Chapter 8

But Wait, There’s More!

Seriously, does direct-response TV have to suck?

THE DARK AGES PRODUCED A THING called the Iron Maiden—a coffin with spikes on the inside that slowly skewered the victim as its lid was closed. Yet even the Dark Ages—that period of superstitious insanity and violence—never came up with a torture as horrifying as Suzanne Somers telling me about all the great benefits of the ThighMaster.

The direct-response TV (DRTV) part of our industry has traditionally produced some of the most horrible blather in the history of television: Richard Simmons and his Deal-A-Meal cards; the old lady in the First Alert spots who said, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”; and most recently, the plague of ab workout machines—the Ab-Ripper, the Ab-inator, the Ab-Whatever. George Orwell must’ve foreseen the state of modern infomercials when he referred to advertising as “the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket.”

But here’s the deal. The guy who did that ThighMaster thing? He’s a multimillionaire. So are Richard Simmons and Ron Popeil. (Popeil sold his company in 2005 for $55 million.) And all those commercials you hate? They sell products by the Mall-of-America load.

Given this, it would seem we’ve come back around to Mr. Whipple and the main question we started with: To be effective, do DRTV spots and infomercials have to suck?

I like selling things. I think it’s cool. But when I look at the Home Shopping Network and the geeky way they honk that horn when people call ...

Get Hey Whipple Squeeze This! By Luke Sullivan: The Classic Guide to Creating Great Ads, Fourth Edition now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.