Wednesday, April 9, 2008

My guilty pleasure…infomercials!

There’s nothing better on a lazy, rainy Sunday morning than hunkering down with a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of coffee to watch some infomercials. I’ve loved this 30-60 minute commercial format since I was a kid. I just have to know, what else it can do! My favorite part is to guess by how many payments of $19.95 are they going reduce this gem, oh, and what kind of just-for-ordering-now gifts am I going to get?

Currently, the vast majority of infomercials seem to fall into one of three categories: fitness/exercise, healthy/beauty, and kitchen equipment. Although I’ll watch them all, fitness and exercise infomercials are my favorite. I guess it’s because I, like most Americans, want the perfect body with six-pack abs and there has to be some magic bullet (like a bean-shaped mini-air mattress that comes with TWO DVDs, right?). Yes, I ordered The Bean, which I blew up, fell off of it about 20 times during the video, deflated it and sold it at a garage sale for about ¼ of what I paid for it.

I believe most infomercials are hoping for the impulse buyer, which I like to believe that I am not (but my conviction is not strong). I have to watch an infomercial at least 5 times before I buy an item, and I usually do an internet search to find some impartial reviews of the product. I was oh so close to buying the piece of equipment that Chuck Norris hawks, but the reviews were so-so, and I really don’t have the space for it. It’s interesting that I remember Chuck, but not the specific piece of equipment.

The status of my infomercial purchases you ask? Bean: see above; Windsor Pilates DVDs: I haven’t used them in about a year; Slim-in-6 DVDs: they were too easy so I gave them to my brother-in-law (who loves them!); Yoga VHS tapes: oldie but goodie and I still use them occasionally; and my most recent purchase Yoga-Booty-Boogie-Ballet DVDs, I keep trying to get into them with little success (I think it's the name of the product).

I decided to do a quick Google on the genesis and success of infomercials. According to, infomercials were born out of the deregulation of TV by Reagan in the 1980s. The most popular channels were religious channels that had cheap airtime available late at night and early in the morning. Infomercials were cheaply produced and provided a quick way that companies could quickly gather consumer data on their products and pricing. Then along came Jane Fonda. Not only did Jane reinvigorate her career by putting out a little exercise video, she put the home fitness industry and infomercials on the map.

Today, infomercials are of a much higher quality than the likes of loud, brassy oldies like Ginsu knives (but I can see the guy cut through the can and then the tomato right now) in order to appeal to a much more sophisticated audience. Again according to, infomercials reach over 15 million people, have created billions in revenue for companies, and provide “direct response” to companies about products and pricing within hours of running the spot.

Next, I’m trying to figure out where to put a chin-up bar in my house…I’ve watched the P90X workout infomercial 4 times now…