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It looks like the flashy 30-second spot will soon be sharing the branding stage with its much more loquacious cousin, the 30-minute infomercial.

Within the next three years, says a survey conducted by ASI Research and commissioned by Advertising Age and NIMA (formerly known as the National Infomercial Marketers Association), the number of marketers producing infomercials will increase by about 78%.

Close to 13% of nationally branded advertisers produced an infomercial in 1994 to sell products or services; during the next three years, that number is expected to jump to 30%.

Apple Computer, Microsoft Corp., Sony Corp. and Philips Electronics are among those who have taken to the program-length ads.

Consumer response was so great to last fall's initial run of Apple's award-winning "The Martinettis Bring Home a Computer," the marketer ran it a month ago and will air it through yearend on a variety of cable outlets.

"Infomercials are a great way to spend time with prospective customers," said Yvonne Nava, Apple direct marketing manager. "It doesn't replace other advertising, but it's a wonderful complement to other efforts that help to drive informed, educated and ready-to-buy customers to retail centers."

Of those surveyed, non-traditional media, of which infomercials are part, only account for about 3% of ad budgets. However, that number is expected to grow as the number of infomercials increase.

"The future for corporate America is in using infomercials to drive retail and get closer to their customers," said Mark Toner, director of Williams Television Time's recently opened New York office. "We've opened this office targeting the Fortune 500 companies and showing them the benefits of spending 30 minutes with a customer."

Mr. Toner, formerly a Philips Electronics executive, became so enamored with infomercials after the company's "Great Wall" infomercial from Tyee Productions, Portland, Ore., boosted Philips CD-i player sales, that he decided to go to work for their cause.

According to the survey, marketers on average spend about $290,000 in producing an infomercial and about $3 million in media time. The average amount spent on production of a 30-second spot in 1994 was $268,000, according to the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Of those marketers that produce infomercials, about 67% use their traditional ad agencies, 47% turn to infomercial production companies and 33% go to full-service infomercial agencies, according to the survey.

When it comes to buying time for infomercials, 40% use traditional agencies, 40% use infomercial agencies, 20% use internal media departments and 13% turn to independent buying services.

Questionnaires for the survey were mailed this summer to a randomly selected list of 300 Ad Age subscribers who are also national brand advertisers. The effective return rate was 47%.

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