The infomercial (a.k.a. teleshopping or paid programming) is a tried and true advertisement, wherein advertisers purchase an entire half-hour block of time to hawk their products. These slots are generally late at night or early in the morning; wherever the network feels they can't make enough money selling normal ads to justify buying an actual show. On independent stations (especially in smaller markets) they can show up at any time of the day or night. They can even be disguised as "morning talk shows" designed to rope the housewife crowd into thinking that an amazing spa in town was discovered by the show's hosts, when said spa is paying for the show to mention them.
They'll give you "professional, independent research" on how their product is the best, show you how clumsy their competitors' products are (using an actor who is paid to make their competitors' products look as clumsy as possible), and even extol the virtues of their product in front of a real live Studio Audience (who were pre-screened for their ability to ooh, ah, and yell "and forget it!").
Infomercials are often dressed up as a talk show or pundit program, with the "guest" hawking the product. Infomercials even have "commercial breaks" (to tell you how to get the product, of course).
Many state fairs have commerce tents in which sellers demonstrate their wares infomercial style. This setup is called a "Hawk Stand" in Carny lingo. They are "hawking" products. The guy doing the demonstrations is the barker, or the "Doc". "Barker", after the speaking style, which employs short, sharp words like a dog barking. "Doc" comes a longer route - traveling snake-oil salesmen always claimed to be a doctor of one sort or another, and they used a very similar setup and pitch to do their thing.
So there you are, in case you were wondering about the difference between a snake-oil salesman and an infomercial spokesperson: namely, one of them works in front of a camera.
Uncommon on British TV, apart from those channels that are devoted to them, thanks to government regulation that has the main networks act in the public interest (of which airing long commercials for phone-a-psychics usually aren't part). Some Freeview channels such as Yesterday show nothing else after normal programming has ended. It used to be said that the commercial break on British TV was the chance to go to the kitchen and make a brew. Well, if the AhhBra monster is anything to go by, you can go to the kitchen, cook and eat a three course meal - with cheeseboard afterwards - and when you go back to the living room again, that irritating American woman still hasn't finished shilling her wonder bra, along with suspiciously minimal post-production...
But Wait, There's More! Act now and we'll throw in these Real Life examples, absolutely free!
- Any product by Ron Popeil.
- Many, many infomercials are made for kitchen knives, with each one being sharper than the last, and staying sharp even after you cut through a block of marble. (Why someone would cut through a block of marble with steak knives, no one knows.)
- Probably because it's easier than it looks.
- David Oreck has taken to hawking his vacuums and air purifiers via infomercial.
- As do his biggest infomercial competitors, Shark vacuums. The same company also shills Ninja food processors.
- Matthew Lesko, "that question mark guy" who has been selling ways to get free money from the U.S. government for many, many years.
- Tony Robbins is probably the king of the life coach infomercial.
- The infamously low budget Alumaloy infomercial, which was probably made about five dollars and some bus tokens.
- The Sharper Image advertised its Ionic Breeze Air Ionizer with a half-hour infomercial.
- Particularly amusing are informercials for fitness devices. They will generally tell you how ineffective other devices are; often the same company promoted the ineffective device only last month.
- Most amusing are when the product advertised is a supposed "improvement" over a common household item (such as a drill or hammer.) The inevitable attempt to make the regular product look "clumsy" just makes the spokespeople look like complete idiots.
- Billy Mays and OxiClean detergent. A match made in heaven.
- Tiddy Bear. No, seriously.
- The Snuggie, a technicolor backwards cult ro-er, blanket with slee-er, fuzzy smock!
- The Flex Seal family of products, featuring Phil Swift, the more ebullient Spiritual Successor to Billy Mays, and his ridiculous demonstrations, such as taking a chainsaw to a bucket and spraying it with Flex Seal, turning a rusty truck into a submarine, sawing a boat in half and repairing it with only Flex Tape, and cutting a hole in another boat only to repair it with Flex Tape Clear and move it into shark-infested waters. And the most memetic of all of them: punching a hole in a water tank, then Phil literally slapping some Flex Tape over it to immediately stop the leak.
- The 'AhhBra'' extended commercial, in which fairly attractive women are forced to wear hideously unflattering undergarments.
- Vince Offer and Shamwow
- The Magic Bullet
- The new trend is the 'house flipping ballroom seminar', where a personality from a house-flipping show (mainly A&E's Flip This House) promises untold riches for going into the risky business, and attract customers by buying every infomercial slot in a market for the next two weeks to advertise their plan, which either will drive people to the seminars or annoy people out of their minds. Than Merrill, Armando Montelongo and Scott and Amy Yancey from Flipping Vegas are the most infamous examples.
- Montel Williams disguised his infomercial (for a juicer) as his return to the talk-show world, complete with Montel announcer and Sylvia Browne.
- In the same vein, Larry King has taken to giving his name to "special reports" about the efficacy of things like fish-oil pills.
- Kevin Trudeau has a well-earned reputation for presenting the most spectacularly dishonest infomercials on television. In 2007, the Federal Trade Commission charged him with using dishonest infomercials to promote his book, The Weight Loss Cure "They" Don't Want You to Know About: in the infomercial, he claims that "it's easy to do, you can do it at home" and "when you're done with the protocol, eat whatever you want and you don't gain the weight back", but the "cure" as explained in the book involves multiple "colonics", injections of a prescription drug, and a final phase (which never ends) which prohibits all brand-name foods, all food from chain restaurants, all farm-raised fish, all artificial sweeteners, and all food cooked in a microwave oven. In a nutshell: "Hunt and farm your own damn food. Cook over a fire." He has since been imprisoned for repeatedly defying all court orders for him to stop advertising his products.
