March 26, 2015

Bit Shooter: Old Gold?

New Name: Bit 360
Starring: Dave Jones
Current Marketer: Allstar
Original Hit Year: 2005 (No. 51 on the JW Annual)
Original Marketer: Southern Tools
Watch the spot

Like lighting, tools is another category that was hot in the past but has struggled of late. If not for Infomercials Inc.'s Speed Out (a 2014 True Top Spender), I might have made it one of my bad categories for DRTV. We'll see what happens with Master Wrench. Either I'm wrong, or Doug Fowkes has the magic touch when it comes to tools. Of course, both statements could be true.

S7 Analysis: One reason tools tend to struggle on TV: They are typically targeted toward men, and there are a lot of men's tools competing for attention nowadays. What gives this project a better-than-average shot is it also has female appeal. Mr. Jones softer style (as opposed to the more typical 'yell and sell') will only enhance that appeal.

Hot Belt

Description: A fitness belt
Main Pitch: "Makes you sweat more when you work out"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one in black
Bonus: 2nd one in nude (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Tristar
Watch the spot

Is this commercial sexy? Or gross? I'm not sure. Some of the time, I felt it was the former. Some of the time, the latter. I can't say for sure what women will think, but my instinct is that they will lean more toward "gross." As far as I can tell, sweating isn't something women ever want to do, especially not in copious amounts.

S7 Analysis: Putting aside the aforementioned gross factor, a product that promises women rapid weight loss and better curves stacks up well against the criteria -- and DRTV history.

Crock Pot Dump Meals

Description: A crock pot cookbook
Main Pitch: "Just dump and slow cook"
Main Offer: $10 for the book
Bonus: "Freezer Bag Dump Meals" book (just pay a separate fee)
Starring: Cathy Mitchell
Marketer: Telebrands
Producer: Cole Media
Watch the spot

This probably should have gone into a round-up as it is simply another attempt at extending the Cathy Mitchell line of 'Dump' cookbooks. Dump Cakes was a 2014 True Top Spender, and it seems Dump Dinners will end up on my hit list as well. The fate of Mitchell's Easy Baking with Refrigerated Dough remains unknown to me, but if Telebrands has any more successes in this area they should seriously consider starting an imprint.

S7 Analysis: N/A - As I've mentioned before, Telebrands is the only company to have had any success in this category, so my criteria obviously do not apply.

Strap Hanger

Description: An organizing hanger
Main Pitch: "Organizes your camisoles and tank tops instantly"
Main Offer: $10 for 2
Bonus: 2 more (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Concepts
Watch the spot

Organization is tricky. When it comes to shoes (Shoes Away, Shoes Under) and spices (Swivel Store, Spicy Shelf) there seems to be enough interest to support a campaign. Not so in every other case I can think of. For this reason, I usually recommend against closet organizers unless they save space, which is the case here. Like Wonder Hanger and Magic Hangers before it, this takes a row of hangers and collapses it down into a single, vertical hanger -- and that seems to be a winning pitch.

