Infomercial Mania

Infomercials -- A Brief History


Bedtime for Deregulation
Some say it all started when Ronald Reagan deregulated the television industry during the early days of cable television, opening the door for greedy advertisers to buy up time in 30 and 60 minute chunks.

As if to fool the viewer, product pitches were loosely disguised as entertainment and the infomercial was born.

Soloflex exercise machines, in 1987, were one of the first items marketed this way. Ten years later, George Foreman and his Grill scored a knockout with one of the most successful infomercial product launches of all time.

Not-Exactly-Infomercials -- A Brief History
But a related version of this concept goes back long before the Reagan. We're talking about those shorts spots for amazing time-saving inventions or hilarious new gadgets that continue to be in heavy rotation on local TV stations. We suppose that technically they weren't infomercials but they were definitely a different breed of advertisement.

Way, way back in 1964, Ron Popeil hawked the slicing, dicing Veg-O-Matic.

Rival K-Tel countered with the Blitzhacker. The Blitzhacker?!

Hey, Good Lookin'! It's Mr. Microphone!
What could possibly be more fun than Mr. Microphone -- ?

The Pocket Fisherman
We're sure that Babe Winkelman carries one of these bad boys around.

Battery Tester
This device tests your flashlight batteries to see if they have enough juice. Here's a battery test. Hit the on button on your flashlight. If it comes on, the batteries are okay. If not, replace the freakin' batteries.

Hair Wiz
(Insert your own clever comment here)

This commercial has a definite Little Shop of Horrors vibe to it. And by the way, why is it that no hair is actually coming off?

Perhaps the genius of Lucy -- and Jackie Gleason above -- is that they saw the future impact of a TV trend decades before anyone else did.