Here Is Your Open Thread

If nobody’s watching TV during the Fringe/Graveyard shift, who’s buying $200-250 billion worth of product? To put that into perspective: $250 billion will represent at least an entire percentage point of the U.S. GDP in 2015. Infomercials may be uniquely American, but how can they account for such a giant slice of America?

Consider some of the biggest brands in the DRTV business. ProActiv, a celebrity-shilled skin care line made famous on the infomercial circuit, generates a little over $1.7 billion a year in revenue.The PedEgg, a heel-scraping callus remover, has earned over $450 million since its first infomercial shred the airwaves in 2007. These products, like many others in the DRTV space, are not one-hit wonders, spawned in a garage by a couple of wackos with a pipedream. Rather, they are bets in the portfolios of much larger, highly capitalized intellectual property holding companies.

In the dead of night when infomercials run on air, most of us are sleeping. And those of us who are half awake are persuaded, somehow, to buy things “as seen on TV.” How, and why? At Priceonomics, Jon Nathanson looks at the economics of infomericals.

Photo: Carlos Almendarez

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9 Comments / Post A Comment

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

oh my god my family LOVES informercials. I used to find my dad and brothers watching them on weekend mornings growing up, and we would all just sit and make fun of the acting, the product and everything. The best ones were the magic bullet, and some knife set. We never even considered buying anything though.

LookUponMyWorks (#2,616)

@wrappedupinbooks I love the dramatic “oops!” moments in infomercials, like ‘oh no! I dropped the bowl of popcorn because I was holding a drink, a snuggie, a screaming toddler and trying to tie my shoe at the same time! I definitely need to PopcornCozy 3000!”

Lily Rowan (#70)

@LookUponMyWorks There are some amazing supercuts of that sort of thing out there.

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

@wrappedupinbooks YES that’s the best part!!!

eraserface (#1,628)

@wrappedupinbooks Okay, so who remembers Ronco? That was on allllll the time when I was a kid.

Bonnie St. Clair (#2,949)

@eraserface At one point when I was a kid, I was enamored with the idea of getting a Ronco Showtime Rotisserie cooker and watched the infomercial for it a bunch of times. Just set it – and forget it!

RachelW (#2,605)

When I was in law school, one of my friends and I would somehow regularly end up watching infomercials at 3 am after an evening out. They were weirdly enthralling at the time, but hard to remember in the morning… Fortunately, we never actually ordered anything.

Bonnie St. Clair (#2,949)

My favorite infomercial that I’ve seen recently is for the Cat’s Meow revolving cat toy – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crnn3iKb6_A. For whatever reason, the cat scaling the curtains + the sounds effects crack me up.

@Bonnie St. Clair Yesss I love that one!

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