Move over, OxiClean: Tampa infomercial giant pushes sex product boundary in TV ad
Wake up and good morning. If you're not familiar with Tampa's Sullivan Productions by name, you definitely know the products it pitches on TV. Like Billy Mays hawking the stain fighter OxiClean or Arm & Hammer Baking Soda or the Steam Buddy. Or Anthony Sullivan (the British "Sullivan" of Sullivan Productions, see photo, left) selling the Go Duster or Smart Mop or tons of others ads from the Swivel Sweeper, Stick-Up Bulbs, Natural Bra or the Jupiter Jack. Watch some of these ads here.
After dominating the infomercial market of household cleaning, cooking and fix-it gadgets, Sullivan Productions is back in the news with a more risque pitch. A vibrator called Tri-Phoria now being hawked for client and condom maker Trojan. A New York Times advertising story today explores the rise of more explicit sexual products being pitched on television. And Sullivan Productions is helping to lead the way. You may not realize this but Trojan and Arm & Hammer products are both owned by one company: Church & Dwight of Princeton, N.J.
Here's how the ad starts off. "Has life got you stressed out?" begins a voiceover in the commercial, in an over-the-top style of an infomercial, as a woman sits stuck in traffic. "Want to have some fun? New from Trojan, a brand you trust. Introducing vibrating Tri-Phoria — it’s like three massagers in one." The new commercial calls the product a "personal massager" and even includes a tongue-in-cheek salute to the disclosures required by pharmaceutical ads: "Side effects of Tri-Phoria may include screams of ecstasy, curled toes, a sudden glow and intense waves of pleasure." Watch the Tri-Phoria ad here. The product, by the way, is $39.99 and offers "discreet delivery."
Trojan told the New York Times its Tri-Phoria campaign is worth millions and represents the largest advertising campaign for a vibrator, though it's probably safe to say that's not (yet) a competitive mass-audience market. Trojan expected the Sullivan Productions ad to be restricted to late night TV hours. But Comedy Central, Spike and VH1 approved it for day and early evening slots — and none have rejected it outright, the newspaper story says. A Tri-Phoria commercial has run since early September during the day and early evening, for example, on Comedy Central, appearing during The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and South Park.
Next stop, Trojan hopes, are the broadcast networks. Looks like Tampa's Sullivan Productions (here's more on the business since Billy Mays passed away) is getting some "new buzz" pushing the boundaries of TV advertising.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist