The infomercial is a tried and true advertisement, wherein advertisers purchase an entire half-hour block of time to hawk their products. These slots are generally late at night or early in the morning; wherever the network (or, more often, a No Budget local affiliate station) feels they can't make enough money selling normal ads to justify buying an actual show. On independent stations (especially in smaller markets) they can show up at any time of the day or night. They can even be disguised as 'morning talk shows' designed to rope the housewife crowd into thinking that an amazing spa in town was discovered by the show's hosts, when said spa is paying for the show to mention them.
They'll give you "professional, independent research" on how their product is the best, show you how clumsy their competitors' products are (using an actor who is paid to make their competitors' products look as clumsy as possible), and even extol the virtues of their product in front of a real live Studio Audience (who were pre-screened for their ability to ooh, ah, and yell "and forget it!")
Infomercials are often dressed up as a talk show or pundit program, with the "guest" hawking the product. Infomercials even have "commercial breaks"—to tell you how to get the product, of course. Brokered programs, where a content provider pays to have their programme appear on-air, are a sibling or at least a close cousin of the infomercial; many involve televangelism in which the viewer is invited to buy their way out of eternal perdition for a modest tithe.
Many state fairs have commerce tents in which sellers demonstrate their wares infomercial-style. This setup is called a "Hawk Stand" in Carny lingo. They are "hawking" products. The guy doing the demonstrations is the barker, or the "Doc". "Barker", after the speaking style, which employs short, sharp words like a dog barking. "Doc" comes a longer route. Traveling snake-oil salesmen always claimed to be a doctor of one sort or another and they used a very similar setup and pitch to do their thing.
So there you are, in case you were wondering about the difference between a snake-oil salesman and an infomercial spokesperson; one of them works in front of a camera.
Uncommon on British TV, apart from on those channels that are devoted to them, thanks to government regulation that has the main networks act in the public interest (of which airing long commercials for phone-a-psychics usually aren't part). Rare in North America until The Seventies, largely due to regulations limiting the amount of paid advertising per broadcast hour (México was more lax in this regard); now growing in prevalence as broadcast automation allows stations to run with little or no oversight overnight, with a computer playing over-the-air video much like an automated jukebox once played the vinyl 45 rpm singles of yesteryear.
Usually subject, at least on over-the-air TV and radio, to requirements that the status of these programmes as paid adverts be disclosed, due to laws introduced in The Fifties in response to the radio Payola scandals of that era.
- Any product by Ron Popeil.
- Many, many infomercials are made for kitchen knives, with each one being sharper than the last, and staying sharp even after you cut through a block of marble. (Why someone would cut through a block of marble with steak knives, no one knows.)
- Probably because it's easier than it looks.
- David Oreck has taken to hawking his vacuums and air purifiers via infomercial.
- Matthew Lesko, "that question mark guy" who has been selling ways to get free money from the U.S. government for many, many years.
- Tony Robbins is probably the king of the life coach infomercial.
- Particularly amusing are informercials for fitness devices. They will generally tell you how ineffective other devices are; often the same company promoted the ineffective device only last month.
- Most amusing are when the product advertised is a supposed "improvement" over a common household item (such as a drill or hammer.) The inevitable attempt to make the regular product look "clumsy" just makes the spokespeople look like complete idiots.
- Billy Mays and OxiClean detergent. A match made in heaven.
- I'm putting this statement down as a Funny Aneurysm Moment.
- Tiddy Bear, that's T-I-D-D-Y Bear!
- The Snuggie, a technicolor
monk/cult robe worn backwards blanket with sleevesfuzzy smock!
- Vince Offer and Shamwow
- The Magic Bullet
- The Alleged Car. It's 2AM. You're a small-town programme director for a local affiliate station. You have a vital decision to make... do you turn the transmitter off for the night and go to bed, or do you hand camera and microphone over to the local motorcar dealer for the next two hours for an infomercial (disclaimer: the vehicles depicted are subject to prior sale), just to be able to use the slogan "We're always on!" in your Station Ident once 6AM finally rolls around and your first few sleepy viewers finally start waking?
- Kevin Trudeau has a well-earned reputation for presenting the most spectacularly dishonest infomercials on television. In 2007 the Federal Trade Commission charged him with using dishonest infomercials to promote his book, The Weight Loss Cure "They" Don't Want You to Know About: in the infomercial, he claims that "it's easy to do, you can do it at home" and "when you're done with the protocol, eat whatever you want and you don't gain the weight back", but the "cure" as explained in the book involves multiple "colonics", injections of a prescription drug, and a final phase -- which never ends -- which prohibits all brand name foods, all food from chain restaurants, all farm raised fish, all artificial sweeteners, and all food cooked in a microwave oven.
- 5-Second Films has their very own Jon Worley, hawking such amazing products as Chop Wow! (a device for disposing of dead hookers); Flip-a-baby (for if you hate babies); and in one case, Jon Worley himself and his... special cleaning powers:
- In-universe example: Castle, "Sucker Punch": Johnny Vong gets rich off of "get rich quick" infomercials (thanks to a fake accent and a rags-to-riches story that never was), as well as using the books as a front for the heroin trade. This was a direct allusion to the real life 'tale' of Tom Vu in the early 90's.
- Nintendo Week is a short form infomercial that can be viewed on the Wii Console's video channel. ranging from 10 to 15 minutes in length, it plugs the latest Wii and DS games with skits .
- Parodied by The Onion News Network, with a segment of the fake panel-discussion show "In the Know" quickly morphing into a pitch for the EZ-Go Juicer.
- Sinfest "Satisfied Customers".
Disclaimer: The Devil, being the Prince of Lies, is known to trick people from time to time.
- Award Shows. All of them. What they're advertising is the organizations that hand out the awards. Successful shows don't even have to pay for air time. The most successful shows actually get paid for providing multi-hour-long ads for "the academy".