Infomercials are television commercials that sell products using programming imitative of noncommercial television shows. They can run anywhere from one minute to one hour, with the standard length being just under 30 minutes. Originally shown between the hours of 2 A.M. and 6 A.M., as a network’s alternative to signing off, infomercials can now be viewed on numerous channels 24 hours a day.
Infomercials, also called paid programming, are characterized by more in-depth information about a product than the viewer receives in a typical television advertisement. Many infomercials try to conceal their commercial interests, and structure their programming to resemble talk shows or other programs. Some are developed around narrative storylines, and many feature celebrity endorsements and interviews concerning the product. Infomercials are considered direct response marketing, and feature several short segments within the larger structure that invite the customer to call and place an order right away. They often rely on tactics such as limited-time offers, exclusivity of TV sales, and emphasizing the revolutionary qualities of their products in order to make sales. In addition to celebrity endorsements, personal testimonials are common, as are recommendations from scientists and experts in the field. Most tend to be repetitive, interspersing the broader content of narrative and testimonial with catchphrases and lists of the product’s attributes.
Infomercials burgeoned in the 1980s, after the Federal Communications Commission eased restrictions on television commercial programming. While early infomercials were usually limited to late night screening, stations are finding it increasingly lucrative to show infomercials at all hours of the day. In 2008, much of infomercial spending took place in the morning and daytime hours. In addition to the option of buying products directly from a phone number given in the infomercial, customers are increasingly turning to Web sites that deal specifically in merchandise shown on infomercials. Web sites such as www.infomercials-tv.com and www.isawitontv.info sell huge ranges of products, from exercise and health products to electronics and household goods, all of which are featured in infomercials on a wide variety of channels.
The beauty industry has found a market in infomercials, especially for personal care products and exercise equipment, which benefit from personal testimonials and demonstrations. Unlike traditional retailers, which rely solely on displays and packaging to advertise, infomercials provide before and after footage, step-by-step instructions with models on the use of the product, and interviews with customers asserting the life-altering capabilities of the product. A vast number of beauty and health products that use infomercials also use celebrity endorsements, with the celebrity’s exceptional beauty as further testament to the product’s revolutionary effectiveness.