Pitchmen – Snake Oil Salesmen or Genius?

PitchmenIf any of you have seen the Discovery Channel’s new television show, Pitchmen, you’re more than likely as fascinated by and addicted to it as I am.

The show airs on Wednesdays at 10pm ET on the Discovery Channel and highlights two ‘pitchmen’, Billy Mays and Anthony “Sully” Sullivan, as they meet with new inventors, choose a couple products, and pitch them.  Billy Mays, with his trademark beard and blue shirt, is well known as the face of Orange Glo, Oxi-Clean, and Kaboom!, among many others, while Sully and his British accent has pitched Foodsaver and The Smart Chopper.

However, the show is not as simple as following two guys around as they find and pitch products. Rather, it opens your eyes to the billion-dollar world of infomercials, a world that too often has been considered to be the realm of snake oil salesmen and con artists. Frankly, it shows you how wrong we all have been.

Contrary to popular belief, these pitchmen don’t market just anything. The products that Billy and Sully initially choose is based on their gut instinct and ad-hoc testing by themselves and members of the likely target market – they are very passionate about each product they pitch, and truly believe in what they are selling. So far, the products have included the “Dual Saw”, the “Spot Sucker”, and the “Tool Bandit”, among others, and, honestly, I watched each show thinking each and every product featured would be a huge success. However, this is where the genius comes in – not only do Billy and Sully have a knack for picking likely successful products, but they also display their marketing savvy in how they craft and pitch each infomercial.

You go into the show knowing that these two men are master pitchmen – personally, I feel they can sell anything (in fact, just this week I saw a commercial of Billy Mays pitching health insurance. Granted, I feel this is a miss in terms of matching a face to a brand, but it just shows that when someone wants something sold, they think of Billy or Sully as their go-to guy). But you leave the show in awe of the marketing genius that is behind a successful infomercial and how not only the face selling the product, but also – as in traditional marketing – the planning and strategy can make or break a product.

No matter how passionate the inventor or how emotionally invested the pitchmen, the products that Billy and Sully choose to take further is based on the results of their test ad campaign. If the results don’t back up the product, Billy and Sully don’t, either.

Pitchmen takes an often murky and overlooked world, the world of infomercials and direct response TV, and transforms it into the next big marketing frontier. Free up your calendar on Wednesday nights to tune in, and you’ll likely leave as fascinated as I am.

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