ER: How did you get your start in the DRTV industry?
Richard Stacey: In 1984, I had a company in Canada selling home-study courses that I wrote on how to get rich in your own business and real estate. They were sold through seminars and mail order. I began seeing infomercials in the United States, selling similar courses by people like Tom Vu, Tony Hoffmann, Hal Morris, Paul Simon, and Ed Beckley. I decided to write a script for a 60-minute show called "Blue Print for Success." That show was a condensed summary of my eight-hour live seminar.
The first time we aired it, the station ran it for free, as they thought it was a public-service educational show. That's how "early" those days were back then! The phone lines were jammed for over a week from that first single Sunday afternoon airing. From that day forward, I was in the infomercial business.
ER: What is your most insightful story about the DRTV industry?
RS: What I have always loved about this industry is that there is always something new and exciting going on. Probably the most important insight is that there is no telling what people might buy—it almost always pays to test. Our biggest hits are often ones that you would not have predicted in advance. Sometimes, a show is not so well produced or the product is sort of gimmicky, but that is often what sells.
I remember years ago, a show on how to get better grades in school that reportedly cost a million dollars to produce (a lot of money at that time), that was shot on film and starred many sports starts like Wayne Gretzky. We had to call the station to see if it aired—there wasn't one call! A few days later, we aired a very simple show called Smart Mop and it took off like a rocket. So you just never know. It also means you have to always keep an open mind because no matter how crazy or off-beat a product is, it might just be the next winner.
The above post was adapted from a feature article by Richard Scheiner entitled "An Industry Remembers," which originally appeared in the September 2010 issue of Electronic Retailer magazine.
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