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Advertising on television with infomercials

At about the same time the infomercials were making it big on late late night TV, I was attending underground theatre and watching a show which took a multimedia approach: the play featured actors living their lives and gigantic screen overheads with Stepford-like hosts jamming infomercials at both the characters and the audience. The work, because of those infomercials, was quite profound, quite futuristic.

But avant garde theatre aside, evidently, in the “real” world, infomercials are lucrative forms of advertising. Well, that’s the claim about the claims, anyway. It makes sense, for consider when these unique creatures are aired and how they are constructed: first, they show during the latest hours of the day—between midnight and about six a.m.. At this time, those awake and watching are either halfway into a stupor brought on by tiredness, booze, or pills; are insomniacs whose brains visit the dark side right about then; or are, maybe, jobless, less thoughtful individuals who are gullible to the magic of full moons and potato mashers that tell your future by the lumps.

Next is the volume of the advertisers “acting” in these infomercials. They are loud, campy, histrionic, way too cheerful, and yet, as plastic as they are seem to come off as the most real, down to earth, or most honest folks on TV. They are eager, zealous, delighted, and shocked about and by the product being touted by the host who is sharp, adept, and oh-so knowledgeable. In addition, there’s what one ant-infomercials blogger reminds us is the thing that actually sells the oddities—called “repetitive reinforcement.” They tell you you want and need it often enough and you will want and need it.

Then there’s the uniqueness or novelty of the products the infomercials display and advertise. Combined with the hyperbole of the hawker, the characteristics of most of the products stand out in some bizarre, unusually fun, or useful way. The items are not unique, though, and they are not typically useful. In fact, some are harmful. According to the experts on infomercials and on the misleading information hawked, some of the vitamins do not work, some of the products break or deteriorate, and some are based on or contain advice that is wrong. Take, for example, the Kevin Trudeau situation. He has sold books that tell people to give up traditional medicine—such people have done so and died. He has, however, before being banned—finally—from infomercials altogether, made millions. That’s why I say the infomercials are profitable for many. There are enough who are up late, stoned, exhausted, and vulnerable to the mesmerizing lull or drilling of new ideas and materials. Hey, I am not exempt. I still want one of those vacuum storage bag dealies, just so I can watch the magic of the suction collapse and therefore make more manageable all the sweaters I own.

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