S7 Analysis: Although I don't wear the clothes shown in this commercial (or do I?), my observations of women's closets over the years -- or the garments on the floor of said closets -- tell me this product is needed. This product certainly looks different than anything on the market, too. Whether women will like that look is anyone's guess.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Bionic Bond. Marketer: Spark Innovators. Pitch: "The multi-purpose epoxy that permanently bonds almost anything in just seconds." Comments: I don't know a lot about this category, but this particular item doesn't strike me as particularly unique. I feel like it's something a motivated DIYer could easily find at the hardware store. Then again, the same could have been said of the plumber's putty that the late, great Billy Mays and the team at Hutton-Miller (recently named True Top Producer) made into the mega-hit known as Mighty Putty circa 2007. [ss]
  3. Cuddle Cool Pillow. Marketer: Telebrands. Pitch: "The pillow engineered to keep you cool." Comments: The site for this is already down, so I'm just posting for posterity. Everyone knows my thoughts on pillows these days, and I have been down this particular road myself (see Cool 'N Comfy). It's a dead end. [ss]
  5. Arbee Recipe Butler. Pitch: "Serve up your recipe on a silver platter." Comments: An over-engineered solution in search of a problem. [ss]
  7. Catch It All. Pitch: "A new and better way to tackle food-prep mess and so much more." Comments: This reminds me of Scoop It, a 2011 no-go that I actually liked and that was a better solution than this bulkier contraption. [ss]
  9. Chef''s Thumb. Starring: Greg Stacy. Pitch: "No more slipping, no more fumbling, no more cuts." Comments: This is a neat little item, but it's strikes me as a better premium than a main product. Also, the problems presented aren't very high on the scale as most people have figured out how to slice food without going to the emergency room. [ss]
  11. Easy-Reach Loofa. Pitch: "Wash, exfoliate and clean those hard-to-reach areas." Comments: Similar items have appeared in catalogs for years, but none ever made it out of pre-DRTV research and testing. I just don't think it's a big enough problem. This version is also huge! [ss]
  13. Gerp. Pitch: "It's a handle. It's a stand." Comments: It's the worst category in DR. It's a bomb. [ss]
  15. HD Cable Stick. Pitch: "Watch all your favorite shows in stunning HD quality that's better than cable and Internet." Comments: With Tristar's Clear TV in roll-out and a 2014 True Top Spender, this project is second to market with a me-too solution. It could even be considered third to market as Telebrands rolled out a variation, called Rabbit TV, in 2013. [ss]
  17. Magic Tatts. Pitch: "The colorful new tattoos that come to life on you." Comments: These new augmented reality apps are truly amazing! If wow factor matters, this one should do well. Body art for kids has also been successful in the past (see IdeaVillage's Shimmer). My only criticism: The commercial has too many forced rhymes. [ss]
  19. Snoozeball. Pitch: "Sleep tight on your next flight." Comments: As I've shared before, my hypothesis is that Americans don't travel enough to buy travel products off DRTV -- and the problems only start there. The unattractive design of the product is another major issue. [ss]

March 19, 2015


Description: A microwave egg cooker
Main Pitch: "Fast, fluffy and flavorful eggs every time -- right in your microwave"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H), Cut 'N Cup (free)
Starring: Marc Gill
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: The Schwartz Group
Watch the spot

The microwave is resurgent with two hits on the 2013 True Top Spenders (Stone Wave, Potato Express) and one (Bacon Wave) on the 2014 True Top Spenders. This test should be interesting because: (a) making eggs in the microwave hasn't been a winning pitch on its own (flops include Better Breakfast in 2010, EZ Eggs/Egg Gourmet in 2012 and PoachMaster Pro in 2013), but (b) making eggs was a key Stone Wave demo.

S7 Analysis: There is Old Gold evidence that a microwave egg cooker meets the key criteria for DRTV in the form of Egg Wave, a 2001 Tristar hit. Although an attempt at a straight bring-back failed (the aforementioned EZ Eggs/Egg Gourmet duel), perhaps timing and a better product will make the difference.

Copper Fit Gel

Description: A topical pain reliever
Main Pitch: "Fast-acting relief for sore muscles and joints"
Main Offer: $14.99 for one
Bonus: None
Brand: Copper Fit
Marketer: IdeaVillage
Producer: Blue Reef
Watch the spot

This project illustrates the difference between a brand extension and a line extension. IdeaVillage's last Copper Fit item, Copper Fit Back Pro, was another compression garment. It was a line extension. This project has nothing to do with compression -- or garments for that matter. It's Copper Fit in name only; i.e. a brand extension.

IdeaVillage has tried this before. Finishing Touch Smile had nothing to do with hair removal. Word is the project did well at retail, but it did not make my 2012 True Top Spenders list (although it did make the Jordan Whitney Annual that year). Regardless, I doubt its course had anything to do with the brand name.

