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Direct Response Marketing

Field Reports - August 2012

1 Aug, 2012 By: Doug McPherson Response

Barry becherBarry Becher of Ginsu Knives Fame Dies at 71

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The pioneer behind perhaps the best-known knives ever died July 6. Barry Becher, the marketing genius behind Ginsu knives — one of DRTV’s pioneering products – was 71 and had reportedly been suffering from kidney cancer. He passed at a hospital after complications from surgery.

Becher brought many other products to market, including the Miracle Slicer and Armourcote Cookware with his business partner Ed Valenti. Together they added urgency and value to the sales proposition with limited supplies and “But wait, there’s more!” verbiage. They also guaranteed satisfaction — always.


Becher was born in Brooklyn and left for Rhode Island after high school. His first venture was in auto repair, but he then met Valenti, who was selling ads for local TV and overseeing Becher’s auto shop advertising. The Associated Press reports the two drove the same Datsun 240Z, had wives who were schoolmates, shared a passion for sales and became fast friends.

Eventually they began a search for a product they could market through TV spots, the way some records were sold. One of Becher’s first products was a mohair-bristled paint pad that prevented splatter and cut work times. After Madison Avenue rejections, they produced the ad themselves through Dial Media, a joint company they ran out of Becher’s garage. Their first two-minute commercial ended up selling more than a million units and they repeated their winning formula with products others created.

Over the course of a decade, the duo sold $500 million in products. Armourcote was the most profitable, but Ginsu remains the most widely known. Ginsu debuted in 1978 and ran into the early 1980s, replete with demonstrations cutting through cans and chopping wood.

Becher’s funeral was held July 9. His family is considering etching “But wait, there’s more” on his tombstone.

As Seen On TV Finishes Purchase of; Plans for Promotion Unveiled


CLEARWATER, Fla. — Now that As Seen On TV Inc., the direct response marketing giant, officially owns, the company plans to promote the site more to garner millions of new users.

“It’s a site that already has a cult following of more than 2 million, and we plan to grow it to many millions more,” says Kevin Harrington, chairman of As Seen On TV Inc. Harrington says sales on the site have been up by 65 percent since As Seen On TV Inc. announced a year ago that it planned to buy the website.

“The site has been doing well, but we plan to start a campaign in the fourth quarter to grow it even more,” Harrington says. “We’ll be launching 30- and 60-second TV ads, a lot of social media and public relations.”

Harrington says that because of his three seasons on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” public relations was a natural and logical move. He says he’s already appeared on the daytime talk shows “The View” and “The Wendy Williams Show.”

In addition to its 2 million-plus customers, boasts 700,000 E-mail registrants and hundreds of thousands of unique visitors monthly. The site reportedly generated $5.45 million in gross revenue in 2011. In the first half of 2012, the site generated approximately 40 percent gross revenue growth year-over-year.

As Seen On TV Inc. will assume the license agreement with Delivery Agent, the entity that operates the website. The license agreement calls for a 7.5-percent royalty of gross revenue to As Seen On TV Inc.

As Seen On TV Inc. paid $2.7 million, using cash, stock and warrants. Originally it was announced that the acquisition price would be $5 million. 

DirecTV, Viacom End Spat, Agree on New Carriage Deal

NEW YORK — Viacom and DirecTV reached a new carriage agreement in late July that ended a two-week standoff that led to MTV, Comedy Central, BET and Nickelodeon being blacked out in about 20 million DirecTV homes.

Viacom Direct TV

Financial and other terms weren’t shared, but the deal will last for seven years. The satellite giant will carry all 26 Viacom channels, or 17 when excluding HD feeds, but said it is not required to carry Epix movie channel, the premium TV joint venture of Viacom, Lionsgate and MGM, according to

In addition to the channels’ return, DirecTV customers will be able to watch Viacom programming on tablets, laptops, handhelds and other personal devices via the DirecTV Everywhere platform, says a DirecTV statement.

“A settlement was in the best interest of both parties, so I’m not surprised they worked out a deal. I think that DirecTV leveraged the black out to their advantage to pressure Viacom to settle,” said Peter Koeppel, president of Dallas-based Koeppel Direct and a member of the Response Advisory Board. “Neither Viacom or DirecTV was benefiting from the negative publicity, and I believe they realized that a protracted fight could damage their businesses, their reputations and ultimately their income, so it’s likely they were both forced to compromise in reaching a settlement.”

Despite the deal, hard feelings apparently still exist. Derek Chang, an executive vice president at DirecTV, told that the attention surrounding the blackout by Viacom “serves notice to all media companies that bullying TV providers and their customers with blackouts won’t get them a better deal … It’s high time programmers ended these anti-consumer blackouts once and for all and prove our industry is about enabling people to connect to their favorite programs rather than denying them access.”

Viacom said in a statement that it “is extremely pleased” to get its programming back to DirecTV subscribers and thanked all affected for their patience during the disruption.

Tim Hawthorne, founder of Fairfield, Iowa-based Hawthorne Direct and a member of the Response Advisory Board, said of the squabble, “It’s like being ringside for Frazier vs. Ali: two megastars whose confrontation is all about money, with no question of the outcome. We all knew Viacom would win in the 12th round, taking the trophy of a 20-percent increase. The real losers are the subscribers.”

During the skirmish, Comcast ran radio commercials, while DISH Network added key Viacom images of SpongeBob and Dora The Explorer on its website to lure consumers. Cablevision Systems bought keywords from Google to add consumers. A Cablevision ad read: “Direct Dropped MTV, Nick, CC & BET. Get Them Back With Optimum.” (Optimum is Cablevision’s digital video service).

And DirecTV put this message on its website: “Switching isn’t the answer. Every TV provider has disputes with networks. By getting you to switch, Viacom hopes they will get the 30-percent increase they have demanded.”

FTC Ends Deceptive Prepaid Calling Card Scheme Targeting Immigrants

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stopped advertising from a prepaid phone card company — DR Phone Communications — that allegedly lied about the number of minutes cards actually provided and failed to divulge additional fees.

The FTC bought and tested 169 of the company’s cards and alleged none of them delivered the number of minutes advertised. The worst performing card gave less than 1 percent of the advertised minutes.

The FTC charged the company’s actions violate federal law and also named the company’s website,, and David Rosenthal as defendants.

The company has agreed to temporarily stop its claims before a trial where the FTC will reportedly seek to permanently halt the claims and force the company to give up profits made during the ad campaign.

The FTC has taken part in a series of ongoing efforts to stop deceptive marketing in the pre-paid calling card arena, which reportedly sells billions of dollars of cards annually — often to immigrants who use them to call friends and family in other countries.

The FTC claims this scheme targeted immigrants with brand names such as “Beautiful Asia,” “Vietnam Best” and “Pearls of Africa.” The cards were sold in convenience stores, grocery stores, kiosks and on DR Phone’s website.

The FTC said point-of-sale posters touted consumers could buy 70 minutes for $5 to call the Philippines, for example. Verbiage claimed, “No Fees,” “No Connection Fee” and “No Maintenance Fee.” But small print referenced fees without explanation of what those fees would be. One disclosure simply stated, “International calls made to cellular phones and calls via toll-free numbers are billed at higher rate.” without adequately disclosing what those higher rates would be. 

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About the Author: Doug McPherson

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