- Nintendo Week is a short form infomercial that can be viewed on the Wii Console's video channel. ranging from 10 to 15 minutes in length, it plugs the latest Wii and DS games with skits .
- Miss Cleo is a particularly crazy example; through the late 90's through early 2000's, she ran ads nonstop in her ever slipping Jamaican accent telling you to "call for your free readin'". (She and the company she was employed by, the Psychic Friends Network, were later sued for fraud.) Her 30-minute informercial was even more crazy, with Miss Cleo actually taking psychic calls on-air, not all of which ended well. Here's Miss Cleo accusing a man of being a mama's boy and killing a cactus.
- In The New 10's one infomercial that seemed in everyone's face was Mike Lindell's infomercial for MyPillow.
- 1994's Absolutely Rose Street is a 30-minute stealth infomercial for the Sega 32X. It aired on several major networks and (aside from a note at the beginning) looks like a normal show, except that it's all about the Sega Genesis' upcoming add-on.
- Some local car dealerships do these, often in media markets adjacent to their own as well as theirs.
- Because of tighter broadcasting and commercial regulation, British TV is less blatant about its Infomercials. However, British TV has ITV and Channel 5, who produce what on the face of things are holiday shows - or whole series - where a much-loved presenter gets to go on a jolly accompanied by a TV production team. On one level you get a pleasantly undemanding, and often visually attractive, feelgood holiday show. Then you might reflect that this is also incredibly good publicity for the hotel chain, the holiday park company, the cruise ship firm, et c. Especially when the presenter (unlike more traditional TV holiday review show such as the BBC's Holiday... series) expresses no critical comment whatsoeverand is gushingly up-beat and full of praise for the holiday, and the way the provider will go out of their way to provide the pluperfect holiday experience. Holiday shows on many British commercial TV channels are nothing more than cheap infill and disguised advertising, paid for by the product providers. Effectively, this is British TV's version of the Infomercial, albeit far less obnoxious and in-your-face compared to the American original.
Operators Are Standing By! Meanwhile, enjoy these free samples of fictional and In-Universe examples!
- In-universe example: Castle, "Sucker Punch". Johnny Vong gets rich off of "get rich quick" infomercials (thanks to a fake accent and a rags-to-riches story that never was), as well as using the books as a front for the heroin trade. This was a direct allusion to the real life "tale" of Tom Vu in the early 1990s.
- 5 Second Films has their very own Jon Worley, hawking such amazing products as Chop Wow! (a device for disposing of dead hookers); Flip-a-baby (for if you hate babies); and in one case, Jon Worley himself and his...special cleaning powers:
- Parodied by The Onion News Network, with a segment of the fake panel-discussion show "In the Know" quickly morphing into a pitch for the EZ-Go Juicer.
- Parodied by Adult Swim when it first aired a David Cross's Paid Programming — which started as a parody infomercial for a product known as "Icelandic Ultra Blue", but quickly goes off the rails from there. Many viewers were confused by this, as infomercials typically show up in television guides as "Paid Programming", although the channel doesn't ever play infomercials. The Icelandic Ultra Blue infomercial was meant to be a pilot for a full series (it ends with a Sequel Hook), but this never came to fruition. However, Adult Swim has hidden other one-off short films under the guise of "Paid Programming", including Too Many Cooks, Unedited Footage of a Bear, and This House Has People in It.
- And pilloried by the Ad Turds blog, where they are taken as evidence of Great Britain yet again adopting the very worst socio-cultural phenomena to come out of the USA.
- Dog Police's ode to the TV infomercial (and all the fine things they sell), "1-800".
- Steve Goodman's "Vegematic" is about a guy who fell asleep with the TV on and "dreamed I ordered every single one / of those late-night mail-order ads", proceeding into a List Song of all the junk that came through his door four to six weeks later.
- In-Universe example: In 2004, WWE introduced Mike Bucci as "Simon Dean," an evil wrestling infomercial fitness guru, who was supposed to be Raw's newest "sponsor."
- Oats Studios parodies this with the Cooking With Bill shorts, hawking grossly malfunctioning kitchen implements.
- Prior to Raven's Home, Chelsea made it big with her "Schmop" infomercials. Unfortunately, her now ex-husband stole all her cash and subsequently ended up in jail for tax fraud. This is why Chelsea and her son end up moving in with her recently divorced childhood friend Raven and her twins.
- Parodied in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode "Project Moon Base", where Joel and Bots present an infomercial for "SPACOM", a mystery substance that can be used for just about everything, from industrial solvent to snack food. The infomercial borrows claims and catchphrases from a number of popular '80s infomercials.
- Friends: Joey occasionally appeared in these during low points in his career including one for the "Milk Master 2000" as "Kevin" who couldn't open milk cartons without spilling. The rest of the gang have occasionally admitted to buying items they've seen on informericals. Rachel ended up buying the "Milk Master" (to Joey's delight) while Monica has purchased a mop and a home body waxing kit, which Phoebe also considered getting. Chandler and Kathy later bond over the fact that he bought the "Wonder Broom" that she'd seen on tv.