As Seen on TV! Act Now!
November 16, 2013 10:58 PM   Subscribe

Hi, folks! Billy Mays here for The Economics of Infomercials!

Sorry, no COD's.
posted by ApathyGirl (30 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Corporations are people too -- they suffer from insomnia just like you or me!

In other news, someone just started their monthly UroClub subscription.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:12 PM on November 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Infomercials on the whole are cynically targeted at lonely people who buy things they don't need but are led to believe they want.
A colleague of mine the other day said that his mum is addicted to TV purchasing and her house is full of rubbish she never uses.
posted by manoffewwords at 3:22 AM on November 17, 2013

Ongelofelijk Brad.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:31 AM on November 17, 2013

Yeah that UroClub, wow. Is the second one at half price to fill with booze? I can't foresee any pitfalls with using the second identical club for that.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 3:46 AM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

That was an enjoyable read. It also introduced me to Kitten Mittens, so my night is complete.
posted by Georgina at 4:38 AM on November 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Nice article...but is there more?
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 4:39 AM on November 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

The article omits my favorite: As Seen On TV stores. These are shops filled with a selection of nutso merchandise from the late-night TV realm, laid out in side-by-side towers of brightly-colored shlock. It is, in its way, kind of beautiful.

The staff, and the owner skulking around, add a poigniant touch.

Here they are (New York Editiion)
posted by hexatron at 4:59 AM on November 17, 2013

the integrated marketing stategy makes sense but it is still a bit astonishing that ~"if you're paying a 1,500% markup for something, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold".
posted by ioesf at 5:01 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here's your but wait, there's more! (Epic Rap Battle)
posted by persona at 5:21 AM on November 17, 2013

You mean, the ghost of Billy Mays.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:36 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

> As Seen On TV stores.

Most Wal-Marts and Target stores have As Seen On TV racks.

In the Targets, at least, you can kind of tell how successful they are -- or at least how much local management likes them -- based on whether they're near a main aisle or tucked away facing a wall at the back of the store, near where they keep the leftovers from last season's promotions.
posted by ardgedee at 5:43 AM on November 17, 2013

The As Seen On TV stores are even weirder to me after reading that story, since apparently the whole point if the brand is to get them shelf space in "normal" stores (at an even higher markup than the infomercials charge, of course).
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:06 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Very interesting article. I really miss all the wacky late-night infomercials. It seems like here in L.A. (or maybe micro-targeted to Santa Monica, or even micro-micro targeted to TWC in Santa Monica) most of what I come across are either exercise programs or beauty products. More often than not the first time I see "As Seen On TV" products is on store shelves at places like CVS or Target.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:08 AM on November 17, 2013


"Whether you’ve ever unzipped your fly and unleashed 98 degrees of steaming fury on the manicured lawn at Pebble Beach is irrelevant."
posted by Room 641-A at 6:12 AM on November 17, 2013

Sorry, no COD's.

WTF did I do?
posted by COD at 6:13 AM on November 17, 2013 [13 favorites]

Sorry, no COD's.

Seeing that on tv as a kid, I was puzzled why they would even consider accepting a fish for payment in the first place.
posted by dr_dank at 6:17 AM on November 17, 2013 [10 favorites]

They've had some problems with orders from Newfoundland.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 6:39 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I prefer my Harriet Carter catalog or schlocky junk thank-you-very-much.
posted by ian1977 at 6:42 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

So is Oxyclean bullshit? I've been using it as a prewash in my dishwasher and washing machine, and I think it's working... But maybe I'm fooling myself.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:46 AM on November 17, 2013

Advertising on the whole is cynically targeted at lonely people who buy things they don't need but are led to believe they want. FTFY
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 7:01 AM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Anytime people start to go on and on about how harmless marijuana is and how it has no real negative side-effects, I'm tempted to bring out my George Foreman Knock Out the Fat BBQ Grill and "Set it and Forget It " Showtime Rotisserie (along with several terrible CD's) purchased under its influence as evidence to the contrary.
posted by The Gooch at 7:03 AM on November 17, 2013 [11 favorites]

