How to open your own business writing & producing infomercials: direct respone marketing creative careers

How to open your own business writing & producing infomercials: direct respone marketing creative careers

Los Angeles : CA : USA | Sep 13, 2010 at 10:03 PM PDT
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If your town has been used as a location set for filming movies, how about setting your infomercials in your town? Do you want to get into the field of direct response marketing in a creative way?
Video producers can make extra money by producing and writing infomercials, which are broadcast direct mail marketing ads and audience tracking of television viewers who shop by watching television. For more information, browse my paperback book, Writing, Financing, & Producing Documentaries - iUniverse.

Direct mail copywriting and producing for video telemarketing is one of the highest paying freelance writing available. How would you like to get into the field of direct response production? It's one way of looking at the media through the 'eyes' of culture. And with journalism jobs getting scarcer to find after graduation, how about starting your own direct response production company on a neighborhood budget?

Related Video & Media Opportunities

Writers who specialize in writing direct mail copy for both print mail order and video infomercials headed for cable T.V. can create thriving writing and/or producing businesses catering to telemarketing and mail order copywriting corporate clients or write in-house for firms that do telemarketing.

You have a choice of either writing or producing an infomercial or doing both. An infomercial is a long commercial video, running to a half-hour in length, but usually precisely timed at 28 1/2 minutes. It's created to sell by telemarketing. The best infomercial producers use around 400 cuts with music. Many people are interviewed in the infomercial.

Infomercials wait for audience response. The viewer orders the product or service by phoning a toll-free number or sending money to an address flashed on the screen to order the product.

A demonstration video script that solicits audience response through telemarketing on cable stations, or a video biography script for non-broadcast television personifies and proves a point. Read the book Response Television, by John Witek, Crain Books, Chicago, IL. (1981), to get an idea of how response television works. Also read Television and Cable Contacts, Larimi Communications Associates, Ltd. New York, NY 10018.

Income Potential

Video producers of infomercials charge by the hour plus production expenses. The current fees vary with location and complexity of job required. Some producers charge $35 an hour plus expenses of production. Others create a budget with all expenses first, including cost of tape and crew's requirements, then add an hourly fee, plus the post-production editing and distribution expenses.


Infomercials can be produced on-site at any location of a business. Being near your clients helps. Big centers for production of infomercials include Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, New York, Chicago, and Orlando, Florida. San Francisco is the hub for multimedia and interactive infomercials, including the San Jose/Silicon Valley area for the software infomercials.


It's best to read books or take courses in video production or read articles on how to produce infomercials before you begin. Join professional associations and volunteer. Attend trade shows for infomercial producers and watch a variety of infomercials. Study the number of cuts in popular infomercials.

Aptitude or Experience

Creativity, imagination, and experience with a variety of sales and marketing alternatives are beneficial. You're always offering the benefits and advantages of a product. Therefore, sales and marketing training combined with video production experience or coursework is best. It will save you money if you can write your own scripts as well.

Video Equipment Needed

You'll need your video camera, narrator, host, editing equipment or access to video editing services, your video crew, and a good sound stage or work area to tape the commercial. There should be an audience, and special effects to show the phone number and address where television viewers can phone or send in the order for the product. You'll need to hire operators who take the call on a 24-hour basis. Charge related phone expenses to your client's budget.

Use your computer to track your customers so you'll have a list of television viewers who shop after watching infomercials. Watch infomercials and note the special effects used.

Operating Your Infomercial Production or Scriptwriting Business

Escape doesn't work in a how-to infomercial. A viewer watching a tape on how to buy real estate doesn't want to be swept away to a castle in a fantasy setting for long. It might work in an infomercial selling a general idea or theory that applies to many people in many jobs, such as how to get power and success in relationships or careers.

Infomercial scriptwriters don't resort to gimmicks. They give information for decision-making by presenting the summarized points in as straightforward a manner as possible for intelligent decision-making. The questions of who, what, how, why, where, and when are answered as in an in-depth straight news article.

The viewers want to be well-informed before they spend their life-savings, their "blood money" on a cable television advertisement. They are wondering whether they can buy it cheaper in a store or at the swap meet as they dial the phone.

Will they be hit with a handling and shipping charge that raises the cost another ten dollars? The customer wonders what happens when they give their credit card number to a total stranger on a toll-free number across the country. Who else will have access to that credit card number?

