February 8, 1999
Must Not Just Sell, But
by Mark Williams
Infomercial programs need to be more entertaining to capture the
attention of an audience increasingly pressed for time. Consider
the state of mind of an average man or woman who has been working
all day either in the home or office. They have been subjected
to such indignities as road rage, downsizing, bosses, screaming
kids, credit card debt, a volatile stock market and a multitude
of other stressful events. They slump into the living room
couch, turn on the television to get some relief and ... a DRTV
marketer wants to sell them something.
Give us a break. There's definitely something wrong with
this picture. When people really want to purchase something,
don't they go to a store or watch a shopping channel? When
they turn on the TV, people are looking for entertainment, visually
Entertainment and sales have a long history together. Look
back to the last century, for example, when a horse drawn wagon
would pull into town featuring exotic dancers, musicians, comedians,
singers, actors, or magicians. They would entertain until
a crowd gathered. Then and only then did the sales pitch begin
for the magic elixir or some other kind of snake oil. Strange
as it seemed, the product became a character in the show.
Looking back at the humble beginnings of the broadcast industry,
David Sarnoff, the former chairman of RCA, was a pioneer in developing
commercial radio. A product would pay for the presentation
of an entertaining 30 or 60 minute program. Those shows were
great - music, drama, comedy news - and all for the sole purpose
of selling products. Those of us who were privileged to listen
to these shows were smitten and we associated the products with
the shows. Lux Soap presented Hollywood, Pabst Blue Ribbon
Beer brought us Eddie Cantor, Lava Soap brought us the stories of
the FBI, to name a few examples. We did exactly what the advertisers
wanted us to do.
With the advent of television, the David Sarnoff genius proceeded
to create commercial television. Texaco presented Milton Berle,
Philip Morris gave us "I Love Lucy", Lipton Soup brought us Arthur
Godfrey. Those beginnings led to today and, in a sense, to us!
Remember, infomercials do not compete for attention with other
infomercials. They compete with the audiences' daily lives
and with other types of shows. Look at the rash of 30 and
60 second spot commercials today that are thematically captivating,
but don't reveal what product is being sold until the very end.
Shows can be driven in the following ways: product-driven, concept-driven,
character-driven, celebrity-driven and price-driven. Using
common sense and recognizing the theory of compromise, it's possible
to couple these principles with entertainment and emotion.
In the most basic example which we experience every day, people
dress to attract our attention and often entertain us prior to telling
us their story. And, after all, what is seduction anyway?
When I did my first infomercial in 1983, I brought in one of America's
most distinguished and authoritative personalities, E.G. Marshall,
and we did a show called, "How To Be Successful in America Today."
It was an entertaining, informative documentary-style hour selling
Lowry Seminars. The show was enormously successful.
We broke the existing rules in providing entertainment and emotion,
compromising and harmonizing with the product. We showed the
product as part of the show's character and the audiences accepted
it that way. Mark Twain once said, "The difference between
a fool and a hero is timing." It was guesswork on my part,
but my timing was right.
When I produced infomercials starring business opportunity pitchman
Dave Del Dotto, timing was right again. I merely used these
entertainment principles and coupled them with Dave's magnetism
in all of the programming. When Dave first came on the air,
both he and the infomercial concept were virtually unknown.
He wore a white suit, I decorated the set in burgundy, white and
gold, brought in an audience of 2,000 people, a band and two singers.
It worked as a financial "Tonight Show" and was a huge, innovative
A subsequent show took place in Hawaii and included contests, more
bands, more singers, more music, dancers and testimonials that didn't
talk numbers but told success stories. We also included celebrity
appearances from Monty Hall, William Shatner, and John Davidson
to add to the show's entertainment value.
Entertainment can be delivered in many ways. The obvious
method is performance, but such elements as music, visuals, emotions
and characters can all be designed, in a sense, as entertainment.
Audiences not only love it, they need it. It's an idea that
is demonstrated in all of my shows: always think entertainment!
Mark Williams Entertainment
East Warm Springs Road, Suite #102
Las Vegas, Nevada 89119
Contact: Honolulu, Hawaii (808) 223-1974
| Testimonials | Partial
Credits | News | Contact
contents of this web site © Copyright 2002 - 2009
Mark Williams Entertainment Organization, L.L.C.
All Rights Reserved.
Develoment and Hosting by Branding on the Net