When you hear "infomercial" you might picture a suburban mom on a fruitless quest through her cluttered kitchen cabinets to find a single matching container lid from her 10,000 piece Tupperware collection. Or a hapless man engaged in a heated but ultimately ill-fated wrestling match with his garden hose.
What was once an ad format no self-respecting agency would deign to touch after the 90s has suddenly found itself in vogue again, thanks to a growing consumer taste for all things nostalgic and kitsch.
The infomercial is no longer reserved for bacon bowls and Snuggies. Startups and big brands alike are embracing the format — with a few modern twists.
Fast-talking pitchmen like Billy Mays and Vince Shlomi (aka the ShamWow Guy) have been replaced by endearingly quirky character actors. Ad run times that once pushed the 30-minute mark on late night TV have been cut down to a more YouTube-friendly five minutes. And the all the unabashed cheesiness you’d expect from an infomercial is now intentionally engineered by teams of creatives.
Leading this new wave of viral, tongue-in-cheek infomercials is Utah-based agency Harmon Brothers, whose fresh spin on the once-tired ad format generated over $100 million of revenue in 2016 for their clients. Not to mention hundreds of millions of views on social media.
Other agencies and brands are feeling out the trend. And the results aren’t just funny — they’re also driving real brand awareness and sales. We’ve picked a few of the very best to inspire your next ad campaign. Check them out below and decide for yourself: Are infomercials here to stay?
7 Infomercials You’ll Actually Want to Watch
To highlight the benefits of this startup’s unique polymer mattress, the folks at Harmon Brothers created the raw egg test — "a super easy way to tell if your mattress is awful."
In the infomercial, an actress dressed as Goldilocks adheres four raw eggs to the underside of a 330-pound sheet of tempered glass, and then drops it onto a Purple mattress to see if the eggs break. The eggs survive the drop onto the Purple mattress, but crack when dropped onto traditional box spring models.
The demo is reminiscent of classic hard-sell infomercial presentations, but stays funny and refreshing thanks to some well-timed quippy lines from Goldilocks. The YouTube comments speak for themselves:
This is the first ad that actually entertained me… what just happened.
This is the best ad Ive [sic] ever watched, I didnt [sic] skip it.
The ad gained rapid viral attention, garnering 100 million views, 158,000 shares, and overwhelming Purple’s manufacturing with the sudden flux of online orders.
When Chatbooks, a photo printing startup, needed a way to introduce consumers to their company, they turned to Harmon Brothers. They needed a way to educate consumers about the specifics of their service without boring them. The viral video agency developed the perfect pitch-woman: a flustered "real mom" just trying to balance work, kids, and managing a house without losing her mind.
Actress Lisa Valentine Clark dodges arrows, garbage disposal mishaps, and kids jumping from windows in the brand’s first infomercial, which has amassed over 20 million views and 243,000 shares on social media since its release in October. We loved it so much we featured it in our October Ad Roundup.
The format was such a success for Chatbooks that they turned to Harmon Brothers again to create a holiday themed infomercial. It definitely captures all the charm of the original.
3) NERD Skincare
The ad — which was written by and stars comedian Laura Clery — took cues from the Harmon Brothers, delivering educational product info with a cartoonish flair that keeps viewers interested.
So far, the strategy seems to be paying off. The video has picked up 2.7 million views since its release in November, and led to eight-figure sales for NERD Skincare.
4) The Animal Foundation, Las Vegas
Is your alarm clock not enough to wake you up in the morning? You need Pet Cat: the hottest new product from The Animal Foundation. But hurry! They’re going fast.
Awkward cuts, bad green screen backgrounds, and cringe-worthy acting made this faux-infomercial from Palace — a London-based skateboard shop — a viral hit.
Palace founder Lev Tanju recruited actor Jonah Hill to star in the two-minute spot, which has over 300,000 views on Vimeo alone. "We just wanted to make something really stupid," Tanju told Dazed. The whole video was produced in-house by Tanju and his team.
The unconventional strategy ended up being a smart advertising approach. GQ called the ad "the funnest fashion related ad of the year" in 2016, and it was covered by major media outlets like Adweek, Forbes, and Fast Company.
6) GE Lighting
It’s not just startups and smaller companies trying out the infomercial trend — big names like GE are also giving them a spin.
Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim (aka Tim & Eric) created this goofy two-minute spot in collaboration with BBDO New York. Starring actor Jeff Goldblum as fake "famous person" Terry Quattro, the infomercial introduces GE’s line of long-lasting LED lightbulbs with all the deadpan weirdness you’d expect from a Tim & Eric production.
7) Squatty Potty
Called the "The Greatest Viral Ad in Internet History," this infomercial propelled a little-known toilet accessory startup to mainstream fame.
Produced by the Harmon Brothers, the ad features a handsome prince discussing the importance of colon health — using an ice-cream pooping unicorn as an example. The offbeat premise generated a ton of interest in Squatty Potty, and in the first four months alone, the ad was watched 66 million times and shared one million times on Facebook.
Would you ever consider using an infomercial style ad? Let us know in the comments.
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