I’m sure you have seen an infomercial. If you haven’t, you must live in a cave - or be a very sound sleeper and an early-to-bed person.

It is, of course, a combination of “info[rmation]” and “commercial.” We all live with commercials every living day of our lives - being exposed though radio and TV - but also newspapers, magazines, bus cards, billboards, etc., etc., etc. But the commercial built on information is a relatively new thing in the USA.

You can thank the Reagan administration for it's beginning.

B.R. (before Reagan), the airwaves were supposed to belong to us, the people. The FCC, which used to be the watchdog of the media, had rules to control broadcasters. One rule was that there could be no more than 12 minutes of commercials per hour. Under that rule, the infomercial was impossible.

Reagan came in, and changed the rule - actually, deregulated the industry in 1984. Out went control on commercials - and the Fairness Doctrine was dropped (but that’s another story). From that point the ravaging of the airwaves by commercial activity began.

Actually, I was probably one of the first to direct an ongoing infomercial. In one of my past lives, I was a television writer-producer-director. I was hired on to be the director of The Kiplinger Changing Times - a fifteen minute program that took articles from the “Times” and presented them on camera with the intent to gain subscribers for the magazine. the only sponsor during the program was The Kiplinger Changing Times. This was 1970.

The program was played in over 200 markets across the US. I was ready for a long run contract when I was informed that the program was cancelled! The FCC had determined that the program was a fifteen minute commercial which was not allowed on the air (this was before the term “infomercial” had been invented).

Come Reagan, and now you have a plethora of infomercials taking all the unpurchased time throughout the broadcast day. The main thrust was started by the program presenting the “Ginzu Knife.”

Also known as “paid programming,” or “teleshopping” in Europe, this type of programming is usually shown outside of prime time - that means late at night or early morning and on weekends.

Keep in mind that the content of an infomercial is a commercial message that is designed to serve the interest of the sponsor. It may look and sound like regular programming - usually like a talk show format - but the main purpose is to sell.

Sometimes it is hard to tell it from regular programming - and that is the intent. Why? To give some credibility to the offer and take it out of the “commercial” image.

Generally, the infomercial pushes one product at a time. It is designed to elicit a direct response - meaning “buy now, or lose out.” They make use of catchy phrases, a repetition of ideas, and the use of scientific principles, along with testimonials, experts and celebrity co-hosts.

Consumer advocates recommend careful investigation of all the claims presented on the program and the company behind the product. Because there is a celebrity “pushing” the product doesn’t mean that it works.

Gadgets and Gizmos are a popular product shown on infomercials. It is a way to introduce new products to the public. the phrase “as seen on TV” has become as familiar as any other slogan in advertising.

Again, there are some good and some bad products. You have to be careful, always.

I have bitten on them just like you most probably have. The pitches and demonstrations, because of the words chosen and how they are presented, are built to go directly to your emotions, and your wish to be part of the group. A feeling of urgency to buy is generated. More psychology than you may think goes into an infomercial’s preparation.

Two products that I bought and that worked for me were the FlavorWave oven, and the Tablemate. Both have worked as advertised, and continue to hold up, at least til’ now.

Now, if you procrastinated - or just took too long in checking things out - and missed your chance to get one of those nifty gadgets “as seen on TV,” here’s your second chance. there is a good chance that you can find it here: Infomercial products at You Can