may 25

The Infomercial

On The Media: "It seems the lowly infomercial is finally enjoying its moment in the sun. So far this year it has garnered a book, a reality show and even a television documentary by CNBC." Update: Inside, SABF plugs Pitchmen, which I haven't seen yet.

1 comment

Pitchmen is like a fucking magic trick of rhetoric and branding. Each episode is basically just an infomercial for the informercials being filmed within it -- it's just an infomercial wrapped in the form of an hour-long Discovery Channel show instead of a quick-cut, one and a half minute whambamthankyoumaam sell-off. In a way, it's the exact opposite of Mythbusters -- it's Myth Creators. On the surface, the show is purporting to let us in on these myths of pitching, to show us the secrets of salesmanship, but mostly it's just salesmanship in and of itself, of the products in each episode and of the pitchmen themselves. Despite this, though, the pitchmen's credibility isn't diminished by their constant selling of their selling; actually, their ethical appeal and credibility are enhanced because we keep seeing all these scenes of them "working" so hard and worrying about their integrity, constantly telling us and showing us in scenes (often involving "real people" just like me and you) how they're "making sure" that they only sell products that are high quality and useful and properly priced. Because of all this meta-selling, the versions of them that are seen in the actual infomercials become much more credible to the Pitchmen viewer because we have this view of them working in the "real" world, we "know them," they're "good guys." Plus, even if people don't watch the show, the simple fact of Billy and Sully's (wow, I'm on a first name basis with them so I know I can trust them) presence on a well-shot, major cable television show (on the Discovery channel, no less, with its signifiers of "science" and "truth") grows their name recognition and public perception and makes them something else besides just salesmen in a way that definitely strengthens their brand. What's even more amazing is, despite all this, despite the fact that we're watching a show with no commercial breaks, a show that's basically all commercial, the whole thing is still pretty funny and entertaining, partially because of the process angle (ala Mythbusters) but mostly because the pitchmen are interesting and fun and relatable, which is probably why people enjoy buying their stupid crap, people including, I guess, me.

posted by sabf at 3:49 PM on May 25, 2009

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