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The Birth of Infomercials: 80s Commercials That Tried to Sell Us Everything

Remember the 80s? A time where neon colors, big hair, and leg warmers were all the rage. But more than just the fashion, the decade introduced something new to television advertising – the infomercial. These long-form commercials were designed to sell us everything from kitchen gadgets to exercise equipment, and they became a cultural phenomenon. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore the birth of infomercials and the impact they had on society.

What are Infomercials?

Infomercials are extended-length television commercials that run anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. They were initially aired during off-peak hours, late-night or early-morning time slots, to target insomniacs and shift workers. The aim of these commercials was to provide the viewer with detailed information about a product while showcasing its benefits. However, these commercials soon became infamous for their often exaggerated claims and cheesy production values.

The Rise of Infomercials

The infomercial era began in the mid-1980s, coinciding with the introduction of cable television, which allowed for expanded programming options. Initially, infomercials were used to market time-limited offers and product demonstrations. However, as cable television became more popular, infomercials moved into prime time slots and began targeting a broader audience.

The King of Infomercials

One of the pioneers of infomercials was Ron Popeil, the founder of Ronco, who became known for his catchphrase “Set it, and forget it!” His commercials were often quirky and over-the-top, offering viewers a taste of the potential magic his products could bring to their lives. He sold everything from food dehydrators to hair growth stimulators, and his infomercials made him a household name.

The Magic Bullet

Another iconic infomercial product was The Magic Bullet, a compact blender that promised to revolutionize the way we ate. The product’s unique selling point was its ability to blend, chop, and grate ingredients in a matter of seconds, all in a single container. The infomercial for The Magic Bullet quickly became one of the most recognizable in history, featuring catchy music, fast-paced editing, and tons of enthusiastic customers.

The Impact of Infomercials on Society

Infomercials had a significant impact on culture, both in terms of advertising and entertainment. For the first time, brands could create a direct response to consumers through television, bypassing traditional retail channels. This change allowed consumers to purchase products directly from the manufacturer, cutting out the middleman. Furthermore, infomercials became a cultural touchstone, with parodies appearing on multiple TV shows and movies, cementing their place in pop culture history.

The Scoop on Why Infomercials Worked

Infomercials worked because they provided an in-depth look at the product and its benefits. By showcasing the product’s features, infomercials could build trust with the viewer and establish a sense of reliability that could lead to a purchase. The commercials also made it easy for consumers to get the product they wanted by offering payment plans or flexible pricing, which helped convince viewers that the products were accessible.

The Future of Infomercials

Although infomercials may have lost some of their shine over the years, they’re still around today, albeit in a slightly different form. The internet now shares the direct response advertising responsibility, but the lessons of infomercials remain very much relevant. Marketers still look to nail the art of demonstrating the value of their products, clearly communicating their benefits to viewers and driving conversions. Furthermore, the nostalgia for infomercials continues, with throwback shows and podcasts diving into pop culture history and rediscovering some of the best from the era.

The Bottom Line

Infomercials were a new type of advertising that provided consumers with an in-depth look at a product, showcasing its benefits and creating a sense of trust and reliability. Not only did they change the way we advertised products, but they became a part of our cultural history, with products like the Magic Bullet and well-known pitchmen like Ron Popiel cementing their place in pop culture. Although the infomercial may have evolved, its impact continues to be felt today. And, with that, we’ll leave you with a well-known infomercial phrase: “But wait, there’s more!”