Generally speaking, I subscribe to the teaching of Ries & Trout: Extensions weaken brands by diluting what they stand for in the mind. Finishing Touch means hair removal. Copper Fit -- or more precisely "copper" since two other heavily advertised brands share that common word -- means compression garments. Trying to broaden it to mean pain relief in general risks weakening the brand while it is still taking root.

S7 Analysis: Adding to the above, the crowded nature of this category makes it even harder to have a brand stick. There are many, many topical analgesics on the market, some from powerful brands. This is probably why no topical analgesic has been successful in short form for decades. Even the gel stick idea won't be new to consumers thanks to those annoying but effective commercials for Head On a few years ago.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Master Wrench. Marketer/Producer: Infomercials Inc. Pitch: "Removes any stripped nut or bolt in seconds with just one tool." Comments: Doug Fowkes is one of a kind, an insane creative genius who does things completely out of proportion to the needs of our industry -- and it works! It's as if Steven Spielberg or Ridley Scott decided to do DR for fun in their spare time. Just take note of the musical 'score' for this commercial, and you'll see what I mean. It's worthy of one of those epic Greek war movies or perhaps the Old Testament stories they keep making (Noah, Exodus: Gods & Kings). Because his approach is so unparalleled, it's hard to predict the outcome of his projects. Normal criteria don't apply. For instance, I hated Spicy Shelf as an item and would never have guessed it would be on my True Top Spenders of 2014. With that in mind, I would like to state -- with no particular conclusions drawn -- that this item has been tried before without success. See Wrench-O-Matic. [ss]
  3. Bye Bye Bunion. Pitch: "The revolutionary under-shoe solution to bunion pain and pressure." Comments: This site is already down, so it's either a massive hit or ... As I wrote last May in a review for a similarly named product (Bye Bye Blisters), such solutions are too close to one of the worst DR categories (insoles) for my liking. [ss]
  5. Chocolate Bar Maker. Pitch: "Create any chocolate bar you can imagine." Comments: This seems like a lot of work to enjoy something that's cheap to buy and best eaten quickly before anyone finds out! [ss]
  7. Easy Tray. Pitch: "The world's first mobile personal tray." Comments: There's a reason it's the world's first. [ss]
  9. Flexi Lite. Pitch: "Battery-operated flexible LED light strips." Comments: This is a third attempt to find success with this concept after Slim Brites (reviewed last May) and Underlight (reviewed last October). In DR, the third time is seldom the charm. [ss]
  11. Furniture Feet. Marketer: Ontel. Pitch: "Stretchable furniture boots protect floors from scratches and scuffs." Comments: This is Floorzies with a new name and a new marketer. [ss]
  13. iSpy. Producer: The Schwartz Group. Pitch: "The scientific way to reveal, target and expose invisible hazards." Comments: This is similar to the bonus items for Urine Gone (a 2005-2006 hit) and the revival attempt, Stream Clean. It will be interesting to see if it can stand alone as an item. [ss]
  15. Milana Bra. Brand: Genie. Marketer: Tristar. Pitch: "The comfort, lift and support of Genie with a sexy lace cami." Comments: The latest addition to the Genie line. Or is it a new version of Cami Shaper? I'm not exactly sure. [ss]
  17. Perfect Cushion. Pitch: "Microfiber memory foam cushion provides superior comfort for your back and bottom." Comments: It's probably too soon after Allstar's Forever Comfy (a 2012 & 2013 True Top Spender) for this to be successful, and this version doesn't look nearly as comfortable. [ss]
  19. Slushy Magic Max. Marketer: Ontel. Producer: Hutton-Miller. Pitch: "Now 30% bigger making it more frozen fun for everyone." Comments: A classic application of the 'pro' strategy and more evidence that line extensions are a growing trend. [ss]
  21. Sparkleez. Pitch: "The shiny, tiny world you bring to life with your imagination." Comments: This is a coloring kit that is not targeted toward adults, so I like it! [ss]

March 16, 2015

The True Top Spenders of 2014

The results are in, so without further delay, here are your True Top Spenders (TTS) of 2014:

(Click to see the complete list)

And here are the big winners ...

