In recent years, the infomercial industry - known in marketing circles as "direct response television" - has evolved beyond late-night testimonials for hair growth serums and begun to attract venerable beauty companies.
NEW YORK — Leslie Blodgett does it, and so do Susan Lucci, Naomi Judd and Cindy Crawford. All four of these women, along with an increasing number of beauty firms, have turned to infomercials to market their wares. In recent years, the infomercial industry — known in marketing circles as "direct response television" — has evolved beyond late-night testimonials for hair growth serums and begun to attract venerable beauty companies. Sure, hair replacement spots are still a component of infomercials, but so are premium beauty brands such as Bare Escentuals and Philosophy. As it has worked to shed its "taboo" label, direct response has also succeeded in attracting legions of celebrities who are hopping into the medium as co-creators or spokeswomen for beauty lines. There's Susan Lucci's Youthful Essence Microdermabrasion System, Esteem skin care by Naomi Judd, Sheer Cover cosmetics backed by Leeza Gibbons, Meaningful Beauty skin care by Cindy Crawford and Lauren Hutton's Face Disc Makeup. Youthful Essence, Sheer Cover and Meaningful Beauty are marketed by infomercial behemoth Guthy-Renker. Last year, 67 new beauty infomercials aired on television, an increase of 10 percent compared with 2003, according to Infomercial Monitoring Service Inc. The bulk of these programs first launched on home shopping channels like QVC and HSN, and later added an infomercial component to reach a broader TV viewing audience. Bare Escentuals' chief executive officer Leslie Blodgett, a familiar face on QVC since 1997, began dabbling in direct response four years ago, linking up with Cmedia, a full-service infomercial agency. Dave Savage, executive vice president of Cmedia, believes a successful infomercial effort will translate into better retail sales. "It's an advertisement, and that does help generate retail sales and sales on QVC and HSN," said Savage. He noted that direct response has helped Bare Escentuals build its brand image and establish a proprietary database of customers in a relatively short period of time. Philosophy, another of one of Cmedia's clients that also sells on QVC, began testing infomercials last August. "Philosophy, as a small independent company competing in a world of giants, needed another way to build awareness for the brand," said Ray Reed, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Philosophy. He added that during its six years on QVC, the company found that Philosophy's creator and ceo Christina Carlino had a "wonderful way of communicating with women via television. Infomercials were the logical next step," said Reed.Philosophy — which is also sold in more than 200 retail stores, including Nordstrom and Sephora — created a direct response program featuring a five-piece kit called Makeup Optional. The kit, which sells for three payments of $29.99, includes a weekly facial peel and a four-item daily skin care regimen. Carlino sells the kit, along with the Philosophy story of "making skin behave better," in 28 1/2-minute spots. Prior to airing the program, Reed said he visited with Sephora's president and ceo David Suliteanu and Dale Crichton, executive vice president of cosmetics for Nordstrom, to address any retail concerns. Reed showed both executives a copy of Philosophy's infomercial plans and asked for their feedback. Based on some of their input, Philosophy tweaked its concept and developed a story for retail that was consistent with its TV message. For instance, Reed explained, Philosophy has a retail kit similar in character to Makeup Optional. So, should a consumer ask for Makeup Optional at the counter, a sales associate can seamlessly transition into a sale.Reed acknowledged the medium may not be right for every company: "Philosophy is blessed to have a charismatic creator, who translates very well on television." He credits direct response as an element of Philosophy's double-digit sales growth. Reed said, "We are constantly bringing new users to the brand."
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