December 30, 2014

Rounding Out the Year

  1. Mighty Ratchet. Starring: Beau Rials. Marketer: TV Goods. Pitch: "Nothing’s ever too tight or too hard to tighten because you can use both hands." Comments: I like tools, and I especially like Beau Rials pitching tools. He does an excellent job here again. Unfortunately, though, the tool category hasn’t been a reliable source of winners for some time. Even the few hits have struggled to maximize their sales potential at retail. [ss]
  3. dualBeats. Marketer: InvenTel. Pitch: "High fidelity headphones with a dual purpose." Comments: This is 'following' taken too far. It won't be the following of IdeaVillage's Flips Audio that will be the biggest problem. It will be the following of a mega-brand's trademark too closely. As I've written, predicting the future isn't always difficult. [ss]
  5. Lil Lamps LED. Starring: Anthony Sullivan. Pitch: "The little lamp that lights up a big space." Comments: This is a mini version of an Old Gold item that was rolled out twice by Telebrands, the first time as Stick-Up Bulb (2006-2007) and the second time as InstaBulb (2012-2013). For those keeping score at home, that could be considered a five-year repeat. Even if that's confirmed, this product (while cool and different) is being tried too soon. [ss]
  7. NanoGlide Pro. Marketer: Will It Launch. Pitch: "Increase your car or truck's fuel economy and oil life." Comments: Besides liability concerns, an "average 7% increase in MPG" just doesn't sound compelling to me. In general, that has been the challenge with these projects: The savings aren't exciting enough. [ss]
  9. Frost Off. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "The easiest way to remove frost, ice -- even snow -- instantly." Comments: Telebrands' version of Tristar's Frost Gone. [ss]
  11. Tasty Roaster. Marketer: Hampton Direct. Pitch: "Cooks delicious meals in a microwave minute." Comments: This appears to be the same product as Allstar's Rapid Roaster (No. 5 in this Weekly Round-Up), which was tested just last month and disappeared quickly. [ss]
  13. Toilet Spear. Starring: Joe Fowler. Pitch: "New toilet tool ... makes cleaning better and easier." Comments: Toilet tools have a terrible track record on DRTV, most likely because of my "s**t solutions don't sell" hypothesis. Watching this commercial, you can see how the gross factor kills the sale. (Poor Joe!) [ss]
  15. V Broom. Starring: Anthony Sullivan. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "V-shaped rubber bristles ... form an impenetrable wall." Comments: Floor care is not my favorite category. I can't think of a single success since 2004-2005 when Sully and Telebrands brought back One Sweep, no doubt the inspiration for this product and commercial. [ss]
  17. Wonder Forts. Pitch: "Build amazing forts and play spaces." Comments: There's definite play value here, but my inner child doesn't find it to be very cool/exciting. Part of the fun of building a furniture fort was using everyday materials. This is too much like work. [ss]
  19. Wonder Pot. Marketer: Tempo 3000. Producer: 3rd House. Pitch: "Never burn food or boil-over again." Comments: Neat product, but I have trouble envisioning the customer. If a guy buys it for his woman, he may as well buy a Magic Bloom bouquet, too, and get used to sleeping alone. If a woman buys it, she has put herself in the 'Bad Cook Club' (HT: J.S.) -- even thought the creative does its best to make excuses for her. [ss]

December 28, 2014

ThighMaster Vibrato

Description: A vibrating ThighMaster
Main Pitch: "Just put it between your knees and squeeze for sexy hips and thighs"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Bronzing gel (just pay separate P&H)
Starring: Suzanne Somers
Marketer: Product Trend
Watch it on

I suspected Ms. Somers had a flare for the sexual innuendo when I first saw her Three-Way Poncho commercial. It was her delivery of the line, "three-way poncho, that is," after the VO repeatedly encouraged viewers to "get a three way." This commercial confirmed my suspicions. But in this case, the innuendo is unavoidable given the product goes between a woman's knees ... and vibrates.

