Lifestyle
May 10, 2024

The 20 Most Iconic Infomercials of All Time

Washboard abs, stain-free carpets, and the ability to dice a tomato with a playing card: Do these promises sound familiar? These are just a few of the claims made by some of the world’s most recognizable infomercial products.

By
Nourhan Sandouk

Washboard abs, stain-free carpets, and the ability to dice a tomato with a playing card: Do these promises sound familiar?

These are just a few of the claims made by some of the world’s most recognizable infomercial products. Many of these seem too good to be true. 

Remember those late-night TV ad legends like ShamWow, which could soak up an entire spilled milkshake? This extended content has become a fixture of American TV, selling everything from kitchen gadgets to workout routines.

So, what exactly are infomercials? They’re longer-form advertisements that act as mini-programs that give more details about a product or service.

Infomercials have been around since the 1940s, but while you might think they’re a relic of that time, take a look at the Squatty Potty: Infomercials increased the brand's sales by 600% and went viral on YouTube with 40 million views.

20 Iconic Infomercials 

The iconic blanket Snuggie, the amazing bullet-shaped food processor, and other unforgettable infomercials have burrowed in our memories and found their way to our homes! 

Here are 20 of the most successful and memorable infomercials.

Jessicacn/ YouTube

1. Proactiv

Proactiv is an American brand of skincare products developed by two American dermatologists, Katie Rodan, and Kathy A. Fields, and was launched in 1995 through a deal with the infomercial company Guthy-Renker. This deal opened the door for celebrity endorsements, making Proactiv one of the most popular skincare brands ever.

In 1999, Judith Light was featured in the first celebrity-endorsed Proactiv ad. Since then, Proactive ads have featured such stars as Alicia Keys, Julianne Hough, Kendall Jenner, Jessica Simpson, Adam Levine, and Justin Bieber.

And these celeb-backed infomercials seemed to have paid off: In 2021, Proactive raked in $27.5 million in sales.

ExtremeFaithnFitness/ YouTube

2. P90X

Standup comedian-turned-personal trainer Tony Horton is laughing his frighteningly toned 54-year-old body all the way to the bank. Since 2005, the seemingly ageless creator of the hardcore P90X workout DVDs has been reshaping bodies—and the infomercial industry—one confused muscle at a time. 

And he's got plenty of powerful converts in his corner, from professional athletes (NFL quarterback Kurt Warner) to would-be vice presidents (Romney running mate Paul Ryan). Now, Horton's got a highly profitable business that has generated some interesting (albeit less-advertised) offshoots, such as the Christian-themed Body Gospel, Tony & The Folks for senior bodybuilders, and Tony & The Kids for pint-sized musclemen.

And the payoff? Some big muscles and an even bigger annual revenue of  $400 million!

TheTVMadman/ YouTube

3. Total Gym

Reshaping your body with 10-20 minutes of daily exercise? Yes, please!

This celebrity-endorsed product contains more than 80 exercises. And to top it off, Chuck Norris, known for his muscular physique, has sponsored Total Gym for over 30 years.

This Total Gym exercise system has led to more than $1 billion in sales.

Masq/ YouTube

4. George Foreman Grill

Who else remembers that iconic Super Bowl ad line, “I grill with George!

Sure, Boxing legend George Foreman didn't invent the iconic George Foreman Grill, but he did lend his namesake to the product in what proved to be an outstanding business decision.

Since its launch in 1994, over 100 million grills of various sizes have been sold worldwide, and in 1999 alone, he earned a staggering $137.5 million from the deal. 

AnalogIndulgence/ YouTube

5. Bowflex

“The key to discovering your inner potential” is just 33$ away! Sounds tempting, right?

This all-in-one gym system was introduced in 1986 and is still very much in business. Over 2.5 million units were sold to households seeking high physical fitness. The company's revenue in 2012 reached $193.9 million, reflecting a significant 7.5% increase from the prior year.

Crazyerics/ YouTube

6. Showtime Rotisserie

Surely you remember the iconic catchphrase, "Set it, and forget it!"

Then you have most certainly seen the Ronco Showtime Rotisserie and BBQ infomercial.

Ronald Popeil started his company, Ronco, in 1964. In 1998, The Showtime Rotisserie took Ronco to the next level, becoming a “must-have” item. 

Over 2.5 million units were sold, with total sales reaching $1.2 billion.

Stevenwells/ YouTube

7. Ped Egg

No more “potato peeling tools” for your cracked feet; you've probably heard that before.

The Ped Egg was one of the most successful products ever launched by television marketing company TeleBrands. First airing in 2009, the Ped Egg ads were in a way “gross.”  They mainly showed a sequence of people scraping dead skin onto the floor. 

And yet Ped Egg made nearly $450,000,000 during its TV run and continues to be one of the best products of its kind.

Jpicker/ YouTube

8. Snuggie 

The Snuggie-sleeved blankets are a cozy solution to stay warm while watching TV without putting down the remote!

Snuggie outsold all its sleeved blanket competitors, even though similar products have been around for a while. More than 20 million Snuggies have been sold to date.

This success is primarily attributed to a wave of infomercials launched in 2008. These ads were a throwback to classic infomercials of the previous era, playing on classic infomercial tropes: unconvincing actors, wooden voice-overs, and smiles.

What also has helped push those numbers up is that the product is big with groups; bar crawls and sporting events are just a few of the Snuggie-required group activities.

In April 2010, Los Angeles Angels fans set a Guinness World Record when more than 43,000 spectators showed up to watch the game in their Snuggies.

