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Insomniacs must lead the most hassle-free lives. Aside from the whole “no sleep” thing, thanks to the wonderful world of late-night infomercials, their lives have been transformed by towels doubling as garments, tools to freeze pet droppings for easy pickup and a way to get out of reaching for things with their hands.
To some, infomercials may seem like a relic of Americana gone the way of tube TVs and VHS. However, infomercials are not only dependable like “Seinfeld” reruns — the products have received a boost due to an increased availability online and in retail stores.
“The industry is a strong platform, and it is still growing despite a weak economy,” says Kevin Harrington, chairman of As Seen On TV Inc. and TV Goods Inc. “We have found that in a down economy, people tend to go back to the basics and seek out comfort and convenience products.”
Harrington added that the most successful products must solve a problem in a unique way — ideally one that can be visually demonstrated. So we had to ask: What are some of the more useful and successful recent infomercial products?
The wearable blanket
If you’re like everyone else, there may not be a single more frustrating moment than when you realize you want to reach for the remote, but your hands are under a blanket. What to do? One of the perks of living in this day and age is the invention of the Snuggie, which is included on this list due to sheer popularity.
“The Snuggie is by far the most successful As Seen On TV product from the past five years,” Harrington says. “It was a social media and public relations bonanza.”
Twenty-six million of the wearable blankets have been sold worldwide, thanks in large part to the incredible commercials. We’re reminded how irritating blankets are, what with their sliding all over the place and “trapping” us when we just want a snack. It’s much more convenient to resemble a monk that wandered off of a Broadway stage.
The Snuggie’s popularity has spawned multiple knockoffs and even a Snuggie pub crawl in many cities. At $19.95, it might be the most affordable way to look like you’re in some fleece cult and stay warm. If this all weren’t great enough, it now comes in “wild new colors,” including leopard, zebra and camel.
Not to take anything away from the incredible absorbing powers of the ShamWow, but one wonders if it would have been quite as successful if not for the sales mastery and convincing headset of Vince “Offer” Shlomi. Trouble with the law derailed his Billy Mays-esque career path, but both men are a reminder that a strong pitchman can make almost any product successful.
“Linking celebrities to products is helpful when it comes down to the numbers,” says Harrington. “Well-liked celebrities are seen as credible sources for information.”
Enter Chuck Norris. Along with Christie Brinkley, his Total Gym endorsement has spanned 30 years and likely has been on your TV on several occasions. The product, a pulley home-workout system, is demonstrated poolside in one of the infomercials as Norris gracefully and passively glides through the various exercises without breaking a sweat.
The Total Gym, which costs anywhere from $600 to $899, has earned more than $1 billion in total sales. Perhaps that’s because we’re most likely to realize we should get on that exercise resolution when we’re lying on the couch at 2 a.m. Harrington says The Gazelle, which is like a swinging treadmill, has had similar success. If anything, it’s worth watching Tony Little look like a futuristic version of the Mario Bros. in the TV demonstration.
We need to talk about your feet
One of the more revolting yet secretly intriguing infomercial products involves, naturally, the feet. The PedEgg promises smooth and healthy feet — “with no mess.” All you need to do is run a steel grate over your feet, not unlike shredding a block of cheese.
The infomercial should be avoided if at all possible, as it contains many demonstrations of people scraping the undesirables off their feet while describing what they wanted removed. The product itself seems to work however, with favorable reviews and more than 45 million eggs sold as of March 2012.
As for the “no mess” part, that’s because the “filings” are stored in an inner chamber to be emptied at your leisure
Once you’ve tossed them, kick up your feet and slap on some Kinoki Foot Pads. Promising to remove your body’s toxins and make you feel rejuvenated in all kinds of ways, the pads instead look like part of a gym sock got stuck on your sole three weeks ago, and now you have to peel it off.
The “toxins” that turn the pad a convincing black have been discovered to likely be caused by foot moisture, which most of us don’t need confirmation of. The bogus claims have prompted the Federal Trade Commission to issue a marketing ban on the pads.
Lunch behind bars
Many of us can probably relate to a sticky-fingered coworker helping him or herself to part of your lunch in the break-room fridge. Perhaps it was an honest mistake. Either way, there won’t be any mistakes if you lock your food up in a lunch-pail vault.
The Fridge Locker is a combination-controlled “food security system” with an infomercial that includes a man standing on the vault and a grizzly bear trying to tamper with it in a quest for munchies. The bear of course fails, but what kind of people are we working with?
Probably the type of people who would break and enter for a perfectly steam-cooked egg. According to the infomercial for Egg Genie, attempting to boil an egg is a remarkably messy and exasperating task, bringing out the worst pouts in people. Egg Genie not only unapologetically encourages egg puns, but promises to steam cook your eggs “eggsactly” how you like them.
You won’t have to worry about overcooking, because a timer will set off what sounds like a nonstop broken fire alarm to ensure total “eggsellence.” Tell your friends and family, because Egg Genie also includes a microwavable bacon rack and really, what’s better than bacon — that’s been microwaved?
One of the great things about infomercials is the effort to make the ordinary seem remarkable. Fastening a snap becomes an unbelievably easy task and suddenly, chopping a carrot isn’t a sloppy, harrowing undertaking.
One gets the same impression when learning the wonders of Pillow Pets. What is a Pillow Pet, you ask? “It’s a pillow!” a bunch of excited kids yell in the infomercial. Before you have time to let that sink in, they yell, “It’s a pet!” To drive home this remarkable concept, we spend the next two minutes watching variously themed pillows fold and unfold from “pets” into pillows, complete with pixie dust showing just how simple the unfolding is along with the berating of “ordinary stuffed animals.”
If you have children, this is probably an excellent idea, and you may even own one of the wide variety of Pillow Pets yourself. More than 20 million of them have been sold worldwide, setting it apart as one of the more successful short-form infomercial products and delighting parents who would prefer to put off the purchase of an actual pet. You can always distract them, apparently, by folding and unfolding the pillows. Or are they pets?
Your dog won’t understand
Not all infomercial products can be as successful as a foot grater or wearable blanket. Here are some products that may not have been uber-successful on profit, but made millions in laughs.
The Flowbee. If you’ve ever cut your hair at home, you know it can be a bit messy. What you might not have considered is placing a vacuum directly on your hair as you cut. The expressions on those demonstrating the FlowBee in the infomercial can only belong to people getting new ‘dos with vacuums on their heads.
The Hawaii Chair. With a 2,800-revolutions-per-minute motor-rotating-seat chair, it promises to “take the work out of your workout.” But you may end up resembling a drunk hula dancer instead.
Poop-Freeze. Someone has discovered a way to make picking up after your dog fascinating. Poop-Freeze “forms a frosty film” on your pet’s dropping, hardening it for easy pickup. It claims to be safe to use indoors and for around $15, it’s certainly cheaper than a new rug.
Comfort Wipe. “Finally, there’s a better way,” thanks to a toilet paper holder that extends your reach 18 inches — bringing TP out of the Dark Ages and into the future.
UroClub. Included is a hand towel, so it appears “as if you’re just checking out your club.” Then they realize the look of your relief on your face and that your club is in fact a reservoir.