tell"
Main Offer: $10 for a 2-oz bottle & free travel bottle
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay S&H)
Starring: Debi Marie
Marketer: For Life Products
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Website: www.SneakAPoo.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This is the best handling of this subject I've ever seen in a DRTV creative -- by far. (See here for the worst handling.) That's no surprise given this is the same brilliant team that brought us the One Massager commercial, another example of a delicate subject handled with expert care. I only have one complaint, and that's the name: It tries to be cute but ends up sounding juvenile.

As for the product and the project in general, I have to go with my 's--t solutions don't sell' theory yet again (see #11) and predict failure for this one. Backing up my opinion is the crappy (heh, heh) category history. In DR, the third time is never the charm -- and both Sully's FREE! and Just A Drop (which I am 90% sure was tested on DRTV) flopped.

EZ Glass

Description: A cleaning cloth
Main Pitch: "The world's first super microfiber"
Main Offer: $10 for 3 large & 3 small
Bonus: 2nd set (just pay P&H)
Starring: Beau Rials
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Bluewater
Website: www.GetEZGlass.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

This is another example of a great commercial for a not-so-great product. Since Vince Offer's ShamWow!, numerous attempts have been made to find the next hit cleaning cloth. All have failed, proving ShamWow! was probably an outlier and not a category.

That said, it's hard to make a final call on that score because few have pursued cloths with the super-absorbency pitch of Vince's famous orange shammy. For some reason, marketers prefer the 'cleans with just water' approach even though it has never worked on DRTV (for reasons I explained when Marc Gill tried a similar product last year).

Back to the commercial, I really liked Beau's pitch work and the demos, especially the one inside the car looking out at the viewer through the windshield (see above). Nicely done!

Perfect Paws

Description: A pet cleaning glove
Main Pitch: "Cleans paws in seconds"
Main Offer: $10 for a pair
Bonus: 2nd pair (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Website: www.BuyPerfectPaws.com
Prediction: Unlikely to succeed

The only solution to the problem of muddy paws that ever went anywhere was Ontel's Clean Step Mat, and that had other uses. Paw cleaning alone has failed every time -- and everything from wipes to fancy contraptions has been tested.

This also claims to be able to dry a dog after a bath or rain shower. But unless you have a tiny dog, a towel is going to be much more effective.