Evolution of Product Demonstrations on TV

Product demonstrations have a major impact on consumers’ perceptions and, if presented properly, can be great selling points so long as the product actually works. It’s hard for many of us to think about product demonstrations without thinking about the classic commercial where the construction worker uses Super Glue to bond his hard hat to the underside of a girder, letting the world know that Super Glue was not to be taken lightly. Another famous commercial that changed advertising was the Ginsu knife ad that first introduced lines like “But wait, there’s more.” and “How much would you pay?” to the world. If a knife can cut through a tin can and still be sharp enough to cut a tomato into paper thin slices, it must be great, right? That was the concept behind the advertisement and, much to the chagrin of late night TV-watchers everywhere, the concept was so successful it is still being used today.

After the Ginsu knife ad took off, other brands began copying their gimmicks and catch phrases. Because most products being sold on infomercials are incapable of matching the Ginsu knives’ amazing feats, infomercials have become notorious for using misleading product demonstrations to move merchandise. Because customers order these products over the phone or internet, the companies are not part of a community and therefore are rarely held responsible for the quality of their products. Their business model assumes that most people aren’t going to bother asking for a refund on their new mop if they bought it at 2 a.m. for the low, low price of $19.99 and have to ship it back to the company at their own cost.

As misleading as infomercials often are, they don’t compare to the outrageous events shown in CGI product demonstrations. To be fair, viewers aren’t supposed to believe that the CGI ads are real, though many still do. In the last few years there has been an increase in trick advertisements involving athletes. Nike produced ads showing the unbelievable feats athletes could perform while wearing their shoes or cleats. One such ad showed Kobe Bryant putting on a pair of Nike basketball shoes and jumping over an oncoming Aston Martin sports car. Another Nike ad showed international soccer phenomenon, Ronaldinho, juggling a soccer ball and repeatedly bouncing it off the top goal post from very far away. The idea with these types of ads is to wow the viewer and associate the brand with the things exceptional athletes can do. Of course, not all CGI ads are sports-centric. Toyota ran ads showing one of their trucks, the Tacoma, miraculously surviving catastrophic events that would utterly destroy any car or truck in real life. Using CGI, one ad shows a Toyota Tacoma being attacked by the Loch Ness monster while another shows the Tacoma surviving a meteor blast. Obviously these ads weren’t intended to be believed; they were making an exaggerated point about the toughness of the Tacoma.

On the next page we’ll look into the ways in which companies use actual demonstrations to advertise their products.