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Direct Response Marketing

Remembering Billy Mays: 1958-2009

1 Jul, 2009 By: Thomas Haire Response


Representatives of Church & Dwight also spoke out about Mays. "We are shocked and saddened by the untimely passing of Billy Mays, who served as OxiClean spokesperson for more than a decade and who deserves much of the credit for making OxiClean a household name," said Bruce Fleming, chief marketing officer of Princeton, N.J.-based Church & Dwight in a statement released June 28. "Billy was the best of the pitchman genre that he pioneered. His enthusiasm for life was infectious, and he will be sorely missed by the Arm & Hammer family, and all who knew him."

Anthony Sullivan, TELEBrands A.J. Khubani and Billy Mays are all smiles at the April premiere party for Discovery Channel's "Pitchmen." The show's 13-episode first season closed on July 1, just three days after Mays' death.
Anthony Sullivan, TELEBrands A.J. Khubani and Billy Mays are all smiles at the April premiere party for Discovery Channel's "Pitchmen." The show's 13-episode first season closed on July 1, just three days after Mays' death.

Mays founded his own DRTV production and marketing company, Mays Promotions Inc., in 1999. But it was as the king of the pitch that Mays seemed most comfortable and found the bulk of his success.

Bill McAlister, president of Philadelphia-based Media Enterprises, which specializes in marketing As-Seen-on-TV products, saw his share of those successes up close and personal. Mays pitched a series of successful Media Enterprises products, including Ding King, Mighty Putty and Mighty Mendit.

"Billy worked with determination over the years to develop as the supreme voice of the infomercial industry. It is his persona against which all pitchmen will be measured now and in the future," McAlister said in a statement. "Billy's ability to get people excited about a product was merely an extension of the engaging, likeable and earnest person he was off the set."

Tim Hawthorne, founder and executive creative director of Fairfield, Iowa-based Hawthorne Direct also had many an opportunity to work with Mays. "Our industry has suffered a devastating loss with Billy's passing," Hawthorne tells Response. "The smiling, bearded, blue-shirt, khaki-slacks ambassador of DRTV, he was kind, patient, open and genuinely focused on his clients' success. We'll miss his ever-present, 'Billy Mays here for ...' Billy Mays was here for all of us, and we'll miss him dearly."

Billy Mays was ever-present during Response Expo 2009 in San Diego. Above, Billy joins a large group of industry players having a great time during the Sea World Closing Night Party on May 21. At right, Mays, his wife Deborah and daughter Elizabeth were all smiles with Shamu during the event.
Billy Mays was ever-present during Response Expo 2009 in San Diego. Above, Billy joins a large group of industry players having a great time during the Sea World Closing Night Party on May 21. At right, Mays, his wife Deborah and daughter Elizabeth were all smiles with Shamu during the event.

Mays' ever-growing influence on marketing and popular culture seemed to be peaking in the past year, as he began pitching more traditional products, including a highly successful ad for ESPN360.com, the sports programming giant's popular Web site. At the same time, he and fellow DRTV pitching legend Anthony Sullivan were tabbed as the stars of the Discovery Network's newest reality show, "Pitchmen," for a 13-show run that wrapped on July 1.

"Billy was a pioneer in his field and helped many people fulfill their dreams," said Discovery spokeswoman Elizabeth Hillman in a statement released on June 28.

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