Collette Liantonio, Queen of Infomercials

The woman who brought you the George Foreman Grill and Topsy Tail talks business, family and Pajama Jeans

by Lesley Kennedy • Reporter
Collette Liantonio image
Collette Liantonio has produced more than 2,000 infomercials.
Photograph: Courtesy Creative TV

MORE: What takes a product like Pajama Jeans and turns it into a pop culture phenomenon?
CL: We call them magic moments. The magic moment is the aha moment . . . when the red sock in the laundry turns white. That’s the moment where everybody gets it. We call them metaphors for the masses—people get it when you show them an amazing demonstration. We have a hit right now on the air with Furniture Fix, which is just a support system for that sagging couch. Well, we took two sumo wrestlers who together weighed 1,000 pounds and we sat them on a couch. Here are these two huge guys in diapers, and they sat on the couch and the couch did not sag. Everybody gets it. Now, it’s ludicrous—sumo wrestlers, what do they have to do with anything? But it was the emphasis, it was that magic moment. Very often I have all of a minute to convince you to buy my product, so I need those magic, dramatic moments that stick with you.

MORE: How has the business changed over the last 30 years?
CL: More than half of people now buy from TV via the Web—it used to be all telecom. And we have a huge “As Seen on TV” after-market in retail. Some people, no matter how many times they see an exciting commercial, still go look for the product in a store because they need to touch and feel it.

MORE: Are people always quoting your infomercials back to you?
CL: There are people who are addicted to my commercials. I’ll meet people from all walks of life, and they’ll say, “Oh, I bought Topsy Tail and Hairagami, and did you do this one?” They get excited, and they can recite the whole commercial. That’s a little frightening, but it happens. Children love infomercials and I like to rhyme, so I love when they remember my rhyming commercials . . . I have two grandsons who are little kids, ages three and six, and they love them and can recite them, and my daughter says, “I feel like you’ve indoctrinated the next generation.”

MORE: We’ve gotta talk Pajama Jeans. How did that infomercial become so successful?
CL: The compelling story of the Pajama Jean is that it looks great on everybody’s butt, so that was our challenge—finding all different sizes and shapes and showing how nice they look in the jeans. We took all different ages of women and sizes of women and shot them in lifestyle situations. One of our employees, we shot her in the supermarket with her shopping cart. At my home, at my bar, I put three different-sized ladies on stools and we shot them from behind and tried to show how the jeans looked good on everyone. It’s a big risk to order a pair of jeans sight unseen. And it was a great deal— $40 for a pair of jeans that look that good. And you get a free T-shirt. Where else are you going to get a whole outfit for $40?

MORE: Yes, there always seem to be extras in infomercials.
CL: You put it over the top. Everybody loves a good deal, I don‘t care what your income level is.

MORE: Which infomercial has been your favorite to work on?
CL: We did the Amish Heat Surge Fireplace, and, I have to say, it was wonderful. We flew to the largest Amish community in the United States, which is not Pennsylvania Dutch, it is actually in Ohio, and we shot in a barn with the Amish people. It was just fascinating from a cultural point of view. It was so Americana, I loved it. It was thrilling to be able to work with the Amish people who actually fashioned these fireplaces.

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