True Top Marketer: Telebrands

Telebrands takes the top spot for the third year in a row with 10 campaigns on the list. Congratulations yet again to AJ and the Telebrands team. They are the undisputed champions of producing hits!

Moving on, Allstar takes second with eight on the list, edging out IdeaVillage. Although the two marketers were technically tied, Allstar had the greater number of new campaigns since I published my last list. In an impressive jump, they added five hit campaigns in a half-year's time. Finally, Tristar and Emson both deserve honorable mentions with five and four campaigns, respectively.

True Top Producer: Hutton-Miller

After just missing a tie for first last year, H-M hangs on from mid-year to grab the gold with seven campaigns on the list. Congratulations to John, Peter and the rest of their brilliant team. The Queen-tribute version of Perfect Bacon Bowl was easily my favorite commercial of the year!

Meanwhile, after taking the top spot for two years in a row, Concepts TV comes in a close second with six on the list. I guess it was their turn to have a near-miss. In any case, congratulations to the ladies (and gents) in Boonton for another killer year!

As for the honorable mentions, I'd like to single out Kerrmercials and Cole Media, both with three campaigns to their credit. Backed by the prolific pros at Paddock Productions, Tim Kerr continues his rise to the top. And Brad Cole's shop is also trending. Great work this year, guys!


My recent column about "feeders" for the ERA blog gave me an idea. If you click through to the full TTS list, you'll notice I am now crediting feeders in the marketer column (when known). I think it's important for the entire industry to realize that a significant percentage of hits come from small companies that partner with the bigger firms for distribution and financing. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that 16 of the campaigns on this year's list -- nearly a third -- came from feeders.

I'll go one step further: This year's top feeders were Lenfest Media Group and 221 Direct with four and three campaigns, respectively. With most of the major players struggling to discover that many winners of their own (see below), the importance of feeders to the future of DR has never been clearer.

Speaking of important trends, there are also more 'follower' items on the charts than ever before. I count 11, which amounts to 1 in 5. Of these, three come from duels involving at least three marketers (hoses, copper garments and jeggings). You can see why I think intense competition is one of three trends that will define our industry in 2015.

Putting these two together, fully half of the TTS come from feeders and followers, and that supports a point I made after publishing my mid-year list (see "Where do they get those hits?"). Let's continue the theme of that post and take a look at how the hits from the top six marketers break down (to the best of my knowledge):

  1. Telebrands: 6 homegrown, 0 feeders, 4 followers
  3. Allstar: 3 homegrown, 5 feeders, 0 followers
  5. IdeaVillage: 1 homegrown, 2 feeders, 5 followers
  7. Tristar: 1 homegrown, 2 feeders, 2 followers
  9. Emson: 2 homegrown, 2 feeders, 0 followers
  11. Hampton: 0 homegrown, 3 feeders, 0 followers


Although I have now stopped making predictions, I am still expressing my opinions about products in no uncertain terms -- and that means I owe it to you folks to own my bad calls. Here are the ones that I got the most wrong:

1. Be Active. Category history is an important consideration when evaluating DR products, but it can sometimes lead you astray. This campaign, one of the biggest of the year (if not the biggest), is a case in point. My evaluation was based on the poor track record of back-relief products on DRTV -- and it was painfully wrong. (Read my original comments here.)

2. 3-Way Poncho. This is another one that defied category history as it became the first convertible garment to succeed on DRTV. I gave the project 2 out of 5 stars, which means I underestimated Suzanne Somers and thought the project unlikely to succeed. (Read my original comments here.)