Of course, the ThighMaster was always sexually suggestive. Many would argue this is the main reason it became such a mega-hit back in the day, and the success of Neckline Slimmer in 2009 and Shake Weight in 2010 (for similar reasons) supports that hypothesis.

S7 Analysis: Even when delivering sexually suggestive lines, Ms. Somers always comes across as classy and credible. That makes her commercials highly engaging, which is a subtle aspect of pitch work that doesn't get much attention but probably should. As for the product, it's the ultimate in Old Gold, so it clearly meets all of the criteria. The marketers have even found a way to one-up the original while keeping the product focused on a single area of the body -- another secret to the original product's success that was missed in a previous attempt to bring this concept back (see Flex Shaper).

Hamper Hoops

Description: A basketball hoop for laundry
Main Pitch: "The all-star basketball hoop and hamper"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: Ball (free)
Brand: Wham-O
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Watch it on

Every guy has played hamper or trash-can 'basketball' in his life, so this idea is tapping into an existing behavior. Other than that, this concept strikes me as iffy at best. For kids, there are several cool basketball toys already on the market that aren't trying to trick them into cleaning up their room. For parents, the idea that kids will suddenly have spotless rooms because of this product will sound too good to be true.

My thought as a parent: Let's not give kids an extra reason they don't need to toss dirty laundry around!

S7 Analysis: Not applicable. Someday, perhaps, I will create a set of criteria for kid products.

Crispy Wave

Description: Microwave crisping sheets
Main Pitch: "The unique new way to brown your food in the microwave"
Main Offer: $10 for a roll
Bonus: 10 Pop-a-Rounds (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Cathy Mitchell
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

This project may be inspired by an Old Gold item from the 1990s. The item is so old, it predates all of my archives. I believe it (or at least one version of it) was called Brown 'N Crisp, and it appears to have been a foil-lined pocket.

Whether Old Gold or not, there is a lot to like about this project. First, it stars Cathy Mitchell, who is on a roll of late. Second, it features great-looking food coming out of the microwave, which is something that Telebrands had success with last year (see Stone Wave, a 2013 True Top Spender). Third, the pitch is about making life easier, which is a tried-and-true way to get DRTV buyers to 'call now.'

Those are the positives. There are also a few negatives, of course. For instance, the idea of doing 'crispy' in the microwave has been tried a few times without success. Lenfest tried it with Perfect Micro Crisper in 2011, and Allstar tried it with TastiWave the year prior. Another issue is the low-perceived value of something that looks like a roll of wax paper, not to mention that the roll is going to run out and require repurchase. Such products always have more appeal to the marketer than the consumer in the phase where the product is "not available in stores."

S7 Analysis: This project meets all of the S7 criteria except perhaps one: It may not be needed, which is why it hasn't fared well in the past. Crisping the slow way -- in a toaster oven or regular oven -- may be 'good enough' for most people.

MicroTouch Tough Blade

Description: A three-blade razor
Main Pitch: "Get a perfect shave for an entire year for under $20"
Main Offer: $19.99 for the razor
Bonus: MicroTouch trimmer, 12 replacement blades (free)
Starring: Brett Favre
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Watch it on

Big brands Gillette and Schick have created a problem with their battle to have the most blades: They have stopped providing sufficient value to justify their prices. How else to explain the success of MicroTouch One, the predecessor to this project? If five blades mattered, one blade shouldn't have stood a chance.

Now IdeaVillage is getting into the multi-blade game. With Brett Favre and their 'year's worth of shaving' value proposition, they look credible and preferable to the competition. But how big of a bite can they take out of that business before the big boys notice and strike back? That's what I'm curious to know.

S7 Analysis: IdeaVillage is clearly in defiance of the guideline that DRTV companies should focus on uncrowded categories not already "dominated by big brands with big ad budgets and a few decades of consumer loyalty." But as noted above, this is a guideline they have successfully defied in the past.

December 25, 2014

SciMark Report from December Response

Global's Jeaneez

My latest SciMark Report in print is now available on the Response Website.

