July 13, 2005 1:08 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone written some sort of scholarly critique or observations about infomercials and their bizarre and sort of addictive appeal?

There's this infomercial that airs all the time (in Seattle at least) about the "Magic Bullet" which as far as I can tell is a glorified blender. I have no intention of buying this machine, but everytime the informercial is on, I feel an odd compulsion to watch it all the way through, smiling and kind of getting into the demonstration of the product. What is that? have there been studies about the appeal of informercials and their infiltration into pop culture (I'm sure most TV watchers know that RonCo guy or "set it and forget it").
posted by Slimemonster to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
God, if you find one, lemm know. I am a rather intelligent person who becomes a complete drooling idiot at infomercials, and I actually find myself *believing* the product claims. I don't even COOK and I almost bought a set of polymer-type pans, jesus.
posted by tristeza at 1:46 PM on July 13, 2005

Me too - what's the deal?

I'd love to read something about those things.
posted by agregoli at 1:56 PM on July 13, 2005

Here's a start. Keep us posted.
posted by ori at 2:06 PM on July 13, 2005

Lots of good links here, too.
posted by ori at 2:09 PM on July 13, 2005

This sounds a lot like Ien Ang's "Watching Dallas". If I remember it right, a lot of people like to watch crap, not because they're idiots, but because they derive enjoyment from the awfulness.

I don't have time to find a good summary via google, but I'm sure it can be found.
posted by ODiV at 2:09 PM on July 13, 2005

The book Jump Start Your Business Brain by Doug Hall has a few things to say about why they are succesful. He suggests that you should follow their lead when creating your own marketing material.

Disclaimer: I used to work for Doug.
posted by Mick at 2:47 PM on July 13, 2005

We have two -- count 'em -- two Magic Bullets in our house. It was a buy one, get one free deal that my in-laws took advantage of. I have to say, the thing works pretty darn well. Whips up frothy coffee drinks or smoothies in a flash, and we've made plenty of dips and such as well. Haven't tried the juicer attachment yet, so I can't vouch for that. So while the informercial really overplays the convenience of the thing, it really is pretty cool.

My favorite thing about infomercials is how it has become standard practice to show the problem scenario in black and white, and then cut to glorious color for the product reveal. My wife and I have taken to shouting "black and white!" when we struggle with kitchen items.
posted by schoolgirl report at 2:50 PM on July 13, 2005

I have no idea what it is. I saw the magic bullet commercial though and had to buy it! It is a bit more convenient than a blender and excellent for making a perfectly scrambled omelet, if you like that sort of thing. Makes nice milkshakes too!

I also bought those pasta pots with the holes in the lid for draining. Those? They weren't so great. Very cheap. I'll stick with my colander.
posted by lynda at 3:51 PM on July 13, 2005

You know what's the greatest? Watching badly dubbed Spanish infomercials, especially as someone who really doesn't know Spanish. If you're looking for the appeal of awfulness, it doesn't get much better than that.
posted by dagnyscott at 4:01 PM on July 13, 2005

Does anyone remember the Rio infomercial from the early/mid-90's? They were hawking some kind of formidable chemical relaxer, but it was apparently "natural" enough for the host to eat a glob of the stuff ("It tastes like vanilla!"). Of course the infomercials all disappeared when it turned out the stuff made users' hair fall out. Which was a shame, really, because it was one of the most entertaining things I have ever stumbled across at that hour.

I swear, I was NOT drunk at the time.
posted by Vervain at 6:03 PM on July 13, 2005

I can probably do the ProActiv infomercial off by heart, and i'm pretty familiar with the Magic Bullet too. If I flip on an episode of, say, Friends, and I've seen it already, I turn it off. But I'll struggle to stay awake to watch them make those stupid dips and shakes over and over again.

Yeah, this answer isn't that helpful, but i felt like empathising.
posted by Kololo at 3:51 AM on July 14, 2005

I'll vouch anecdotally for the awfulness factor. That's the only reason I have for why I would watch that "tiny classified ads" guy, Matthew Lesko, or the "no-money-down" home buying course.

Plus, I love to see the exaggerations product infomercials use when characterizing the problem they solve. "Has this ever happened to you?" voice over of a guy bound by electrical cords. "Then you need the Cord Detangler!"
posted by bbrown at 6:42 AM on July 14, 2005

Here's a bunch of articles (scroll down past the ads towards the top, the first article's title starts with "Selling Stereotypes..." Hope this helps.
posted by JPowers at 8:18 AM on July 14, 2005

My favorite infomercial was for Nads hair removal cream. I actually taped it.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 8:31 AM on July 14, 2005

My girlfriend thinks that I'm insane becuase i'm obsessed with the various home shopping networks. A large portion of the programming is live, and there are often bloopers which I find endlessly entertaining. I especially love the computer/technology shows where they use lame buzzwords as the main selling point. "This computer comes with multimedia!"
posted by TurkishGolds at 10:09 AM on July 14, 2005

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