3. Ultimate Detangling Brush. This Emson hit appears on my annual chart for the second year in a row, which leaves no doubt I was wrong about its DR potential. Indeed, this campaign is one reason I changed a favorite catch-phrase. "In DR, the third time is never the charm" has become: "In DR, the third time is seldom the charm." More so since this was the fourth time a detangling brush had been tried. (Read my original comments here.)

4. Clear TV. "This project should have been killed in an earlier phase" were my exact words. Apparently not! My analysis of the concept seemed spot on, but I obviously missed something the Tristar team did not. Good for them, embarrassing for me. (Read my original comments here.)

5. Easy View. I thought this was a "catalog item at best." Not only was it good enough for TV, but it was also good enough to be copied -- twice. (Read my original comments here.)

Those were the big ones. Let me know if you think I need to address any others.

March 12, 2015

SciMark Report from March Response

Brave Brian Hyder

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

The items reviewed include Tristar's Flex-Able Bungee Hose, Telebrands' Stain 911 and Travel Clean.

[There's no preview for April because I haven't written that column yet!]

Corrections & Clarifications

In my recent post about Allstar's Knot Out (since updated), I listed the wrong producer. The correct producer is Concepts TV. I regret the error.

March 10, 2015

Knot Out

Description: A pet grooming tool
Main Pitch: "Removes knots and tangles instantly -- no pulling, pain or stress"
Main Offer: $14.95 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Producer: Concepts
Watch the spot

Pets is No. 5 on my list of good categories for DRTV, and even the sub-category of pet brushes has an attractive history. IdeaVillage's Pet Groom Pro made the top 50 in 2005, Ontel's Shed Ender broke the top 25 in 2006, and Emson's Pet Zoom was a top 50 campaign in 2008. Yet none of those items was quite like this one, which makes this product simultaneously proven and original.

S7 Analysis: There's a lot to like here. The product is needed and different, the category uncrowded and the commercial meets all of the criteria as well. My one point of concern: The target market. Pet owners are already a segment (albeit a large enough one to support a campaign), so owners with long-haired dogs become a segment of a segment. That could limit the campaign if this project is successful.

Be Quiet

Description: A snoring solution
Main Pitch: "The safe, effective way to sleep the night away"
Main Offer: $10 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Top Dog
Producer: Hutton-Miller
Watch the spot

Although it doesn't meet some of the key criteria for DR (see below), the snoring category can certainly produce hits. A product called D-Snore appeared on the charts in 2000 and 2001, Never Snore in 2002, ZQuiet in 2010 and Pure Sleep in 2008, 2009 and 2012.

This product strikes me as something the user might be embarrassed to wear, but then I think of all the people I know who use those CPAP contraptions, and I am less concerned about that potential barrier to purchase. If the problem is strong enough, people will 'do what they gotta do.'

S7 Analysis: Snoring is one of those categories I don't understand well. Again, the problem is strong, but the the target market is a segment of a segment and the available solutions are many. In S7 language, that's a plus for needed but two minuses for targeted and uncrowded. However, those shortcomings can probably be overcome if enough prospects in the target market view the product as different enough to be worth trying.

Dueling Stockings

Pep Sox

Main Pitch: "The fun, new compression socks that soothe and re-energize"
Main Offer: $10 for one in lace
Bonus: Two more in leopard and flower (just pay a separate fee)
Marketer: Telebrands
Watch the spot

Style Stockings

Main Offer: $10 for one in choice of 4 patterns
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Marketer: Allstar
Previously reviewed on: February 26, 2015 (read it here)

I had seen this too many times for it not to develop into a duel. Everyone seems to be working off the same information these days, so it's often just a matter of time.

In any case, these marketers are equally strong, so if both go to retail I have to wonder yet again if it's worth it. Of course, one creative could work while the other fails. It has happened before.

S7 Analysis: See my previous review.