Some beginning infomercial writers turn out scripts that use the techniques of a Hollywood filmmaker to make people watch. Instead, they should be writing to make people buy one brand over another. There's no correlation between a person liking an infomercial and being sold by it.

Use direct, tough commercials because they work. Hard hitting, informative infomercials and commercials sell a product where the customer is watching solely to get information. Soft-sell imagery doesn't work in infomercials like they do in 30-second commercials selling the imagery of the pleasure of eating a bar of chocolate.

Infomercials emphasize believability, clarity, and simplicity over creativity. Don't write confusion into a script by putting in too much dazzle, sensation, and entertainment that overpower the information and message. The emphasis is on helping the customer make a sensible purchase.

Small budgets often do better than big ones in the infomercial for cable TV production. TV's longest-running commercial which offers a record set of "150 Music Masterpieces" through mail order by phoning a toll-free number, was made in 1968 for only $5,000. It sold millions of dollars worth of records through mail order because of this one television advertisement.

There are a dozen types of infomercials. They include the following:

1) Product demonstration.

Scripts are used for trade show exhibition and continuous loop playing.

2) Testimonials.

Real people on tape add credibility for a product.

3) The pitchman.

A straight narrator delivers a sales pitch on the product to give summarized information in the shortest period of time. This is a talking head short that should only be used for brief commercials or a scene in an infomercial of less than 10 seconds.

4) Slice-of-life.

This is a dramatization between two people and a product.

In an infomercial or training script, the dramatization is a container that can be used to portray true-life events to teach people how to make decisions or how and where to get information.

5) Socio-economic lifestyle.

The social class of the user is emphasized to show how the product fits into a certain economic class such as blue collar, yuppie, new parent, career woman climbing the ladder, or senior citizen retiree.

Examples are Grey Poupon, the upper-caste mustard selling to social climbers and Miller Beer dedicated to blue collar workers celebrating the idea of the working man and woman being rewarded for hard labor with a cold beer.

6) Animation.

Cartoon infomercials sell to children in school and at home. Adults become impatient watching a cartoon demonstration. Animation is expensive to produce for cable television.

Use it only to sell to children or to sell supplies to professional animators in non-broadcast demonstration video tapes used to sell products through mail order or at an animator's trade show or exhibit.

7) Jingles.

Lyrics work in short commercials because they are remembered. A best-selling board game called 'Adverteasements' makes players recall all the advertising jingles and trivia information from their past. Ask any person in the street to sing the jingle of an advertisement, and chances are he or she will remember the jingle.

8) The mini-feature film with visual effects.

(Case studies don't report that action set in fantasy-scapes sells more products.)

9) Humor.

In short commercials humor works well as in "Where's the beef?" In long infomercials, it distracts from the information. Some humor can be used to prove a point in a long commercial. Infomercials sell credibility. Humor distracts from believability.

10) Serial characters.

A fictional character that appears in print ads and short commercials, such as Mr. Whipple or the Pillsbury Doughboy is very effective.

In a longer commercial, viewers will soon tire of the fantasy character and change the channel. Infomercial viewers want to see real people's testimonials, people like themselves with whom they can identify. Keep the fictional character out of a true-story informational commercial. People want references. Give them references who testify why the product works so well.

11. Tell-me-why infomercials.

Give people reasons why the product works as it does and why they should buy it. Reason-why copy works better in print than in a short T.V. or radio commercial. However, in an infomercial for cable, obtaining "tell me why" information is the reason people watch in the first place. Viewers want the writer to go ahead. Make their day.

12. Feelings, Intuition, and Sensation.

Tug at my guilt-strings. Persuasive infomercials use feelings backed up by logical summarized points that prove a point about a product. Move the viewer by writing genuine emotional copy. A dramatization showing a person shedding tears of joy that someone has telephoned long distance is persuasive. It makes viewers feel guilty they haven't called their mother in years. Infomercials emphasize demonstrations, testimonials, pitch-persons, and straight-sell formulas.

A little emotion within a dramatization can be very persuasive. Either it will sell the product or evoke guilt and anger in the viewer for not having lived up to expectations. The viewer could have conflicting feelings.

He may not want to call someone he dislikes because of having suffered emotional abuse in that person's presence. A whole slew of nasty or sentimental feelings totally unrelated to selling the product can be unleashed by one emotional scene in a commercial.

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Make your own infomercials.
Writing, Financing, & Producing Documentaries: Creating Salable Reality Video.
AnneHart is based in Sacramento, California, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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