Universal Unveils Hitchcock Infomercial

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Universal Studios Inc., Los Angeles, CA, rolled out an infomercial this month to promote a video package of Alfred Hitchcock movies. The release coincides with a celebration of the director's 100th birthday, Aug. 13.


The infomercial promoting the video package is designed to create brand awareness and drive retail sales. The infomercial was in test markets the weekends of July 16 and July 23 on the Entertainment Network.


"When we sat back and thought of ways to celebrate the 100th birthday of Alfred Hitchcock, we incorporated the theme park and a music library. We then thought of the video package," said Ken Graffeo, senior vice president of marketing for Universal. "After adding extra footage, we needed more than just a spot ad to tell the fascinating story behind the movies and Alfred Hitchcock. Our retail accounts were really excited when they heard we were doing an infomercial."


The infomercial was produced by In-Finn-Ity Direct Inc., Los Angeles, which had produced infomercials for the James Bond video collection, which sold more than 60 million units, according to Terry Finn, president of In-Finn-Ity. The company also produced the infomercial for the "Pee Wee's Playhouse" video collection, which sold about 500,000 units, and for the "Lethal Weapon" video series, which helped promote the theatrical release of "Lethal Weapon IV."


"We have created a niche of entertainment infomercials since we are the first and only company to do this kind of infomercial," Finn said. "Once entertainment executives come back and see the tremendous amount of sales this generates for a half-hour program, they realize that the quality of the show is an asset."


The infomercial for the package of 13 Hitchcock movies includes a new version of "Topaz," with 17 minutes of previously unreleased footage. Other titles include "The Birds," "Family Plot," "Frenzy," "The Man Who Knew Too Much," "Marnie," "Psycho," "Rope," "Saboteur," "Shadow of a Doubt," "Torn Curtain," "The Trouble with Harry" and "Vertigo." Those who purchase the entire set for $179 also receive a previously unreleased episode of the television series "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."


There are two payment options - one to subscribe for monthly delivery of each title the other to buy the package all at once. There is also a cineograph available for no additional charge.


The infomercial is done in the style of a TV talk show with Steve Kmetko of Entertainment Television behind the desk showing clips of movies and interviewing guests, which include Tippi Hedren, the leading lady in "The Birds," and Patricia Hitchcock, his granddaughter. There are also field shots from the set of "Psycho."


"That's where we thought we had a terrific format," Graffeo said. "The infomercial explains the history of the shots and why Hitchcock is considered the master of suspense. It is really a show."


Universal did the video duplication while West Teleservices Corp., Omaha, NE, is providing teleservices. Mercury Media, Santa Monica, CA, is handling the media buy, and fulfillment was outsourced by Universal.


The infomercial will air as long as it is doing well, but Finn added that this product category does not lend itself to long-running shows.


"These infomercials don't have a long shelf-life because they are centered around a specific event and the product is available in retail," he said. "The advantage is that it builds awareness for retail sales."

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