March 05, 2015

Copper Therapy

Description: A heated knee wrap
Main Pitch: "Combines the soothing power of heat and compression with 88% copper fiber embedded nylon"
Main Offer: $19.99 for one
Bonus: 2nd one (just pay P&H)
Starring: Brian Hyder
Marketer: Tristar
Watch the spot

There's no doubt compression garments are hot these days (get it?), but with so many SKUs out there, I just don't see room for another one. This is an interesting way to isolate the variable, though, and also see how far this copper craze can go.

S7 Analysis: Just for fun, I counted the number of campaigns on the Jordan Whitney with the word "copper" in the name. I tallied six campaigns by five different marketers. Not exactly uncrowded. What's more interesting is competition among DRTV players (a growing trend) created crowding virtually overnight in a category that didn't exist before Tommie Copper.

Weekly Round-Up

  1. Clip N Store. Marketer: Norman Direct. Producer: The Schwartz Group. Pitch: "Creates space and organizes your spices." Comments: Spice organization is one of the few types of organization that is mass market enough to support a campaign. This is evidenced by the success of Merchant Media's Swivel Store (a 2011 True Top Spender) and Infomercials Inc.'s Spicy Shelf. The latter campaign makes the timing of this project unfortunate. [ss]
  3. Comfy Dreams. Marketer: Norman Direct. Producer: Monte-Brooks. Pitch: "The super-soft nightgown that keeps you cool and dry all night." Comments: I've had a few debates about whether menopausal women represent a large enough market for DRTV. On the one hand, women of that age (51 years old on average) certainly fit the demographic. On the other hand, they are a segment of a segment, and menopause lasts 12 months, which makes the prospect a moving target. [ss]
  5. New Age Massager. Pitch: "The latest in back pain therapy." Comments: More risky business that was no doubt inspired by the success of BeAcitve. This one also reminds me of those old ab belts, which is not exactly a positive association. [ss]
  7. Perfect Tuck. Pitch: "The anti-slip, flexible belt that keeps your clothes in place." Comments: My guess is that this problem is too low on the scale to motivate people off the couch. It's also a solution geared toward career people, yet our core customer is retirement age or older. [ss]
  9. Pill EZ. Marketer: Norman Direct. Producer: Hutton-Miller. Pitch: "The clever cup that lets you swallow any pill with ease." Comments: Neat idea, but I can't find the Website or the commercial online, so I'm guessing 'fast fail.' [ss]
  11. Pubbles. Marketer: Lenfest. Producer: Hutton-Miller. Pitch: "The incredible, edible long-lasting bubbles made especially for pets." Comments: Like most toys for pets, this is a 'flyer.' But several recent flyers (Lenfest's Cat's Meow, Lenfest's Wobble Wag Giggle Ball) have paid off. For what it's worth, this seems like something pets would love, and it looks like a fun time for owners, too. [ss]
  13. Smart Steam. Marketer: Norman Direct. Producer: The Schwartz Group. Pitch: "The wrinkle-removing towel." Comments: Allstar's Mister Steamy (a 2010 True Top Spender) was a much more convincing product than this basic towel. Lacking the magic of a special design, this becomes a rare case where I think lack of credibility will be a barrier to purchase. [ss]

SciMark Report from February Response

Hilarious potty trivia and so much more!

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

The items reviewed include Telebrands' book, "What Did We Use Before Toilet Paper?", Ontel's Dryer Sheep and Wave Hooks from Will It Launch?

Coming Soon

In the upcoming March issue, I'll be reviewing these new projects:

March 02, 2015

The Rise of 'Feeders'

My latest Field Report for the ERA blog is now live. This month I write about "feeders," a growing source of DRTV hits.

Click here to read the report

Shameless Self-Promotion Update: I am now three for three. My last piece for the ERA blog ("The 3 Big DR Trends that Will Shape 2015") was No. 1 again, topping the "hottest blog posts" of February.