Great Memories of the Industry's Early Days
Saluting the Infomercial Along With the People and Products that Have Contributed to DR’s 25-Year Milestone.
From the early days of NIMA to the current day ERA, those of us who have been around for the full evolution of both DRTV and the infomercial have great stories to tell about the people, the products and the great experiences we have had in this industry. We applaud ERA and Electronic Retailer for recognizing the 25th anniversary of the infomercial, and allowing some of our infomercial pioneers–such as Dan Zifkin, president of Zephyr Media Group–to reflect on these great memories.
Zephyr Media Group
Electronic Retailer (ER): What were you doing 25 years ago in the DRTV industry?
Dan Zifkin: Twenty-five years ago, I was working at Blair Television, in Chicago, Ill. Back then, Chicago was hopping with agencies that were busy buying media on TV stations across the country. There was Leo Burnett, of course, but you also had, DDB Needham, J. Walter Thompson, Grey Advertising, Wells Rich Greene, Hal Riney & Partners, TLK, BBDO, SMY, Eicoff, CPM, McCann Erickson, Y&apm;R and so many others. But DRTV was not real big back then.
ER: What were your expectations of the industry then, and what are they now?
Zifkin: The expectations back then for DRTV was not anything substantial. Back then, Eicoff was considered a leader in the field. Long-form advertising really had not begun. And if it was around, it was really at a nascent stage. During that time, short form was dominated by Sports Illustrated, The Wall Street Journal and Time-Life. And, you had various small players almost by market to market. I remember while I was at Blair, I and another person at the company were hired to star in a DR commercial for a fireplace, which was locally produced and aired. But, I remember working at WGN later in the ’80s, just as long form was coming into the landscape, and short form was being placed in the market. However, inventory back then, seemed a bit tighter on stations schedules.
ER: What product(s) changed the face of DRTV within the past 25 years?
Zifkin: You had Proactiv Solution and Guthy-Renker. Also, there was Orange-Glo, Tae-Bo, The Sharper Image’s Ionic Breeze, The Summer Delight, The Razor, Little Giant Ladder and Snuggie. There were weight-loss programs like Jenny Craig and NutriSystem. And you had houseware products like the George Foreman Grill. There was Kevin Trudeau with his host of shows, Carlton Sheets and, of course, Ron Popeil and Ronco.
ER: What is your most memorable (insightful, funny or endearing) story of the DRTV industry to date?
Zifkin: Well, I think I am no different than anyone else who has been in the industry, and picks out a story that has had a particular impact on them. One of mine is realizing that The Sharper Image’s Ionic Breeze was going to be a success, but not sure just how big it was going to be…and it became huge! The company’s stock jumped six times over the success of the infomercial, and its management was taken totally by surprise. Instead of The Sharper Image’s advertising costing the company a lot, it really generated a fortune. The company was realizing tangible, discerning results from its advertising. The Sharper Image was not only selling its product, but also doing an incredible job of branding its product. The show lasted many years.