Not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with informercials. Nor was his product bad. The warning sign was in what he told me: “I want to blaze new trails. I want to throw out the established formula and start from scratch with something entirely new.”
I pointed out that all successful direct response formats that survive and persist, informercials included, do so because they work. There’s nothing wrong with a responsible testing approach to improve performance. Indeed, such can lead to breakthroughs. But to discard what we know to start afresh would be like setting out to invent a new airplane without regard for what we already know about aerodynamics. The end result might fly. Might. But I wouldn’t count on it. I told him that to increase his odds of success, he would be wise to imitate the most successful infomercials on the air.
It also struck me odd — and this happens more often than you might think — that someone would seek out an expert with the intention of overruling the expertise.
Not long after, he produced an infomercial. It was an artsy, expensive production. It sold nothing. Meanwhile, infomercials in the established style continue to thrive, and not because they do well in sweeps weeks. Simply, they sell lots of stuff.
I should add that more infomercials flop than fly. That’s because it takes more than the correct format to create sales. The most fundamental ingredient to a successful informercial (or to any other direct response tactic) is to have a product that people want to to buy.