Infomercials. That ugly word conjures up half-hours
of tacky, humdrum hucksterism. But it's the content that's clumsy, not the
Throughout most of the last century, print was king, even during the age
of radio and the early years of TV. Jingles, slogans, crisp copy, animation and
clever visuals were still poor cousins of privileged print.
Beginning in the middle 1960s, dazzling cinema-like spots mixed with the
succinct wit of print became the pinnacle of advertising mastery. An effective
television campaign often did it all: customer awareness, imprinting,
positioning, branding and messaging.
Not so today, at least for baby boomers. And it isn't simply because
we're not being targeted. The real reason is that our attention spans are
longer. We want to know more. We need to know more for a product or service to
be imprinted. A 30-second salvo will miss us by a mile. We will subconsciously
(oftentimes consciously) dismiss it.
If television advertising was once the poor cousin to print, nowadays,
infomercials are the bedraggled outcasts of both. While there are exceptions, infomercials are shoddy
also-rans in the advertising world.
But there is hope. Some marketers are taking advantage of the Internet
and cable TV. “On-demand” advertising is the new catch phrase.
The question is how to reach baby boomers. “You can impart a pretty
cool image in 30 seconds, especially with digital effects,” says Ron Koliha,
a creative director and copywriter for stereo-components manufacturer
Harmon-Kardon. “But when it comes to hard goods—especially high-tech hard
goods—the product is the brand. Ignore the
product, and the brand just becomes a symbol. Most of us baby boomers have
spent 40+ years digesting information and deciding what we want. The advertiser
who is willing to tell us the story of a product has the advantage.”
The cliché “thinking outside the box” applies here, but with
a twist: Think outside the television box.
If you are targeting baby boomers and you severely storyboard an infomercial
(especially by committee), it will end up DOA. With the longform infomercial, a
genuine relationship between your product or service and target market is
vital, and you have plenty of time to develop one.
There are many talented baby boomer film writers/directors, editors and
cinematographers who haven't gotten their hands dirty in ages. Some are now
producers. Some work in television. Some are sitting around doing nothing. Find
them and hire them. And trust them.
At some point in the '60s, someone convinced somebody that one-minute
commercials could be exciting, absorbing, mini-masterpieces
and do their jobs. If you want to reach baby
boomers, now is the time to persuade agencies and clients that this is likewise
true for five- to 30-minute infomercials.