Who watches infomercials? The short and simple answer is everyone at some point. The problem is, it is really not a short and simple question. It may not even be the question you really want to ask.
Asking who watches infomercials is not like asking who watches football, or reality programming on a certain network. You are never going to get a simple demographic answer. People who watch football watch infomercials. People who watch reality shows on a certain network watch infomercials.
What is the right question?
If “who watches informercials” isn’t the right question, then what is? There are several different answers. At its core, though, is the question “Who do you want to watch your infomercial?”
Myths of infomercials
In order to fully understand this, it helps to know what an infomercial is. We all know the stereotype of the infomercial. When you read the word, you think cheap products pitched by cheesy pitchmen making outrageous claims aired sometime after midnight in really long commercials. We will not lie to you – those are infomercials. But they are infomercials the same way that a pop-up ad telling you to click on the bug to win a prize is digital advertising.
Let us shatter a few of those myths. Infomericals do not have to be for cheap, fly-by-night products or marketers. There have been infomercials for products ranging from backup generators to Amazon’s Alexa that have maintained brand image. Obnoxious ad people are entirely optional. If that is your preference, great, but the pitch in an infomercial can be as sophisticated as you want. But the most important myth to have shattered as it relates to the original question – they can potentially air at any time of day.
How can a 30-minute informercial air at any time of the day? There are a few ways you might not be thinking of. There are stations devoted to only airing infomercials as well as various television networks that have time slots to air them throughout various times of day. YouTube itself now allows for videos upwards of 30 minutes.
What’s in a name?
You might know infomercials by different names. Direct Response Television (DRTV), Performance Media, Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) advertising are all names that are used to describe them. But ultimately, they are all infomercials, using the same Direct-to-Consumer sales principles and marketing methods.
Infomercials do not have to be 30 minutes. Mid-form infomercials or “full break” infomercials often air for 3 to 5 minutes at a time.
Some shorter advertising spots might run for only 30 seconds, however could run as long as an entire commercial break during a television show. These “full break” spots allow a solitary product to dominate a television viewer’s attention until their show comes back on the air. So even if a 30-minute infomercial cannot air during a program, a 3-minute version likely can.
Programming for your audience
One of the biggest differences between infomercial advertising and equity advertising is how they are programmed. Infomercials go after their audiences in a far more targeted way. Because their call-to-action (CTA) is generally far more direct, they speak and appeal to a predefined demographic picture of who they believe is their customer. In a way, media buying for an infomercial is closer to digital advertising than it is to traditional television advertising. It is possible to place an ad during times on specific networks where you know your target customers are going to be watching.
Whom do you want to watch your infomercial?
We apologize for the somewhat long answer. But as you can see, the real question is not who watches infomercials. The question you need to ask is whom do you want to be watching your infomercial? People generally do not seek out infomercials. They watch them when they appear on the screen they are viewing. Nearly everyone watches infomercials. It is up to the marketer to pick the audience they want watching theirs.
Who is watching television?
The next question that goes with who watches infomercials: who is watching television or where are people watching any screen? Once again, the short answer is everyone consumes media differently and often from a multiple number of sources. The long answer, however, is once again an irritatingly difficult question to give a straight answer to. What counts as television? Is it only terrestrial, Over the Air (OTA) television? Is there a difference between cable and satellite? Does Over the Top (OTT) count as television? What if it is a streaming service that monetizes using commercials?
Television programming has evolved greatly since its 1950’s origins yet the television commercial as a marketing tool is still as strong and as relevant as ever. Watching television today is a quite different action than it was even 10 years ago.
What are we watching?
Just because Americans today are not subscribing to what we traditionally think of as paid television, however, does not mean they are not watching television. Especially commercial television. People subscribe to streaming television services like Sling and YouTube TV. They watch OTA with antennas delivering digital signals to televisions.
They watch streaming services like Hulu, Tubi, Peacock, Pluto, Paramount+ and HBO Max. All these OTT streaming services are either free and supported by television advertising, or paid with a less expensive tier that has advertising.
So, while cable and satellite television may not look exactly like it did 15 years ago, that does not mean the core principles of television have gone away. Your company’s advertising might not be reaching your potential customers in the exact same way it used to, but if you are a smart marketer, you will still be reaching them, only on multiple platforms and more diverse ways. Once again, it is just a matter of finding out where your customers are watching, then tailoring advertising content to them.
To sum up: Who watches infomercials? Everyone does. Who watches television? Everyone does. But it is not about who is watching. It is about how do you reach the people who are watching most efficiently and effectively. It is easier today to reach your customers than ever before in the history of humanity. It is up to you to reach them.