The Rebirth of the Infomercial

Leica Advert Banner

The infomercial is a strange species of advert that can often be found broadcasting on a channel near the back-end of your Sky EPG and in the early hours of the morning. However, a variation of the classic infomercial seems to be enjoying a revival thanks to the digital age. Instead of telling the viewer how to use a product, long-form adverts are using extended running times to give products a back story.

Their purpose is to educate the viewer about a unique selling point – however dull it may be – and attempt to instil the product with some identity. It’s often hard for an advertiser to truly convey how they want customers to feel about their products, but the digital infomercial (or at least that’s what I’m calling it) is a great platform for this purpose. Here are 2 great recent examples of digital infomercials and why they work so well:

Leica: The Most Boring Advert Ever Made

Leica is a manufacturer of very expensive, high-end cameras. Whenever I see somebody walking around the streets with one they get raised eyebrows from. The average person can’t afford one, so it’s very much a premium brand, and Leica always likes to tell people about this. In the past it’s published corporate videos of men in ties explaining how its technology isn’t even in the same league as the Canons and Nikons of the world, but they’re boring. Now Leica has swivelled 180º and released a 45-minute video of a man polishing a camera body.

The difference here is that they’re telling us that it’s boring, and that’s the point. Leica wants us to know that it takes “4,700 individual strokes to finish each body”. It knows that we probably won’t sit through the whole monotonous, tedious video, but the statement is made by simply releasing the video in the first place. It lets us know about how committed the brand is to quality and perfection.

Leica’s “The Most Boring Advert Ever Made” in its entirety.

Arby’s: 13-Hours of Meat Smoking

Arby’s is an American fast-food restaurant, and the Smokehouse Brisket is one of its popular products. It’s not the most exciting looking meal, so Arby’s have developed a great way of giving the product some personality and a back story. Not many people know that it takes 13 hours to smoke the meat that goes into the sandwich, so why not show us the whole process? And in the meantime why not air the 13-hour digital infomercial on an actual TV channel in Minnesota so that it qualifies for a Guinness World Record?

Arby's Advert Banner

Arby’s is airing the longest advert in history, showing how its meat is smoked.

Again, it’s incredibly unlikely that anybody will watch the full 13 hours, but the point is already made even to those who don’t watch a single second of the video. Chief Marketing Officers at Arby’s, Rob Lynch, has said that he wants to increase Arby’s “relevance to a whole new group of customers” and that it’s “not just a roast beef shop any more”. The official World Record entry reads: “The commercial consisted largely of a single shot of a raw beef brisket being smoked over the course of 13 hours. At the conclusion of the smoking process, the cooked brisket was removed from the smoker, and a chef used the brisket to make a sandwich.”

You’d be excused for thinking that Rob Lynch’s statement contradicts what Arby’s has produced here, but it instead works perfectly. What’s resulted is a huge statement by the brand that’s been amplified endlessly through social media and news reports that’s produced a huge spillover effect from a comparatively small investment on a digital infomercial.

Arby's Brisket

A still from Arby’s 13-hour long commercial.

So what other brands would I like to see come out with digital infomercials? I can see the format working well for hand-crafted goods, such as guitars or furniture, but these would lack the comedic mundaneness of Leica’s and Arby’s efforts. I’ve no doubt that more digital infomercials will pop up soon, but let’s not hold our breaths for a 13 hour video showing us how iPhones are manufactured.


One comment

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