Posted by Nicci | Posted in Way Back Wednesday | Posted on 23-03-2011
It has been nearly ten months since Seen on TV Express began bringing you the Way Back Wednesday series, in which we look back at vintage infomercials and the products they marketed to television viewers. In that time, we have looked at hair products, kitchen products, exercise equipment, fitness videos, and a slew of gizmos and gadgets designed to simplify your life. We have even paid homage to a couple of the heroes of direct response marketing and infomercial innovations: Billy Mays and Jack LaLanne. We have failed, however, to bring you the origin of perhaps the most frequently used sound bite in as seen on TV marketing . . . “But wait! There’s more!”
This ubiquitous catch phrase got its start with the iconic Ginsu knife, one of the earliest products sold through infomercial marketing. The commercial for Ginsu knives first aired in 1978, and it pulled out all the stops, setting the tone for virtually every other infomercial since. Ad copywriter Arthur Schiff coined the classic phrase when writing the Ginsu commercial, one of the 1,800 long form commercials he wrote in a career that spanned more than thirty years. Watch the original Ginsu commercial here, and note how many techniques and phrases are still utilized today by pitchmen including Anthony Sullivan:
Here are just a few I noticed:
- “Cultural” significance of the product (although it should be noted that Ginsu knives were made in the United States and that “Ginsu” is not a Japanese word at all, but rather one invented by Arthur Schiff–allegedly in his sleep)
- Inability to perform simple tasks without the product (of course, karate chopping a tomato is rarely effective, but note our post devoted to “doing it wrong” in infomercials.
- Using the product in ways no one would ever initially attempt (until they got the idea to chop wood with a kitchen knife from the commercial itself)
- More for less (“You get all this for only $9.99)
- And of course, “But wait! There’s more!”
Marketing consultant John Witek, author of Response Television: Combat Advertising of the 1980s, sums it up this way: “Ginsu had humor, demonstration, and a precisely structured series of premium offers I call ‘the lots-for-a-little approach.” Arthur Schiff was really on to something when he wrote the Ginsu commercial. For more than thirty years, direct response marketing has followed his model for infomercial sales techniques.