Infomercials are a staple of American television today. You grew up on them. These are the late-night half-hour infomercial segments. Also the short and persuasive, commercials during your favorite daytime program. Infomercials are ubiquitous with television. How did this happen? Let’s dive right into the infomercial background then. We’ll throw in some infomercial fails too.
What is the background of ‘infomercials’ that led to the popularity of the advertising medium realized today?
Infomercial background: Infomercials were very different from what we know today.
The first known TV infomercial aired in 1949 for Vitamix. A self-proclaimed health expert occupied a half-hour of airtime to laud the benefits of the device.
William Barnard, or “Papa,” claimed that the blender was “the most wonderful machine ever invented.” The infomercial was reminiscent of a “Medicine Show” of older times.
Barnard exaggerated health claims and created a sense of need for the product. He did this by criticizing the ability of housewives to provide healthy and nutritious foods.
Over-the-top claims and abusive targeting continued until the FCC regulated advertising through Third Report and Order. They may have taken regulation a step too far, though.
The Cable Communications Policy Act, introduced to Congress in 1984, changed the landscape of cable television beyond imagination.
FCC regulations limit advertisers as to the duration of certain advertising broadcasting hours. This is a contrast from the current infomercial advertising where we see hours upon hours of late-night ads.
Mark Fowler, the FCC chairman at the time, recognized the importance of an open and free video marketplace. Throughout the early days of television, we believed that without regulation, broadcasters would have no obligation to provide quality content.
Or as they labeled it, “programming that responds to community issues”. However, Fowler’s FCC, under Ronald Reagan’s presidency, concluded that the market demand for informational programs.
Also, local and non-entertainment programming will continue too as the video marketplace evolves.
So, the FCC allowed for infomercial advertising. What happened next?
Of course, there were TV advertisements before FCC deregulation. But the format we know today wasn’t introduced likely through the development of networks for advertising purposes.
Deregulation brought forward the potential for large profits through TV advertising.
A name essential to understand infomercial background that landed us where we are today is Kevin Harrington.
Harrington self-proclaims to have created the first modern infomercial in 1985. Thus, resulted to the birth of company Quantum International.
Harrington serves as the chairman of Quantum International to this day. Harrington went on to take part with and create various other TV marketing companies. In 1994, he co-founded the Home Shopping Network.
“They [owners of the products] had their pitch already. All I did was film, put a call to action in at the end, and summarized the benefits.
Lastly, put it up on the downtime on TV.” You might be saying, “Well, I only channel surf during daytime and I’ve seen my fair share of infomercials.” And, you’re right.
With an estimated value of $250 billion, the market for infomercial products in the U.S. is nothing to scoff at.
Infomercial background: Final Thoughts
The value of direct advertising caused the “post-late fringe” late-night infomercials to move into prime time.
Infomercials in our present day can take on a myriad of forms. Since 2000, infomercials are advertising for political candidates on news stations. They also did this for children’s products and religious messages such as televangelists. Moreover, even the NRA has used infomercials to promote their message.
TV advertising that is entertaining will always have a market. Infomercials are a versatile form of advertising and will stick around for a long while. Today infomercials feature a wide range of products. From steel pans, to vape mods, and pest repellant sprays.