DRTV Close-up: Atlantic Promotions Seeks Brands, Not Hits

While many marketers in the DRTV industry depend upon a handful of hit products for profitability, the marketer of the Citrus Express, Atlantic Promotions Inc., Longueuil, Quebec, has a diversified mix of established household brands that are distributed throughout Canada.

The company was founded in 1964 by Jacques Gatien, a former member of the Canadian Air Force who became a product pitchman, selling knives at state fairs and other expositions. He said he got the idea to sell products on TV from a salesperson representing a French television network.

“The salesperson asked me, 'How many people do you see a day at a fair?'” Gatien said. “I told him 2,000 and he said I could reach 150,000 to 200,000 people if we did the whole pitch on TV.”

He started Atlantic Promotions with the Canadian equivalent of $3,000 he had saved and a small bank loan, but managed to reap $200,000 during the first year of operations. From those humble beginnings of selling miracle knives, he has grown the company to $110 million in sales last year, averaging 16 percent growth the last four years.

Although his company markets “As Seen on TV” merchandise in Canada, the company also has several recognized Canadian brands, including the Oskar line of autocare products, the Starfrit line of household goods and the Hertel line of household cleaning products. The company bought the Hertel line in 1975, the year that it lost the Canadian rights to market Krazy Glue, whose marketing was taken over by Borden.

Atlantic Promotions also has marketed T-Fal, the French brand of cookware, throughout Canada for the last 30 years, growing the business from 20,000 units in 1968 to 2.5 million units last year. In April, the company launched T-Fal's Ingenio line of cookware, which was introduced in the United States as an infomercial product last year by National Media Corp., Philadelphia.

“I've always selected products that had a longer life cycle,” Gatien said. “That's how I was different from the other promoters, which have all closed.”

The Citrus Express is considered a significant new product for the company, because it's one of the few DRTV products that Atlantic Promotions developed as an original product. While Atlantic Promotions has a profitable DRTV marketing group that distributes U.S. products in the Canadian market, it's rare that the company originates products to market in other countries. A prototype of the Citrus Express was brought to the company last year by two Canadian inventors and perfected through a series of revisions. Demand for the device has been very strong and back orders are growing, which has led the company to contract four manufacturers in Asia to crank out 1.4 million units a month.

While Atlantic Promotions is enjoying strong demand for the product globally, Gatien recognizes that the demand will not last forever. But he is confident in the diversified mix of brands that he markets, which provide his company with a stability not seen in hit-driven DRTV marketing companies.

“We're not investing only in TV,” Gatien said. “We try to go a little further.”

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