What is an 'Infomercial'

An infomercial is longer-form video advertisement that acts as a stand-alone program to pitch a good or service with a call to action. Because an infomercial lasts longer than a regular commercial, it is able to present more details about a product or service and gives a company more time to present a persuasive call to action. Most infomercials are televised and will prompt the viewer to call a toll-free number or visit a website to make a purchase several times during its run. Infomercial is a combination of the words "information" and "commercial." Infomercials are also referred to as "paid programming" or "teleshopping" in Europe. 

Breaking Down 'Infomercial'

Infomercials came to prominence during the 1980s in the United States after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relaxed rules that limited the amount of commercial content that could be shown on television. This type of advertising is famed for appearing on television during off-peak hours, typically late at night or early in the morning. Advertising rates for these hours are lower than during the day, allowing companies selling their products to buy up more time than they would be able to if advertising on a popular television show. According to the FTC, any infomercial that runs longer than 15 minutes must tell viewers that it is a paid advertisement. Infomercials are seen by many as employing sensationalism, half-truths and exaggeration. Claims made by some products sold by infomercials, such as weight-loss and penile enlargement, have been found to be fraudulent

Infomercial Features

Infomercials generally include a lengthy attempt to sell a product or service by appealing to the viewpoints or interests of the viewer. Typically, an infomercial will show a toll-free phone number and implore the viewer to "call now," and that "operators are waiting" for what is described as a "limited time offer." Infomercials may be run in shorter or long segments. Shorter infomercials typically are two to four minutes in length and tend to be structured as several back-to-back independent commercials for the same product or service. Longer-form infomercials may take up half-hour or hour-long time slots (28:30 or 58:30 in length) and tend to be aired during late-night programming slots between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. Infomercials occupy what was previously dead air time when television stations would typically sign off. In any format, an infomercial will contain a call to action (CTA).

Infomercial Users and Examples

Infomercials are commonly used to sell a variety of products ("As Seen On T.V."). Some examples are Ginsu knives, ShamWow towels, and the Flowbee vacuum haircutting tool. Infomercials are also commonly used to sell dietary and sexual health supplements, memory improvement aids, personal fitness equipment, and more. Such advertising may also be used by religious figures or politicians that are seeking donations.

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