An Infomercial Is a Promise
By Anthony Ciavatta
Better infomercials in one easy step
— how’s that for a promise?
During a recent client meeting, I was
asked to name what I considered the
best book on writing. It’s an insightful book titled “A
Story Is A Promise.” After some reflection, I realized
a brand and an infomercial are also a promise.
Learning how to best present and fulfill a promise
is the key to a successful infomercial or short-form
campaign. Statements, such as, “Lose weight,” “Look
better,” or “Make more money,” aren’t just product
benefits. Each is a promise.
Why do we buy a particular brand of car, television or even shoes? It’s all about expectations ignited
by a promise. We expect a Honda to be reliable, a
Sony to be cutting edge, and Mephistos to be comfortable. That’s their promise.
The first hotel chain, Holiday Inn, was built because its founder, Kemmons Wilson, wanted people
to know what to expect when arriving at any of his
hotels. Expectations are the fulfillment of a promise.
It’s a form of branding. So what does your infomercial promise?
On the most fundamental level, people watch
an infomercial because they lack something in their
lives (the same reason we watch movies). People may
want to lose weight, look more beautiful or make
more money. When they tune into your infomercial,
they’re expecting it to fulfill a promise to give them
what they need to be the people they dream of
A weight-loss infomercial promises to help lose
weight. A cosmetic infomercial promises to help a
woman look more beautiful. An infomercial for a
business opportunity promises a way to make money.
You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to real-
ize the success of an infomercial is directly related
to how well it fulfills its
promise. It’s all about
hope, expectations and
— ultimately — either dis-
appointment or fulfillment
of that promise.
Every element of an
infomercial contributes toward fulfilling the promise
of that infomercial. But let’s start with the first thing
a viewer sees — the infomercial opening. The opening needs to be more than just catchy. That’s the
An infomercial opening is all about proclaiming
your promise as fast and as succinctly as possible. As
simple as that seems, this is where an infomercial can
take the first step in the wrong direction. It really
comes down to a simple question: “What is this infomercial all about?” It’s incredibly tempting to pack in
as much information as possible.
Clients are often understandably anxious to
include as much product information as possible.
That’s the worst thing they could do, especially in
the opening. Mark Twain once said, “I would have
written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time to
write it.” He said that because making the complex
simple is very difficult.
Reducing the focus of an entire infomercial campaign down to a single, definitive statement is not
only difficult, it’s often elusive. Software designers
struggle to create programs with the fewest lines of
code. Engineers labor to design components with
the fewest parts. It’s called design elegance. Achieve
that elegance in your infomercial, specifically your
infomercial opening, and your promise is that much
Proclaiming your promise in the opening is, well,
just the beginning. All that follows must reinforce
and complement the promise.
Now here’s the fulfillment of this article’s promise: the key to a better infomercial is brevity. Less is
absolutely more. If something doesn’t directly relate
to your promise, it doesn’t belong in the infomercial.
Think of your infomercial as a structure, filled with
beams. The more beams you can remove without the
structure collapsing, the more effective your infomercial will become.
What does your infomercial promise? Figure that
out before writing the first word of the script, and
you’re on your way to a stronger, punchier, more
powerful and effective infomercial. And that’s a