Reading Program Turns New Chapter With DTC Ads

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With corporate sales slumping, the marketer of a speed-reading program is using Pam Dawber of the '70s sitcom "Mork and Mindy" in a series of infomercials aimed at the general public.


Infinite Mind, whose EyeQ 12-step high-speed imagery program is designed to improve memory, concentration and reading speed, for years marketed its product via a direct-sales force to schools and companies. But as companies trimmed training budgets last year, particularly after Sept. 11, Infinite Mind decided to try a new tactic.


"I could see we weren't getting the sales we needed to cover even our fixed costs," said Jeffrey Flamm, president of Infinite Mind, Salt Lake City. "We decided to try to go for the general consumer."


Infinite Mind began testing its 30-minute infomercial in April. The tests were done in select regions including Chicago and the New York metropolitan area as well as cities in Texas and California. It is the first time Infinite Mind has used DRTV to promote EyeQ. Flamm said he expects the infomercial to run through the summer until sales drop off, then renew the campaign as school resumes in the fall in the United States and Japan, where the product was developed originally.


Dawber hosts the show, and Flamm also appears. The actress fit the infomercial because she is a mother and took an active interest in the product, having introduced EyeQ to one of her children's classes.


The infomercial is filled with testimonials gathered from hundreds of EyeQ users who wrote to Infinite Mind and volunteered to participate, Flamm said.


Tony Kerry, president of Script to Screen, the production company on the infomercial, said the show is similar to the "docu-mercial" style used in the original Hooked on Phonics infomercials in that it relies heavily on testimonials. Script to Screen, Santa Ana, CA, also produced the early Hooked on Phonics shows.


With Hooked on Phonics, long-format DRTV established the product, and later the maker of the well-known educational system switched to short-format DRTV, Kerry said. He predicted a similar strategy for EyeQ once the product finishes its initial run.


Infinite Mind tinkered with the offer during testing. It settled on offering EyeQ for four payments of $49.95 and an option to upgrade to a deluxe version of the program, which can accommodate groups of 10 users, for an extra $100. The infomercial also offers to drop one $49.95 payment for the first 500 consumers who call after the infomercial runs.


In tests, this offer package worked better than a less-expensive offer with fewer payments, Flamm said. With the cheaper offer, Infinite Mind wasn't covering its media costs, and response was actually lower.


Infinite Mind also tested late-night and morning time slots. The late-night slots drew lower response but cost less, so revenues from morning and late night were about even, Flamm said.


Though he would not reveal specific results of the tests, Flamm said they persuaded the company to take the campaign national in late May on cable stations. Unlike with corporations, poor economic times seem to give consumers a keen interest in self-improvement, Flamm said.


"What we've found is that in economically difficult times, education goes up," he said. "People go back to basics."


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