Infomercials changed the way advertisers sell things on television. Previously, product manufacturers merely presented their wares on TV in the most attractive manner they could come up with. They planted ideas, sought to change habits or to create them where none existed. They expanded market share subtly with one common unifying factor – you watched the commercial and if you liked what you saw you went to the store or the showroom and bought it. From now on television would be different. Infomercials and direct response marketing was born. Now if you liked what you saw, thought it was just the right product, idea or concept for you, you picked up the phone, called the number on your screen and ordered what you wanted direct from the manufacturer.
It’s hard to imagine in today’s internet world with overnight deliveries and instantly downloads, but for the very first time you could order something off your TV set without even getting up from your favorite chair. It was unbelievable, magical, and very successful. Almost overnight phone banks sprang up all over the country as the call volume, once numbering in the thousands, surged into the millions. Like Internet domain names today, 800 numbers became a vanity item – the most popular ones disappearing as fast as they became available. Previously only used in magazine advertisements or mail order brochures, the phone business became a very big business with the success of infomercials.
To begin with, infomercials and direct response TV selling give a manufacturer an immediate tool to measure whether or not his product, his pricing and even his approach is working. Previously, manufacturers had to create their product, get it into stores where it would be available for purchase on a nationwide basis and then and only then, launch a costly nationwide advertising campaign on popular TV shows. After that, they would wait a minimum of 90 days, sending out squads of sales personnel or making hundreds of phone calls to find out if their product was selling. If it wasn’t it was back to the drawing board to try to figure out what went wrong and then perhaps try it again maybe next year.
With infomercials and direct response, there was now a way to measure the success or failure of any project in a matter of hours and at a fraction of the cost. If a manufacturer had his own phone bank, he could conceivably sit there after his infomercials were airing around the country and literally count the orders coming in. And almost immediately, he would have an idea if his project was working. This leveled the playing field for new product launches and led to the creation of hundreds of new products each and every year launched and tested as infomercials before ever hitting a retail outlet.
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