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Opinion: Infomercial concepts worth repeating

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Are you old enough to remember the Pocket Fisherman? Do you still use your Ginsu knives? And the ShamWow, which is literally just a microfiber cloth with a very sexy name spin-off of chamois?

You know what I’m talking about: infomercials.

These long format ads – three minutes to 15 minutes – are fast paced, fun and intriguing. Perhaps the first infomercial dates back to the 1940s with William “Papa” Barnard’s hypnotic, and pretty gross, demonstration of the Vitamix blender. (Dan Aykroyd did a parody on “Saturday Night Live” with the Bass-o-Matic.)

“Shark Tank” judge Kevin Harrington is credited with bringing infomercials back to TV relevance in the 1990s. He found that there were up to six hours of dead air on networks during the overnight slots. According to his website, AsSeenOnTV.pro, “The broadcast time was simply not used. His concept was simple: to film a promotional segment covering a product (or group of products), followed by a call to action, and a way for consumers to purchase the products. The sales element was achieved through phone-in orders, sometimes with limited-time-offer specials.”

Harrington still teaches this powerful technique. He continues to develop brands like Kanga Klothing, CocoChew dog treats and the TopperEZLift for pickup trucks with this time-tested approach.

Here are the basic steps:

1. Present the problem. Your life, skin, weight, cupboards and car cup holders are a hot mess.

2. Make the promise. We can fix, help, solve or deliver whatever the problem.

3. Use testimonials. Lots of them, with before and after pictures and videos.

4. Stay realistic. It’s OK to include an example where a customer has above average results, but try and include your average results as well.

5. Be repetitive. The truth is that not everyone will be glued to the screen while your infomercial is on. It’s OK to repeat the problem and promise.

6. It’s all about the demo. The best, most effective infomercials are entertaining and believable.

7. Call to action. Call or text now. The number should stay on the screen throughout the program.

8. Create urgency. For example: “Only 20 units left” or “Limited time offer.”

9. Add a sweetener. “But wait! There’s more! We’ll throw in the paring knife to go with the steak knives.”

Are you feeling queasy yet?

I understand that you may have a bad feeling about infomercials. Do they promise the moon and sucker you out of your $19.95 only to deliver a crapola product? I get it, if you have been burned. This industry is rife with fraud.

I am not suggesting that you do anything that makes you queasy. On the contrary, there are ways to leverage this formula to ethically promote you and your honorable company.

It may be time to revisit local cable TV ads, as many regular advertisers have pulled back since the outbreak of COVID-19. Also, there is a whole new world of advertising opening up on local YouTubeTV stations. Hyperlocal and super affordable ad slots are available.

Or maybe you could do a brand-response television series on your own YouTube channel? Instagram? Yes, please! Raise your hand if you have been enticed to buy something during quarantine? Fitness classes, food services, clothing, activities for kids, health supplements and, of course, skin care regimens are huge online. Video is hands down the best way to engage eyeballs online.

The bottom line is that the infomercial format works, and it can be a good deal for you and your customers.

Ellen Rohr is an author and business consultant offering profit-building tips, trending business blogs and online workshops at EllenRohr.com. Her books include “Where Did the Money Go?” and “The Bare Bones Weekend Biz Plan.” She can be reached at ellen@ellenrohr.com.

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