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Infomercial

Updated on March 21, 2024
Article byNanditha Saravanakumar
Edited byNanditha Saravanakumar
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Infomercial Meaning

An infomercial refers to a form of a television advertisement that functions as a stand-alone program or is aired on a station specifically dedicated to it. Thus, it is usually longer than a normal advertisement, but its purpose remains the same. Nevertheless, it is more interactive and engaging.

Infomercial

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Infomercials, also known as telemarketing, provide detailed information about a product without any breaks or intervals in the program. They also entertain live on-show communication where prospects and customers can contact the hosts. Further, customers can avail of discounts and offers when purchased via an infomercial.

Key Takeaways

  • An infomercial can be referred to as a type of advertisement aired on television, typically long, spanning at least 15 minutes.
  • Also referred to as direct response television (DRTV) advertising, it was extremely prominent in the 1980s and remained so during the first decade of the 21st century. But now, its popularity has almost waned.
  • Infomercial script includes an introduction to a product, a live demonstration of its functionality, a description of its features, testimonials of past customers, real-time communication with customers or prospects, and limited-time offers.

Infomercial Explained

Infomercial videos are typically 15 minutes to 1 hour long advertisements. Sometimes they can be longer than that. The infomercial script consists of a host or an actor explaining the product’s features, demonstrating it’s working, emphasizing why it is better than competitors’ offerings, and reading or showing customer testimonials. Since they are live telecasts, prospects with doubts about the product or prior customers can contact a toll-free number and communicate with the host.

This call-to-action (CTA) strategy sets infomercials apart from other forms of advertisement. Customers watching the show and expressing their consent to buy it through the show are encouraged through various offers and discounts. These advertisements often showcase innovative products like a mop, which works like a broom or a multipurpose pen.

Some infomercial videos often show the number of orders placed every minute to motivate other viewers to be a part of the customer base. However, these advertisements do not maintain the enthusiasm they once had. With e-commerce and online shopping, customers wish to avoid watching an hour-long video to order a product. E-commerce sites provide better offers than shows. Also, customers can simply search the internet or watch a video to understand how to use a product.

Decades ago, there used to be nothing good on the television from midnight to early morning. In the 1980s, the Federal Communications Commission loosened restrictions limiting commercial content on television. Also, demotivated by the fewer viewers and decreased demand for airtime, television networks and channels sold off the time to infomercials to make as much money as possible. Brands were happy to enjoy more time for lesser cost in this ‘post late fringe’ or the ‘graveyard slot.’

However, let’s not forget that these advertisements are not limited to television. Newspaper infomercials were common in the last century. A dedicated column carries broad information about a particular product and provides a discount for the top ‘n’ number of customers.

Nevertheless, since its proliferation, it has been subject to heavy criticism due to the over-exaggeration of the infomercial products’ functionality. Especially, supplements for products like weight loss or height gain didn’t show any results; and people didn’t use the products they bought after some time. One appropriate example is exercise equipment.

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Features

Let us look at the characteristics of infomercials:

  • Also called (Direct Response Television) DRTV shows, they are usually stand-alone programs. Some channels exclusively broadcast telemarketing shows.
  • It appears during off-peak hours, mostly from midnight to early morning.
  • This reduces the cost of advertising for businesses and also helps TV stations earn additional revenue during off-peak time.
  • The shows are at least 15 minutes to a couple of hours long.
  • It is generally less expensive than commercials.
  • It does not have intervals or commercial breaks, as it is an advertisement itself.
  • It follows a call-to-action strategy and is more engaging.
  • Often associated with the exaggeration of infomercial products functionality.

Examples

Let’s discuss a few examples to have some clarity on the concept.

Example #1

Suppose Info-adz is a DRTV marketer who telecasts infomercials from different companies. They bought the airtime of channel X from 12 midnight to 1 a.m., where they air two 30-minute shows. The hosts sign contracts with Info-adz, the company that supplies the host. The value of the host depends on their fame. Any firms who wish to advertise during the time in channel X and want a particular host to present their product can contact Info-adz.

Example #2

ShopEX, an African TV shopping platform, has planned to revolutionize the shopping experience in West Africa by introducing Nigeria’s first infomercial. Each show has aired for 15 minutes since September 2022. Some of the company’s bestsellers, Copper Chef and Power XL Airfryer, will be showcased initially by celebrities Mercy Johnson, Chef Tola, and Chef Dee.

Although global interest in teleshopping has declined, Nigeria’s increasing television viewership is increasing. ShopEX aims to reach 4 million people daily through these 15-minute shows and expand to 20 million. 

Infomercial vs Commercial

Though the purpose of these two formats is the same, the methodology differs. Let’s distinguish between them in brief.

InfomercialCommercial
Long programs run during the night.Concise advertisements that are often catchy.
Since they are full-time advertisements themselves, there are no breaks.They appear during ‘commercial breaks’ interrupting programs. 
Provide detailed information about the product by demonstrating functionality, etc.They aim to create awareness about a product or an offer.
These are mostly live telecasts. Pre-recorded videos played again and again.
They are cheaper considering the running time.Commercials are expensive since they run during peak hours.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How to make an infomercial?

First, the show presents a common problem and informs that there are few solutions in the market. Then the product is presented, and its working demonstrated. The host is an important factor. A more prominent actor advocating a firm’s offerings adds value to the firm. The host emphasizes why the customer should buy the product and gives them a limited-time offer to motivate them to buy. It is important to present testimonies and interact with a live audience to make the show engaging. Some telecasts also show the real-time amount of sales to encourage customers.

2. Are infomercials scams?

No. Infomercials are a form of advertising that aim to promote awareness and sales. However, they are also sometimes used for fraudulent purposes such as deceptive advertising, travel scams, etc.

3. How much do infomercials cost?

DRTV shows generally cost much less than commercials since they are aired during off-peak hours. On the other hand, commercials are telecasted between important peak hour shows and are expensive even with the extremely short duration.

This has been a guide to Infomercial and its meaning. We explain the topic in detail, including its examples, comparison with commercials, and features. You can learn more about it from the following articles –

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