Call now! Informercials thrive in bad economy

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ShamWowWho hasn't been tempted by the $19.99 price tag of some seemingly magical product hawked on an infomercial? As this economy has more Americans staying in and watching TV, infomercial shopping is on the rise.

This trend is also fueled by the drop in advertising prices, which allows Billy Mays, Vince Offer of ShamWow fame and other leading pitchmen to move from late-night to prime time. "We're able to buy that TV time at half the price we were paying last year, so we're able to afford to run a lot more tele-advertising," A.K Khubani, the president of the Fairfield, New Jersey-based Telebrands, explained to WPIX News. Telebrands are the marketers of the spinning pet manicuring file Pedi Paws, the foot-scrubbing PedEgg, and AmberVision sunglasses.

What's more, as infomercial superstar Billy Mays recently pointed out to the Newark Star-Ledger, these products are all about D.I.Y., which comes in handy in tough times. "I want to save customers money by selling products that, used in the right way, can help them do projects instead of calling a professional in," he said.Popular recession-busting products include the Twin Draft Guard which promises to save you money on your heating bill, Green Bags that let you hold onto leftovers and other food longer, the Smart Chopper which comes in handy as people forsake restaurants and take to their kitchens, and Pedi Paws--a worst nightmare for pet salons.

"The products fit the lifestyle that people are now adapting to, which is cooking at home more, staying at home more and buying less in the way of luxury." Khubani told the Star-Ledger. "The primary reason is the cost of television time goes down and viewership goes up. When people don't have money, they spend more time watching television. Meanwhile, the media cost has dropped to half of what it was. You could say we're getting beachfront property at trailer park prices."

So expect to hear the siren call of an infomercial sandwiched between your favorite shows. Princeton professor Daniel Nosenchuck says that consumers get an endorphin rush responding to these in-your-face ads with their must-sell urgency and magic-trick-like demonstrations.

"People like that instantaneous feeling," says Nosenchuck. "The $19.95 price point product is totally an impulse buy. Here's the product, now pull out your credit card, get up off the sofa and dial the number. It's immediate closure."

To find out whether a product is really worth its shipping-and-handling, check out this recent WalletPop story on how to know whether an As-Seen-On-TV product really works before you buy it. And since they're here to stay, for now, right smack in the middle of your usual TV line-up, get to know your infomercial stars in this WalletPop round-up.

Since Billy Mays and that suave Englishman Anthony Sullivan of the Swivel Sweeper, Foodsaver and Smart Chopper are getting their own reality show on the Discovery Chanel, Pitch Men, is an American Idol for infomercial personalities next? If Americans really get hooked on these things, and the money that marketers are saving on advertisement goes into production quality, we could be headed there.
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