The topic: The crazy new jeggings battle featuring a record number of competitors. Or perhaps it is more appropriately titled: The Jeggings War!

Clarification: I learned after this report went to press that InvenTel's Hollywood Jeanz are actual jeans, not jeggings. That means this war is technically between four competitors with a similar-looking fifth product also in the mix. No less crazy!

Coming Soon

In the upcoming first issue of 2015, I take a break from writing reviews to share my latest list of good categories and bad categories for DRTV. Check out the upcoming January issue to find out where you may want to be focused.

December 24, 2014

Magic Bloom

Description: An artificial flower that blooms
Main Pitch: "Enjoy the everlasting beauty of roses that bloom forever"
Main Offer: $10 for one with single-bud vase
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Blue Moon Studios
Watch it on

For people who like fake flowers, this is a significant improvement over what's on the market with some real "wow" factor. For everyone else (and I suspect that's the majority), this is a poor replacement for fresh-cut flowers.

Special warning for men: If you like sleeping next to your wife or girlfriend, don't copy this commercial and bring her a bouquet of Magic Blooms!

S7 Analysis: With the exception of one big criterion, this projects stacks up pretty well. The product is certainly different, and the creative is engaging because of the magic of watching a fake flower bloom. But the product doesn't solve a real problem, so it isn't needed. In rare cases, "wow" alone has been enough to overcome this challenge, but I'm skeptical in this case because of the market size concern mentioned above.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone! Thanks for being such loyal readers this year. My gift to you is Jimmy Kimmel's As Seen on TV Gift Guide.*

On a related note, congratulations to all of my friends and fellow creatives who made the guide. They include:

  • John & Peter -- 3 times!
    (Bananalicious, Sneak-A-Poo, Big Mouth Mask)
  • Fred, James & Colleen L. (Snuggie 5-Year)
  • Brian & Andy (EZ Butter)
  • Colleen D. (Teddy Tanks)
  • Megan (Style Screamer)

As the writer of one of these spots, I join you in receiving this honor!

* HT: Steve S.

December 11, 2014

Micro Max

Description: A small LED flashlight
Main Pitch: "Turns any ordinary 9-volt battery into a powerful flashlight"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (free)
Brand: Bell + Howell
Marketer: Emson
Watch the spot

This is a neat little gizmo, but it uses a less-common battery type (9 volt) and lacks perceived value. It is also a light, and lights of all kinds have a bad track record on DRTV. Undettered, Emson has tested at least three other products featuring LEDs in the last two years alone: Torch Lite, Super Nova Lantern and Ultra Bulb.

S7 Analysis: While this product is certainly different from other lights on the market, it is a novelty that isn't really needed. Flashlights of all sizes are sold for cheap prices at every retail store, so unless someone has to have the "world's smallest" (as the commercial claims) or absolutely loves the gimmick, they are unlikely to buy this for the typical reasons lights are purchased.

Runway Blowout Brush

Description: A hair styling brush
Main Pitch: "Get volume, bounce and healthy shine and salon results at home"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one with 3 large & 3 small brushes plus 6 clips
Bonus: Travel pouch (free)
Starring: Maria McCool
Marketer: Tristar
Watch it on

Women spend a lot of money to get their hair blown out, so if they believe this promise, the project will do well. That said, hair is a 1 in 50 category, so the odds are not in favor of this rolling out.