Ewjxn/ YouTube

9. Sweating to the Oldies

We all remember Richard Simmons's late '80s dance-aerobics program: The series' infomercials were epic displays of people dancing to a live band in a balloon-filled room.

With Simmons signature afro, short shorts, and special smile, he created a hit that continued until he closed his studio in 2016. The series raked in over $200,000,000 and is now available on Fuse Sweat, an offshoot of Fuse TV.

RetroCapeBreton/ YouTube

10. Thighmaster

This simple exercise tool is placed between the knees and squeezed. That's pretty much it.

But thanks to Suzanne Somers' famous shot of her sitting on a couch, squeezing a butterfly-shaped exercise device between her thighs, adding some personal testimonials, and a realistic-looking doctor, Thightmaster was a big hit.

Somers now owns Thighmaster outright. When Thighmaster initially launched, the price was $19.95. And now you can have yours for only …  $79.99.

To date, Thighmaster has earned over $100,000,000 in revenue.

FuzzyMemoriesTV/ YouTube

11. Ginsu Steak Knives

This knife claimed it could cut through a tin can and then slice through a ripe tomato like butter!

Well, Ginsu wasn't that extraordinary. It wasn't even Japanese!

This knife wasn't born of innovation; it resulted from the effort put into creating the infomercial. Ed Valenti and Barry Becher aimed to boost sales of a standard kitchen knife named Eversharp. Their solution? A complete makeover. They rebranded it "Ginsu," cast a Japanese chef for the infomercial, and a television icon was launched!

Years later, Valenti himself called Ginsu his "greatest advertising success." The Ginsu infomercial's impact reached pop culture, even inspiring a parody of John Belushi's Samurai Deli on Saturday Night Live.

Funnycommercials1408/YouTube

12. Snickers 2020 Super Bowl ad. 

Using smartphone speakers in public, unreliable autocorrect, strange baby names, and other problems, this infomercial declared, "The world is out of sorts. We need to fix it quicker."

After the ad highlighted some modern societal issues, it suggested  an absurdly satisfying solution to fix it: “Maybe the world just needs a Snickers.”

The ad won the best commercial on Super Bowl 2020.

Purple/Youtube

13. Purple

Purple's infomercial is based on their raw egg test, which they boldly declared was "a super easy way to tell if your mattress is awful."

The Harmon Brothers created the egg test to highlight the benefits of this startup's polymer mattress.

In the infomercial, an actress dressed as Goldilocks adheres four raw eggs to the underside of a 330-pound sheet of tempered glass and then drops it onto a Purple mattress to see if the eggs break. Remarkably, the eggs survive the drop onto the Purple mattress, while they crack when dropped onto traditional box spring models.

With over 100 million views and 158,000 shares, the ad generated massive online buzz and overwhelmed Purple's manufacturing with the sudden flux of online orders.

Squatty Potty/YouTube

14. Squatty Potty

Named the "The Greatest Viral Ad in Internet History," this infomercial launched a little-known toilet accessory company into the worldwide spotlight. Using an ice-cream pooping unicorn, the Harmon Brothers produced an ad that featured a handsome prince discussing the importance of colon health.

In the first four months alone, the ad was watched 66 million times and shared one million times on Facebook.

Asseenontvs/YouTube

15. Magic Bullet

Here's the story: Mick and Mimi, a couple, invite a few friends over for a party. The following day, they all gather in the kitchen. Their friend Berman is hungover, wearing last night's clothes. A woman in a housedress named Hazel comes in with a cigarette dangling from her mouth.

So, to amaze the guests, the couple used a bullet-shaped food processor called the Magic Bullet It whips smoothies, grinds coffee, mixes muffins, and scrambles omelets, and everything is perfectly prepared in just 10 seconds.

The $60 Magic Bullet generated nearly a quarter of a billion bucks in sales in just over a year.

Oxiclean/YouTube

16. OxiClean 

Red wine spills on white carpets to coffee-stained shirts. Who doesn’t remember watching those stains just disappear after Billy Mays used OxiClean?

Mays is known as one of the greatest pitchmen of all time. Throughout the advert, he provides evidence of the product's effectiveness. In the final part, Mays even provides consumers with his contact number for any questions and directions on how to make a quick purchase. 

Two decades later, this product still exists in stores nearly everywhere.

Shake weight/YouTube

17. Shake Weight for Men

Shake Weight started as a product for women, but when the same product was launched for men, it earned nearly $40 million in annual sales.

Using science, the infomercial explains  how the product works better than traditional weights. with only six minutes a day this product claims that it will work multiple muscles in multiple directions all at once! 

JosephEnterprises/YouTube

18. The Clapper

Turn off your lamps or other devices with just a clap of your hands. Nearly 30 years ago, this device made the way for so many subsequent smart home devices, allowing people at that time to turn electronics on or off by simply clapping.

Nickelodeon_Wiki

19. Moon Shoes

Remember those bouncy shoe craze of the 90s, advertised relentlessly on Nickelodeon? While parents might not have been thrilled with the constant barrage of commercials (roughly 21 times an hour), at least the Nick-branded versions offered a safety upgrade. These bouncier shoes came with reinforced features, making them a less risky alternative to the sprain-inducing models that debuted in the 70s.

Theshamwowguy/YouTube

20. The Slap Chop

Slap your troubles away with Slap Chop. It’s simply a manual food-chopping device that works by placing it over the food and “slapping” the button on the top, which, according to Vince Offer, makes cooking much easier. 

For more than a decade, The Slap Chop has proved a commercial success. The ad itself sold 50,000 Slap Chops from direct orders and another 50,000 to stores nationwide.

Cover photo from SquattyPotty.com

By
Nourhan Sandouk

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