Infomercial

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Infomercials are television commercials that run as long as a typical television program (roughly thirty minutes or an hour). Infomercials, also known as paid programming (or teleshopping in Europe), are normally shown outside of peak hours, such as late at night or early in the morning. The word infomercial is a portmanteau which is formed by combining "information" and "commercial". As in any other form of advertisement, the content is a commercial message designed to represent the viewpoints and serve the interest of the sponsor. Infomercials are often made to closely resemble actual television programming, usually talk shows, with minimal acknowledgement that the program is actually an advertisement.

An infomercial is designed to solicit a direct response which is specific and quantifiable and is therefore a form of direct response marketing (not to be confused with direct marketing). The delivery of the response is direct between the viewer and the advertiser. Normally commercials do not solicit a direct response from the viewer, but instead try to brand their product in the market place.

Infomercials may make use of flashy catchphrases, repetition of basic ideas, and the use of esteemed scientist-like characters or celebrities. Well known infomercial personalities include: Cher, George Foreman (with the George Foreman Grill), Mike Levey, Ron Popeil, Kevin Trudeau, Chef Tony and Tony Robbins.

Because of the nature of infomercials, consumer advocates recommend careful investigation of the claims made on infomercials, including the company behind the product, before purchasing the featured products.

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History

Infomercials proliferated in the United States after 1984 when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) eliminated regulations, which were established in the 1950s and 1960s, on the commercial content of television. Much of their early development can be attributed to business partners Edward Valenti and Barry Beecher, who developed the format to sell the Ginsu Knife.

On occasion infomercials have been used for election campaigns. Most notably was that of former President of the United States candidate, Ross Perot, when he introduced his 1996 candidacy with running mate, Pat Choate, using an infomercial.

Parodies of infomercials

  • The comedian Leo Gallagher is famous for his sendup of infomercials with his signature sledgehammer routine, a presentation of the fruit and vegetable preparation tool called the "Sledge-O-Matic ".
  • On television's The Simpsons, faded Hollywood heartthrob Troy McClure regularly appeared on infomercials entitled "I Can't Believe They Invented It!"

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