S7 Analysis: The big challenge with any hair item is: a) creating the perception that the product is needed, and b) fighting for attention in a very crowded category.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. PressTastic. Pitch: "The fast, easy way to steam, crease and wrinkle release right on the hanger." Comments: I like this one a lot. The DR history is promising (a similar item called Steam Buddy was a 2008 hit), the commercial and demos are excellent, and the offer is very strong. That's all the right ingredients for DR success. [ss]
  3. BedRenu. Pitch: "Restore your old mattress to better than new." Comments: This is the Furniture Fix idea applied to beds. Not a bad idea: Furniture Fix was a 2011 and 2012 True Top Spender. Let's see if there's a category here. [ss]
  5. CoverAge. Starring: Jerome Alexander. Pitch: A "unique under-eye concealer and treatment all in one." Comments: In terms of driving a CPO, cosmetics don't work in short form. Of course, there may be another strategy at play here. [ss]
  7. HydroMousse. Marketer: Eagle Eye. Pitch: "Grass grows where you spray it." Comments: This campaign first hit the airwaves in April and spent 22 weeks on the Jordan Whitney before the season ended. Needless to say, I'm just posting for posterity. [ss]
  9. Neater Scooper. Pitch: "The cleaner, smarter scooper that neat cats love." Comments: Pooper scoopers are near the top of my list of bad categories, and I have to lump in (get it?) cat poop scoops as well. True, Sift 'N Toss should have failed if this rule were iron-clad (it was a 2011 True Top Spender), but like the 1996 hit Quicksand, it eliminated the scoop altogether. Footnote: Quicksand itself failed to make a comeback in 2010. [ss]

December 05, 2014

Corrections & Clarifications

The SciMark Report is committed to responsible journalism, so I am starting a new feature today that will address any errors, omissions and so on that appear on the blog. My readers are my ombudsmen, and I hear from them whenever I make a mistake. In the past, I have merely corrected blog posts online with an editor's note. However, since most people read the blog in the form of an email newsletter, this new feature will give those corrections the same publicity the original, incorrect information received.

For my inaugural post, I have THREE mea culpas to make. Ouch!


1. In my post about Clever Light (since updated), I accused Kerrmercials of lacking originality for using a clever line I had used in my December 2013 Ever Light commercial. Well, it appears I am the one who lacks originality! The line was originally used in a February 2013 commercial for Remark-A-Bulb, which (even more embarrassingly) I covered on this blog. It gets worse. Although I didn't know it at the time, the Remark-A-Bulb commercial and line belong to ... Kerrmercials. They were merely recycling their own work, so I am the only plagiarist here.

To Tim Kerr: My sincerest apologies, especially for the implication that you lack originality. Great line. Sorry I stole it. It wasn't conscious, and I'll be careful that it doesn't happen again. To everyone else: Please bear witness to my public shaming!

2. In my post about the attempted resurrection of Hercules Hook (also now updated), I assumed that the reason the new version of the commercial so closely resembled the old version of the commercial is because Sully and Billy worked together on the project in 2006. While it is true that Sully and Billy often collaborated (as shown on the Pitchmen reality show), it is not true that the original Hercules Hook was done by Sullivan Productions. It was done by Hutton-Miller, and I am informed that Sully was not involved.

3. And finally, a clarification. In my post about Max Lash, I mentioned 2004's Dream Lash and linked to what I thought was an online copy of the original commercial. As it turns it, the link goes to a Concepts TV commercial that was shot in 2009, not the original commercial. I'm not sure which producer did the original spot. If someone would be so kind as to use the comments section to educate us, I'd be much obliged. What I do know (now) is that Concepts did not do the original spot. Kudos to them for contacting me and being honest enough to make sure they weren't getting credit for someone else's work. Today, I am further shamed by their good example!

December 04, 2014

Card Lock

Description: An RFID-blocking sleeve
Main Pitch: "Like a portable bank vault for your credit cards"
Main Offer: $10 for two in solid or paisley
Bonus: Two more plus free S&H
Starring: Craig Burnett
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Kerrmercials
Watch the spot

This is similar to an item Telebrands recently did with Akos called Security Sleeves (see my October column in Response for an analysis of the project). This is also now the third time someone has tried this pitch on DRTV. In DR, the third time is seldom the charm.*

S7 Analysis: As I've explained before, the big challenge with RFID-blocking technology is people don't know that it is needed. Even if everyone were aware of the problem, this would still be a prevention pitch with the 'selling the invisible' problem mixed in. (On the former point: Imagine trying to sell someone a gizmo that prevents physical pick-pocketing, and you'll see what I mean.) As for the commercial, it struggles to be engaging because the product is not demonstrable and thus not very exciting.

