Infomercial Isn't a Dirty Word

By Rob Medved, CEO, Cannella Media

Billion-dollar brands have been built from infomercials. Let me repeat that, billion-dollar brands. In the past few years, brands have been trying to adapt to consumers’ shorter attention spans with short video ads and TV commercials, especially as it relates to digital marketing.  This has caused some brands to distance themselves from the TV infomercial market. Most newer companies haven’t even considered this storytelling vehicle as an option.


Infomercial products still command a significant market share, with the most recent estimate at $250 billion, according to data company Priceonomics. This proves that infomercials are still a strong distribution channel for marketers and means some could be missing out on crucial growth opportunities


The History of Infomercials and Long-Form Advertising

Infomercials are a form of direct response television (DRTV), providing brands with a blank canvas of 30 minutes or more to tell their story. They came to prominence in the 1980s after the Federal Communications Commission lifted regulations on television content in 1984.


The deregulation resulted in a rapid growth of cable TV, which provided a substantial platform for infomercials to grow.


Over-the-top hard sells were the crux of earlier infomercials with exaggerated claims that may have left viewers doubting the product’s effectiveness. The messaging was akin to “state fair pitch tent selling,” where the product is the centerpiece. This may be why so many brands have learned to associate “infomercial” with something negative.


However, the landscape has evolved, the marketing practices have been refined and infomercials still maintain a strong footprint in broadcast and cable today.

Infomercials and Long-Form Advertising Today

Infomercials continue to be a powerful channel for brand storytelling. They provide enough real estate for brands to highlight key selling benefits, testimonials, demonstrations, and well-constructed calls-to-action that allow customers to respond. No other platform offers a better way to tell brand stories. Utilizing effective long-form advertising has helped products morph into billion-dollar brands.


Take the George Foreman Grill – the iconic infomercial product that gained mainstream popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s. More than 100 million units of the product were sold during its peak years.


Infomercials also helped turn Proactiv acne medicine into a billion-dollar brand. The two dermatologists who founded the brand initially thought infomercials were too “cheesy” but seasoned infomercial marketer Guthy Renker eventually found success with the product, especially with trusted celebrity endorsements helping to strengthen the claims. That “cheesy” idea helped cement their place on the Forbes America’s Richest Self-Made Women list.


The infomercial space has continued to adapt to TV viewers’ changing demands and behavioral patterns. Below are some key factors and features to consider about today’s infomercials and long-form advertising:


Engaging Channel Surfers


American TV viewers spend about 23 minutes a day channel surfing. Brands need to create highly engaging infomercials that instantly catch the eye, making viewers want to pause and watch the entire program.


Opportunity to Answer FAQs


With much larger real estate than typical TV commercials, infomercials also give brands enough time to address common challenges faced by customers. Infomercials provide the opportunity to add short answers to FAQs before or after their call-to-action.


Viewership Among Older Audiences


TV viewership among older audiences is high, with 50–64-year-olds spending 5 hours per day watching TV. This means they have a greater window to watch and engage with long-form advertising. This is advantageous for brands that use infomercials because this age group has more disposable income to spend.


Fulfilling Different Brand Goals


Infomercials may be a form of direct response television, but they also help fulfill other brand goals besides driving viewers to buy the products. As they take up a huge time slot, they also raise brand awareness.


Examples of Early Infomercials and Where We Are Today

Magical transformations, exaggerated claims, and hard sells were the essence of early infomercials. For example, vacuum cleaner infomercials would show the product magically cleaning a dirty surface in a single swipe. Diet and weight loss infomercials would show impressive side-by-side images of before and after weight loss transformations that sold viewers on the product.


While the foundational elements of what causes viewers to impulse buy haven’t changed much, the production quality, use of genuine testimonials and quality of the actual products being sold have all added to infomercials becoming a much more “leveled-up” form of advertising.

Taking Advantage of Infomercials

With the right delivery, long-form advertising provides brands with an effective way to get the brand story across:


⦁ Infomercials offer enough real estate to include educational messaging, testimonials, and demos.


⦁ A massive $250 billion market size validates the influence and success of the infomercial format.


⦁ Successful brands should incorporate infomercials as part of their omnichannel strategy.


Today’s brands would be wise to consider the potential to increase awareness and motivate sales through infomercials. With its longer format, infomercials are an ideal opportunity for brands to build mindshare with audiences.