I feel like this was glossed over, but maybe I just missed it...How do they actually tell from the DRTV response whether the initial marketing (or successive tweaks) was "successful"? If something generates orders from 1.2% of the viewing audience instead or 0.8%, or what?
posted by psoas at 7:16 AM on November 17, 2013

For another butwaittheresmore, here's a very interesting (+ award winning, my Google search tells me) profile of Ron Popeil, by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker from a few years back
posted by Flashman at 7:17 AM on November 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Mr. Popeil?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:20 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Think a four-pack of ShamWows at $20 ($5 apiece) is the once-in-a-lifetime steal the pitchman says it is? Think again. You’re paying a 1,500% markup for some scraps of cast-off industrial rayon and polypropylene. (And even more if you buy them at retail.) Some brief digging on Chinese e-commerce portal Alibaba reveals that the wholesale cost of a comparable product is about 1 to 30 cents apiece. But put some funky branding on them, give them a cool pitch, and those shammies soak up cash as easily as spills.

As if you needed any more reason to think Vince was a sleaze ball.

I always figured the infomercial scam was really just a "Shipping & Handling" profit center. That the items being sold we're essentially worthless, but they made a fair margin on that S&H (I.e., "we'll send you a second one FREE, just pay separate shipping and handling."). I would have guessed that their retail shelf sales were just a marketing ploy to give the crap products a hint of credibility by being sold in a national chain.

So, I'm surprised to learn just the opposite: that their real profit driver is the retail sale, rather than the shipping and handling stream.
posted by darkstar at 8:01 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

five fresh fish, I can't be 100% sure, but I believe the active ingredient for Oxyclean is bicarbonate of soda, which you can get at a small fraction of the price you pay for Oxyclean. Although I use bicarb of soda in the last rinse of my wash, and I don't have a dishwasher, but it works fantastically on tile floors and as a facial scrub :)
posted by Alnedra at 8:04 AM on November 17, 2013

In fairness, they're not always crap. A George Foreman grill has been a staple of my apartment since the damn thing came out because it's just so perfect for making something for one or two people without dealing with the oven.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:20 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

The active ingredient in these cleaners is actually sodium percarbonate, which is an adduct made by adding sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide. (One of the college lab experiments I teach determines the hydrogen peroxide content of oxygen cleaners.)

The precursor chemicals are dirt cheap and the synthesis is trivially easy. The mechanism of cleaning action is that, when re-dissolved in water, the compound releases hydrogen peroxide, which is the source of the oxygen. The oxygen does the cleaning by oxidizing stain molecule to (usually) let them dissolve (or turn them white, so they are less visible, anyway). The sodium carbonate acts, as far as I can tell, by simply providing a solid substrate for the hydrogen peroxide to stabilize it for transportation and storage. There may be secondary action by the sodium carbonate to potentiate the process, but I'm not familiar with it.

The sodium bicarbonate Alnedra mentions is also used in some cleaning agents (as well as toothpastes, where it can be paired with hydrogen peroxide). It is chemically similar to sodium carbonate, but as far as I'm aware, does not form the same kind of stabilizing adducts with hydrogen peroxide. (I' happy to be corrected, of course.)
posted by darkstar at 8:24 AM on November 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

I get a ton of use out of my Foreman grill, out of Gripstics (these insane re-inventions of the chip clip) and, yes, out of the aforementioned Oxiclean, which I swear by to clean most things. I'm sure the margin on this stuff is outrageous (Oxiclean is basically just washing soda with whiteners) but since I'm unwilling to invest the time and space to do my own chemical synthesis, it probably doesn't matter how trivially easy it is. I'm paying for the convenience of a thing in a plastic tub.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:14 AM on November 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yep, and Vitamix blenders, the first infomercial, really are fantastic.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:18 AM on November 17, 2013

« Older Born To Run Into The Ground   |   Cherry Moon on Valium Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments