NO INFOMERCIAL FORMULA; INFOMERCIAL FEVER ABOUNDS; RADIO LEADS GROWTH PARADE; SATURN DELIVERS ON PROMISES

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The two reasons most often given to convince a company to make an infomercial are the two best reasons not to bother. First, you should make one because everyone else is. And second, make one because someone has developed the exact "formula" for absolute success.

Let's throw out the first reason as too absurd to respond to, and go to the second.

A presentation I read from a major infomercial producer stated that their formula called for the showing of the 800-number on the screen at least six times during the broadcast. The rea-son was something called "in and out viewers"-they said most people who watch this kind of program continually switch from channel to channel, so you must catch them while the number is on the screen.

Who among us would volunteer to a client before production has even begun that they cannot produce something that presents the client's product with enough interest to hold viewers? Is the knowledge that you can't maintain viewer interest part of this breakthrough formula?

Did Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy or Leo Burnett have a formula? If they did, why didn't everyone else simply copy it to get the same brilliant creative results?

Recently I was the executive producer, along with Herb Strauss, of an infomercial for Volkswagen of America. I never produced one before. It was directed by Bert Steinhauser; he never directed one before. It was written by Robert Dunn; he never wrote one before. We didn't follow any of the guidelines on what had been done before us; in fact, we went out of our way not to.

Anyone who knew of my involvement and had seen the video told me it is the best-or at least one of the very best-infomercials they have seen. They're saying that because it's true, not to make me feel good; nobody likes me that much.

Come on, gang, give it a rest. It's not exactly like we hit upon the "Big Bang." It's the same thing we've been doing for the last 30 years; it just happens to fill more airtime.

John Slaven

Slaven Marketing Services

Englewood Cliffs, N.J.

Your article "The agency-infomercial mating game" (AA, May 2) touched home, so I thought your readers might like a first-hand overview of what is happening in the major advertiser-agency-infomercial triangle.

It's no secret that, at this moment, some of the biggest brand names in electronics, telecommunications, package goods, automobile manufacturing and the financial field are either on the air with a long-form commercial or in the creative/production stage of an infomercial campaign.

Infomercial fever is so pervasive that most ad agencies we talk to are struggling to figure out how to intelligently service their clients' needs. As an experienced infomercial advertising agency, we have been literally inundated with requests for presentations, co-venture opportunities and new business from other agencies.

Many agency CEOs are contemplating how their agencies will compete and profit from the infomercial phenomenon. From our vantage point, the first major agencies to truly figure it out and provide cutting edge service in this area will dominate this exciting field.

Gene Silverman

President, Hawthorne

Communications

Fairfield, Iowa

The article on the upturn in 1993 ad spending ("Ad gain of 5.2% in '93 marks downturn's end," AA, May 2) details the "good news" in both the magazine and newspaper industries, which plugged along at a rate that fell short of the ad industry's annual growth rate of 5.2%. Network TV's decline and spot TV's modest growth, the article explains, are simply the result of comparing them to '92 budgets inflated with Olympic spending.

Not a word, however, on the advertising medium that grew faster than any other in 1993: radio. This despite the fact that Bob Coen's numbers show gains of between 8% and 10.1% for radio, with an overall growth rate of 9.3%.

The radio industry finished the first quarter of 1994 up 13%, marking the radio industry's 19th straight month of ad revenue gains. That's on top of 9% revenue growth in first quarter 1993.

Radio listening is currently at an all-time high. Radio ad revenue has grown at an average rate of 9.3% for the last 20 years. So why do the media insist on overlooking radio or, worse, referring to it as a medium "in a slump"? I'd be willing to wager that the rest of the media world would be happy to find itself in the same slump we're currently enjoying.

Gary R. Fries

President-CEO

Radio Advertising Bureau

New York

As a devout Saturn worshiper, I concur with John Smale's article "Don't change what's working" (AA, March 28). Saturn's ads are a refreshing slice of life from other car commercials.

Saturn lives up to its advertising before, during and after purchasing their product. There is no haggling over price. After my car was ordered I received a tin of cookies with a handwritten note of thanks from my dealership in Denville, N.J. A bigger fuss was made over the delivery of my car than the Academy Awards.

When the faulty wire was found that caused a few cars to ignite, this sparked the most wisely handled and publicized recall in history. ... My salesman called me within two hours of the announcement, made an appointment to correct the problem within two days and told me that if I was uncomfortable driving the car in the interim, they would tow my car and give me a replacement until mine was repaired. They even turned what could have been a confusing and disastrous liability into an extremely organized and enjoyable barbecue while the cars were being repaired.

Bravo to one of the few companies that practice what they preach in their advertisements.

Laura McAllister

VP, J.P. Salerno Advertising & Marketing

Kinnelon, N.J.

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