* Formerly "the third time is never the charm," this catch-phrase has been modified based on several recent counter-examples.

Clever Light

Description: An emergency light
Main Pitch: "The light that goes on when the power goes off"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Brand: Bell + Howell
Marketer: Emson
Producer: Kerrmercials
Watch the spot

This project bears many similarities to my Ever Light project from December 2013. (One reason: I inadvertently plagiarized the main pitch, also recycled here, from a February 2013 commercial. I recently discovered that spot was also done by Kerrmercials.) The similarities mean this project is unlikely to succeed. That is: Ours wasn't close, and it is unlikely that demand for such a solution has radically changed in one year.

S7 Analysis: I obviously believed this item met all of the S7 criteria back when I pursued it. Like many, I was (repeatedly) seduced by this Siren category following the success of Olde Brooklyn Lantern. Looking back, my best guess is that this particular solution -- and the many others storm lights and lanterns that were tried -- is not different enough from what's already on the market to succeed. It's a high bar that Telebrands hit with its 'vintage' pitch, and even they were never able hit that bar again.

(See here for the full history of failed lanterns following OBL.)

Frost Gone

Description: A windshield cover
Main Pitch: "Protects your windshield from frost, snow and ice"
Main Offer: $19.99 in one of five colors with carry case
Bonus: Double the offer (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Tristar
Watch the spot

I am not aware of any winter-focused hit in DRTV history. (Feel free to email me or use the comments section to correct me if I'm wrong.) This creative tries to address that problem by suggesting the product is also useful in hot weather, but when I think of sun shades (e.g. this one), I come up empty as well.

Most of all, my concern about this project can be described using one of my catch-phrases: 'Preparedness is the opposite of impulsiveness.' DR buyers are impulse buyers, which decreases the likelihood they will buy a product for a rainy -- uh, snowy -- day. Consumers in general don't seem to think ahead when it comes to this potential problem. Just like umbrellas during rainstorms, snow scrapers always seem to sell out during snowstorms.

S7 Analysis: Seasonality is not one of the S7 criteria, but it should definitely be a consideration because of its impact on retail planning. Perhaps the targeted criterion covers the general idea because the "big enough buying group" exists only during certain months of the year -- and then often only in certain geographic regions (e.g. places where it snows). Otherwise, this product stacks up well against the criteria as it is certainly needed during the winter months. As for the commercial, I continue to find Tristar's pitchman to be quite engaging and likable.

Zippie Sips

Description: A silicone lid for cups
Main Pitch: "The compact and simple way to make any cup spill-proof"
Main Offer: $10 for three
Bonus: Three more (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Emson
Watch it on

This is a neat product that I have seen before. I liked it then, and I like it now. Gyro Bowl (2011), Snackeez (2014) and Wow Cup (2014) are the three rollouts that proved this is a category -- even though this market would seem to be too narrow to support a DRTV campaign.

S7 Analysis: As mentioned above, one of the key S7 criteria is that a product be targeted to a large enough buying group. This product fails that criterion, and yet several similar products have been successful. Conversely, those successes have made this category a bit crowded these days, which may mean the timing is off for a project like this. In most cases, there's only room for one, and the one that matters for this project is Telebrands' Wow Cup, a mid-year 2014 True Top Spender.

Easy Baking

Description: A cookbook
Main Pitch: "The amazing new, time-saving cookbook for all kinds of refrigerated dough"
Main Offer:
Bonus: Wrap and Roll recipes (free), mini Roll-N-Bake (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Cathy Mitchell
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

Telebrands is on a roll with books and particularly cookbooks pitched by Cathy Mitchell, as I reported in my Dump Dinners review.

