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Guest Opinion: An Infomercial Is a Promise

1 Jul, 2008 By: Anthony Ciavatta Response

Better infomercials in one easy step — how's that for a promise?

During a recent client meeting, I was asked to name what I considered the best book on writing. It's an insightful book titled "A Story Is A Promise." After some reflection, I realized a brand and an infomercial are also a promise.

Anthony Ciavatta
Anthony Ciavatta

Learning how to best present and fulfill a promise is the key to a successful infomercial or short-form campaign. Statements, such as, "Lose weight," "Look better," or "Make more money," aren't just product benefits. Each is a promise.

Why do we buy a particular brand of car, television or even shoes? It's all about expectations ignited by a promise. We expect a Honda to be reliable, a Sony to be cutting edge, and Mephistos to be comfortable. That's their promise.

The first hotel chain, Holiday Inn, was built because its founder, Kemmons Wilson, wanted people to know what to expect when arriving at any of his hotels. Expectations are the fulfillment of a promise. It's a form of branding. So what does your infomercial promise?

On the most fundamental level, people watch an infomercial because they lack something in their lives (the same reason we watch movies). People may want to lose weight, look more beautiful or make more money. When they tune into your infomercial, they're expecting it to fulfill a promise to give them what they need to be the people they dream of becoming.

A weight-loss infomercial promises to help lose weight. A cosmetic infomercial promises to help a woman look more beautiful. An infomercial for a business opportunity promises a way to make money.

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to realize the success of an infomercial is directly related to how well it fulfills its promise. It's all about hope, expectations and — ultimately — either disappointment or fulfillment of that promise.

Every element of an infomercial contributes toward fulfilling the promise of that infomercial. But let's start with the first thing a viewer sees — the infomercial opening. The opening needs to be more than just catchy. That's the easy part.

An infomercial opening is all about proclaiming your promise as fast and as succinctly as possible. As simple as that seems, this is where an infomercial can take the first step in the wrong direction. It really comes down to a simple question: "What is this infomercial all about?" It's incredibly tempting to pack in as much information as possible.

Clients are often understandably anxious to include as much product information as possible. That's the worst thing they could do, especially in the opening. Mark Twain once said, "I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn't have the time to write it." He said that because making the complex simple is very difficult.

Reducing the focus of an entire infomercial campaign down to a single, definitive statement is not only difficult, it's often elusive. Software designers struggle to create programs with the fewest lines of code. Engineers labor to design components with the fewest parts. It's called design elegance. Achieve that elegance in your infomercial, specifically your infomercial opening, and your promise is that much stronger.

Proclaiming your promise in the opening is, well, just the beginning. All that follows must reinforce and complement the promise.

Now here's the fulfillment of this article's promise: the key to a better infomercial is brevity. Less is absolutely more. If something doesn't directly relate to your promise, it doesn't belong in the infomercial. Think of your infomercial as a structure, filled with beams. The more beams you can remove without the structure collapsing, the more effective your infomercial will become.

What does your infomercial promise? Figure that out before writing the first word of the script, and you're on your way to a stronger, punchier, more powerful and effective infomercial. And that's a promise.

Anthony Ciavatta is the owner of Irvine, Calif.-based Creative Filmworks, an infomercial creative and production company. He can be reached at (949) 833-2799 or via E-mail at

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