As Seen On TV

A colleague of mine walked into the office the other day and told me he had just bought an X10 camera system. I don't think I have to explain to this audience what X10 cameras are and the effect that their "pioneering" work in pop-ups have had on the whole of interactive marketing. Now, my colleague is a very savvy interactive marketer himself so this news made me pause. This is what he told me: "I don't remember if I went to their Website, or saw an ad, but I just decided one day that I wanted to have one."

Now that, my friends, is the power of advertising and it is one of the reasons that email marketers must clean up their act. Despite our annoyance and complaining, no matter how savvy you are, there will come a time that you decide you just "want something" that has been bombarding your email inbox for months. Spam exists because it works all too well. Now is the time to make it a legitimate, safe, and respected marketing channel.

An interesting sub-genre of interactive marketing falls into a bucket I call "infomercial as email." Generally, these emails reside in the self-publishing field and are heavily focused on various money-making schemes. For instance, folks like Matthew Lesko and Robert G. Allen have really become the Tony Robbins of the email industry. The interesting thing is that Tony Robbins and many other self-help gurus have not really embraced email marketing the way they did late night television back in the 80s and 90s. But Lesko and Allen have embraced it with a passion.



Both Lesko and Allen have similar sales methods, which embrace long-form sales pitches. Both prominently display the fact that they have appeared on famous television shows with famous hosts. For instance, Lesko promotes his appearances on Larry King, Oprah, CNN, "The Today Show," and Leno. Allen talks about Regis Philbin and the challenge he accepted to make $24,000 in 24 hours (he actually made $96,000) using his "proven techniques."

You've most likely seen Matthew Lesko if you channel surf late at night. He is the guy who wears the purple suit with the yellow question marks all over it and he is a certifiable personality. On television he can be seen in high manic form waving frantically at the camera and ranting about all the excess cash the government has to help pay credit cards and mortgages. In email form, here's the pitch:

Dear Taxpayer:
The average taxpayer has over $8,000 in credit card debt and is also eligible to apply for over $22,575 in Free Government grants.

Learn about little-known programs that can get you OUT OF DEBT: - $7,000 for credit card bills
$30,000 for health care bills
$500 for car payments

Even millionaires are eligible....

Deadline dates are near...."

Robert G Allen's pitch is even more compelling:

"$20,000 in only 90 Days

I was challenged to take someone from Regis Philbin's studio audience and teach them my wealth building strategies...

Just 90 days after following my systems, Pat Watson was $20,000 wealthier!"

Like many of these types of "infomercial" emails, the jump pages of both organizations are not known for their haiku-like brevity. "Keeping it above the fold" is pretty difficult when your jump page is 5 miles long. The strategy seems to be keep them reading and wear them down.

From a style standpoint, Lesko, like his TV appearances is the more colorful and manic, while Robert Allen projects a more professional, successful appearance.

So which is more effective when it comes to email? To test it out I once again used data supplied by Hitwise in order to determine web site traffic driven by the email campaigns. To balance things out, I also took a look at Grant Guides, another big emailer who competes head to head with Lesko on the free government money angle but does not have a "personality" to drive sales.

The winner? Well to a certain degree it is difficult to do a direct comparison because Robert G Allen's traffic is driven to a number of sites such as and rather than a branded URL and other, of course, other brands are being driven to those sites as well.

But even so, it is pretty clear that a punctuation cover frock beats Armani (and a non-branded Website) hands down, at least when it comes to driving Internet traffic: Matthew Lesko is the big winner.

Neither Eisoffers or SecureInternetstores came close to Lesko's traffic numbers and Grant Guides didn't generate enough traffic to even show up in Hitwise's database.

Why? Well, maybe Lesko knows something the rest don't: you need to have a little Barnum in you to reach the masses with an offer like this. Allen, with his systems and suits, sounds like work. But Lesko appeals to the something for nothing mentality. To put it in television terms, we may all like "The Apprentice," but few identify with the contestants. Lesko is more like Average Joe: we look at it and say, if THAT guy can make it, I can too.

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