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PORTLAND, Ore.-Apple Computer is calling its first infomercial a success, and is exploring other venues in which the 30-minute program may be used.

Apple on Nov. 24 unveiled an infomercial promoting family use of the Macintosh Performa line. The program, produced by Tyee Productions here and Hawthorne Communications, Fairfield, Iowa, is believed to be one of the first in the PC category.

The infomercial ended its first U.S. run-on national cable in addition to broadcast TV in 20 major metropolitan markets-Jan. 22. However, Apple Direct Marketing Manager Yvonne Nava said it will run again in February in three undisclosed metropolitan markets.

It's also being tweaked for cultural differences in anticipation of a run in Europe, and Apple is exploring other potential uses, like in-flight screenings.

Ms. Nava told a recent Portland Advertising Federation meeting the infomercial's results surprised her division. The program drove retail sales as well as direct sales, and inquiries to a phone number in the program were three to four times what the company had expected. Apple is examining how many viewers were converted into buyers.

Apple President Michael Spindler played up the infomercial at the company's annual stockholders meeting last week in Cupertino, Calif., saying it generated 100,000 phone calls.

He suggested Apple would explore more infomercials. "We are going to try to extend that type of media as we move forward in '95."

"Infomercials sell billions of dollars worth of products," said Tim O'Leary, president of TV Tyee, the part of the company that negotiates deals with ad agencies and marketers. "Most infomercials are still hard-sell, entrepreneurial and low-product quality. But many big companies are coming online .*.*. Infomercials hit home shoppers, but [marketers] are looking for more upscale buyers. It is not unusual for marketers to see $20 million to $80 million in sales for a single product."

Apple likes the longer advertising format, Ms. Nava said, because the company can educate people about the benefits of a computer.

Alice Z. Cuneo contributed to this report.

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