Tips For Obama Ad From Infomercial Guru

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Barack Obama's 30-minute ad on television is essentially an infomerical for the Democratic presidential hopeful. Ron Popeil, infomerical star and inventor of products such as the Veg-O-Matic, offers his insight on how Obama can make the most of his 30 minutes.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

If you're listening to us right now, you're probably not watching Barack Obama's 30-minute-long ad. It's airing on some networks as I speak. It is essentially a 30-minute political infomercial. Earlier today, for an idea of how Obama might make the most of this platform, we decided to check in with Ron Popeil, the king of infomercials. Popeil invented and famously demonstrated the Dial-O-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman, and the Showtime Knife Set.

(Soundbite of Ron Popeil infomercial)

Mr. RON POPEIL (Inventor; Television Pitchman): Look at this. You can cut through ham bones, chicken bones, anything with this knife. This is fabulous. Look at this. I'll go back to the tomato again. And as you can see...

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. POPEIL: Fabulous. Slice a tomato all day long...

NORRIS: Popeil told us he's not sure how much success an Obama infomercial will have.

Mr. POPEIL: It can't have the kind of interest my infomercial can have because we deliver the promise of a solution to a variety of problems maybe in the kitchen. His infomercials are a pile or promises. I do give him the benefit of an infomercial when it comes to selling. You can always sell a lot more in 28 minutes and 30 seconds than you can in just one minute. One minute to cram in all the things you have to talk about, the problems, the solutions - you try doing that in one minute, it sounds like a machine gun coming at you. So the ability to express yourself over 28 minutes and 30 seconds, just under half an hour, gives you the time that you can do it at the correct pace and also make it very, very interesting.

NORRIS: Barack Obama can give a very strong stump speech, but he's known for having a fairly mellow personality. Is he a natural salesman? Does he have the kind of showmanship?

Mr. POPEIL: Absolutely a natural salesman.

NORRIS: But does he have the kind of showmanship you need for a 30-minute infomercial?

Mr. POPEIL: Absolutely, he does. He has such great speaking qualities that he could in fact hold the interest, I believe. But you got to have a lot of interesting stuff to show the folks to keep that interest.

NORRIS: Were you planning to watch tonight?

Mr. POPEIL: Yes, I am.

NORRIS: Will you be critiquing it?

Mr. POPEIL: I will.

NORRIS: And what are you going to be looking for?

Mr. POPEIL: Well, I'm going to look to see if it sold me and if it can convince me. And I try to be objective, look at the infomercial and ask myself, did it sell me? If it was my product, we would know instantly because the customer would get on the telephone and call that toll-free number.

NORRIS: Well, Mr. Popeil, it has been a pleasure to talk to you. All the best to you. Thanks so much.

Mr. POPEIL: Oh, thank you so very much.

NORRIS: That was inventor and businessman and television pitchman Ron Popeil speaking with us earlier today. He's known as the king of the infomercial.

(Soundbite of Ron Popeil infomercial)

Mr. POPEIL: And don't forget, you get the $30 salad flavor injector absolutely free. Audience, what do you think of that?

(Soundbite of audience ovation)

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Obama Campaign Ad Blitz Unprecedented

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No matter what you expect to see on TV on Wednesday night, you stand a good chance of seeing Barack Obama.

The Democratic presidential nominee has bought a chunk of prime time on several networks to seal the deal with voters. Obama's half-hour commercial is scheduled to run at 8 on CBS, Fox, NBC, MSNBC and Univision.

The Obama campaign paid just under $1 million apiece to CBS and to Fox. Fox asked Major League Baseball to delay the first pitch in the World Series game so it could air the ad.

J. Max Robins, vice president of the Paley Center for Media and former editor of Broadcasting & Cable, says it is a smart move.

"When are those unique times when you see a television programming roadblock across all the major networks focused on one person? By and large, when it's someone [who] is president of the United States," he said.

But this is a candidate, not a president; the last candidate to make a similar purchase of TV time was billionaire Ross Perot in 1992.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain sought to make Obama's show of strength into a liability.

"He's measuring the drapes, and he's planned his first address to the nation before the election. By the way, no one will delay the World Series game for an infomercial when I'm president," McCain said.

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