S7 Analysis: Quick and easy ways to make food will always be needed, and America seems particularly receptive to ideas for making quick-and-easy treats. It will be interesting to see if this book does better than Dump Dinners because of its focus on snacks and desserts. Bigger picture, what amazes me most about Telebrands' success in this category is that the book category is anything but uncrowded, and yet they continue to be successful.

Side Sleeper Pro: Old Gold?

New Name: Side Right
Current/Original Marketer: Allstar
Original Hit Years: 2010-2011 (No. 75 & 47 on JW Annuals)
Watch the spot

This is yet another attempt to bring back a winner in less than five years rather than waiting the traditional 7-10 years. Allstar's last attempt was just last month (see my Kitty File review) with the fate of that project unknown. Because that project was substantially different than the original hit (i.e. Emery Cat), I didn't classify it as an 'Old Gold' attempt, whereas this appears to be pretty much the same product but with a different fill.

S7 Analysis: Pillows obviously meet all of the S7 criteria, otherwise the success of four of them at the same time from 2010-2011 wouldn't have been possible. That said, the category has never been uncrowded, especially of late, and I find it hard to believe that another new pillow can be perceived as needed or different given all the recent noise in the marketplace.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Beauty Spin. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Pitch: "The customizable spinning organizer for quick, easy access to your beauty essentials." Comments: Makeup organizers have a poor track record. Recent flops include Allstar's Instant Vanity (No. 7 in this Weekly Round-Up) and Glam Caddy, a very similar product from February of 2012. The challenge: Only a minority of women are interested enough in organization to buy such a product, and some of those women will have already purchased other organizers that are already on the market. [ss]
  3. Flipperoos. Pitch: "The inside-out, upside-down flippable, changeable, wonderful friend." Comments: Unless this is Jay at Play, a company that has managed to have a hit in this category every year since Pillow Pets, I don't see how there could possibly be room in the market for another plush toy. [ss]
  5. InstaDim. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Pitch: "Easy to use, simple to remove dimming sheets to keep all your electronics lights at the perfect level." Comments: The problem with this one is going to be perceived value. It seems like it should be a 99-cent checkout item. [ss]
  7. Luma Smile. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Pitch: "The at-home tooth polisher that gives you the 'fresh from the dentist' feeling." Comments: The success of Finishing Touch Smile (No. 51 on the 2012 JW Annual) surprised me and gave me a clue as to how big tooth whitening is as a category. Insofar as this item taps into that market, it has a solid shot at success. [ss]
  9. Pocket Patch. Pitch: "Turn any pocket into a powerful cell phone radiation shield." Marketer: Will It Launch. Comments: Marketers continue to attempt to defy the aphorism that "prevention doesn't sell." This project also has the 'selling the invisible' problem and relies on fear-based selling of the kind I recently discussed in my Ebola 911 review. [ss]
  11. Poo Pal. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "Go from strained to stress-free, comfortable elimination simply by elevating your feet." Comments: This is the third attempt to market a 'stool for making stool.' Squatty Potty (No. 11 in this Weekly Round-Up) and Step & Go (No. 11 in this Weekly Round-Up) were the other two. (Note: The Website for this product is no longer live.) [ss]
  13. Smart Strainer. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Pitch: "The space-making kitchen marvel that's five tools in one." Comments: Spark is on a roll with four of the projects in this round-up -- 50%! Pretty soon, I'll have to dedicate a round-up just to them like I do with Telebrands. In any case, and speaking of Telebrands, this project is reminiscent of Flat Fold Colander, a 2007 hit (No. 52 on the JW Annual). I liked the Popeet aspect of the product, but the "five tools in one" needlessly pushed this into Swiss Army territory, which hurts the clarity of the pitch. I know because in 2010 I worked on an unsuccessful project (Splattie) with a similar -- and similarly complex -- pitch. [ss]
  15. Smart Topper. Pitch: "Turns almost any plate into an airtight storage container." Comments: This concept has been pitched before -- in the best way possible, the worst way possible and many ways in between. The fact that it never succeeded should have made it clear it's a Siren product. [ss]