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Where Every Odd Gizmo Has a Chance to Shine

Consumers: At the National Infomercial Marketing Assn.'s trade expo, the Ab Wars rage on and it wouldn't take a psychic to predict the booming sales.

October 18, 1996|ROY RIVENBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

But sometimes the infomercials don't translate well. In one Asian market, sales for an ab machine plunged after a home shopping show host mistakenly placed the device in his crotch and was seen grimacing in pain.

There was also talk here of Internet infomercials and 24-hour infomercial channels (although the JW Greensheet reports that there may be competition for space from such planned cable stations as--seriously--the Sewing and Needle Arts Network, and CHOP TV, a martial arts channel).

To mark the industry's rising fortunes, the 1996 convention included the first inductees to the $100 Million Club, which honors entrepreneurs who have earned that sum from a single show.

The chosen few: infomercial pioneer Ron Popeil (for his Ronco food dehydrator and his pasta maker), self-help guru Robbins, "Amazing Discoveries" host Mike Levey, A.J. Khubani (Ambervision sunglasses) and Sonny Howard, a one-time singer on the "Ed Sullivan Show" and former writer for "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" who now hawks Duralube engine treatment.

Other convention highlights included a day of seminars that could have taken a few cues from infomercials themselves--applause signs, strapping the stiff panelists in abdomen devices or setting something on fire.

All in all, this infomercial madness proved pretty frightening. But it could have been worse. Down the street at the Desert Inn, in concert: Neil Sedaka.

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