Relentless Infomercial Zeal

Louis Theroux and his Weird Weekends. Over a decade ago he poked his nose in the world of tv shopping channels, centring on an American station in Tampa.

Our first exposure was to a room full of presenters, fully pumped and ready to rock. One guy was pitching magnets for health and sleep purposes. When Louis raised his vocal eyebrow with a knowing chuckle, the snap back was instant; they’d once sold $1m in one day. Whoa!

The next guy was about to promote a cleaning product. “What’s Oxy Clean?” Louis quizzed, bringing the again instant response, “it’s a cleaner that works so you don’t have to!”

Even in this fleeting moment of docu-telly, I couldn’t help wondering just how many salespeople could really rattle off such apt retorts when put on the spot like that about their own wares.

Much of the show was a lesson in how to do a presentation as Louis grew increasingly nervous over his own product pitch live on air (eventually for a paper shredder) for the film’s denouement.

Here’s a flavour of the (terrific) tips from the experts:

  • Flash is cash, make it look colourful
  • People buy belief in the person
  • Bring it to life, make it exciting and fun
  • Preparation of materials/props and verbal out-loud practice were rigorous
  • Referring to products’ full model names/numbers makes you look like an expert
  • Describe your product, say what it looks like, then what it does and how it helps quick quick, then bang into the demo
  • Get quickly into the demo, cut down all chat to almost zero before pressing any buttons

And don’t think that this is just typical American over-the-top zany dross. One mentor was an English guy who’d been there six years, with even the usually cynical Louis moved to acclaim his skill.

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