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I am powerless against the infomercial

OK… I work in the marketing and advertising industry, so I should be immune to the powers of the infomercial, right? Wrong!

I used to be embarrassed to admit it, until I realized that I am certainly not alone in this… I remember watching QVC at times when they would show the number of items sold at the bottom of the screen… and just seeing that number jump from 100 to 3000 in the minute or two that the item was on the air made me realize how many people shop from the TV.

While I don’t normally sit and watch home shopping channels for hours at a time, I will admit to getting sucked into a half-hour infomercial. And let’s face it… they keep showing the same thing, over and over again. But it works! I’ve seen the infomercial for the GT Xpress 101 about 1,000 times, and I will still stop and watch that lady make stuffed soup almost every time I see it. And, while I never actually bought one, I always said I should… and lo and behold, I got one for Christmas last year.

So why are infomercials so effective? Let’s face it - they are not terribly well-produced, and they certainly aren’t subtle. What infomercials generally do is tap into our emotions. It may be subconscious, but all of these products have an implied promise to make your life better and happier somehow. Testimonials also work to this effect: once you see how much this product has benefitted someone else, you just have to have it! And because the infomercial has a much longer format than a typical 30- or 60-second TV spot, there is a lot more time to make their point.

And speaking of more time… the format of an infomercial allows for repetition. Because people are constantly bombarded by advertising, it is natural that a lot of it gets tuned out. Not so with infomercials! A 15-minute infomercial will clobber you with product information until you know so much about Mighty Putty, that you can no longer remember your children’s names. There’s almost no way to ignore that!

And finally, the one thing that’s missing in more subtle marketing efforts is the call to action. An infomercial carries with it an urgency: “if you call in the next ten minutes, we’ll take off one payment of $19.95!” Even though you know that you can go online and get it for that price any time you want, you still feel compelled to pick up that phone.

Actually, I don’t purchase from the infomercials or home shopping channels very often. But I have noticed how much these things now influence they way I shop. It’s definitely an interesting phenomenon: I will have to think it over some more later… while I’m eating my stuffed soup.

May 28, 2009
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