Infomercial Media Buying 101

Posted on August 26, 2015 by Media Culture

Infomercials can be an effective sales tool, but buying an infomercial isn’t the same as buying a much shorter product advertisement. When reviewing these media-buying choices, there’s a lot to consider, including the format of the infomercial, when it’ll run and how the product is priced.

Infomercials 101

Most infomercials are significantly longer than the standard 10 to 30 seconds allotted to traditional short form commercials. This length allows marketers to demonstrate how their product works, whom it’ll benefit and features that put it heads above the competition. That extra time can be a blessing for someone interested in the message and the product, or a serious annoyance if your target audience isn’t immediately hooked and changes the channel.

The format you choose will be highly dependent on your viewers and what they want to see, but your options are far from limited.

Here are just a few of the most popular formats:

Talk Show. Non-demonstrable products do well in the talk show format. Instead of demonstrating what a product can do, an infomercial host instead interviews users of the product for testimonials and perhaps someone with the expertise to discuss the product’s benefits. Low-budget and easy to produce, the talk show can be extremely effective when the right product and strong testimonials are combined.

Demo Show. When viewers think of infomercials, it’s often the demo show that comes to mind. In this format, the product that’s being sold is demonstrated by a presenter with a big personality. It’s another low-budget, cost-effective option if the product is easy to demonstrate and can be shown in high contrast to similar products.

Documercial. This format is among the most expensive and least entertaining options, but it can help customers who are already interested in a product make up their minds. By providing as much product information as possible, customers can be certain the product will do exactly what it claims. These are very popular with Fortune 500 companies, but can be used by companies at any level provided the budget holds. They’re considered very credible by viewers.

Storymercial. Using drama to pull the viewer in, the storymercial is generally structured as a series of up to three fictional vignettes involving the product. It’s a fickle format and may be difficult to execute for many product types, but viewers find them entertaining and the softer sales approach can be beneficial for certain audiences.

Choosing the Right Product Pricing

The format of an infomercial is vital, but there are other elements at play as well in infomercial buying. The style of pitch and pricing strategy can influence viewers just as much as the style of the media in which these things are presented.

When the product featured in an infomercial is also available at a retail outlet, pricing is a serious consideration. You want your infomercial to feed retail sales, not to compete with them.

Marketers achieve this effect in one of two ways:

  • Pricing the product the same everywhere. Customers take comfort in knowing that a product advertised on television is also available in a retail outlet. This knowledge alone can feed sales in both directions because the customer is then assured that the item is “for real.” A single pricing strategy across outlets can translate into high credibility.
  • Pricing the product higher in the infomercial and offering premiums. A second method of pricing infomercial products is to offer premiums that aren’t available elsewhere and raising the price above that of a basic retail version of the item. Customers who choose to order from the infomercial are awarded with extra items they might find invaluable, or they can save money and purchase the item in their local retail store.

Product Hooks

There are several classic ways to entice a customer to order a product from an infomercial. These hooks can be extremely effective if the product is well-received and the demonstration is viewed as credible.

Here are the two most common types of infomercial hooks:

  • Limited supplies. When someone is interested in a product, knowing that they may not be able to purchase it at a later time is a serious motivator. This doesn’t work very well for products that are known to be in retail stores, but when they’re available only via infomercials, urgency can be an effective tool.
  • Bonus offers. Who doesn’t want something for free? Giving away free products with an order is a great way to get attention and interested consumers appreciate the value. It’s not as motivating as limited supplies, but many perceive it to be a much more genuine sales method.

Picking the Right Time Slot

Infomercials don’t have to appear late in the night — depending on the product’s target market, running a late night block can actually be a waste of money. Before committing to a particular block of airtime, an infomercial buyer must understand what time of day the best audience for the product is watching television. Even if the infomercial has the right product, the right hook and the right pricing, it can still be useless if it runs in front of an audience that isn’t interested and/or isn’t appropriate.

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