Teleshopping is an amazing retail phenomenon. They seem to be a relic of the past, but only at first glance: shops "on the couch" still exist today, even in the era of free online shopping. It would seem, why waste your time on advertising shows, the main goal of which is to sell as much as possible? However, millions of people around the world have their own answer to this question - after all, TV shops with their ideal picture of the world are designed in such a way that it is almost impossible not to get stuck while watching.
TEXT: Anton Danilov, author of the telegram channel "Profeminism"
But that's not all
There are clear advantages to shopping on the couch. Distance selling is convenient for all participants in the process: customers do not need to spend energy and time walking around the shops, and the owners of these very shops do not need to pay rent and maintain a staff of sellers, cashiers and merchandisers. At one time, TV shops plugged advertising catalogs that were sent by mail to their belts, because buyers had the opportunity not only to see the product in the picture, but also to listen to an amusing lecture about all its advantages, see the thing in action and immediately buy it by calling the phone. In English, such an advertisement is called "infomercial" - it has been played since at least the middle of the last century thanks to a Canadian businessman Philip Kives. An enterprising man founded K-Tel in 1962, which sold everything from kitchen knives to records. It is Kives who owns the legendary phrase "But wait, that's not all!" ("But wait, there’s more!").
At first, videos of this kind were short: advertisements on American television, where K-Tel products were also advertised, regulated inside and out. The Federal Communications Agency dictated the length and number of videos per broadcast hour - in general, they were allotted for eighteen minutes. The situation changed in 1984 when the Ronald Reagan administration lifted the existing restriction: politicians believed in a market system that would allow them to interfere less in business processes. This decision spawned a whole generation of TV channels that specialized in virtual shopping.
One of the most famous was Kevin Harrington's As Seen On TV. The company bought cheap night-time TV channels for long, half-hour advertising shows, the products of which were offered to be ordered with a simple phone call. The intrigue of the action was added by an artificially created time limit - one of the favorite techniques of TV shops today. In some ways, the format of these shows was visionary: they were incredibly fun and effective, and even the stars could star in them. VHS aerobics courses with the participation of Jane Fonda, which became a symbol of the era, were advertised in just such TV shops.
The first enterprise of this kind in Russia was Teleexpo. The dubious advantages of buying and controversial selling methods raised many questions even then, but the TV shops themselves became a good help for independent television in the post-perestroika era: thanks to their deductions for advertising media of those years, they could not only make ends meet, but also buy Western programs. Over time, Top Shop, Shopping24 and other stores appeared, broadcasting advertisements both on regular TV channels and on their own. Although TV shopping in Russia has existed for more than twenty years, the format is still finding strength to resist the expansion of online commerce - at least, according to Dmitry Batkov, deputy director for distribution of the Shopping Live TV channel. “We are seeing the formation of a fairly clear division of buyers according to their preferences regarding online stores and television trading platforms.Today we have a promising basis for the development of our company in many directions,”says Batkov.
How teleshopping works
“TV shops are fully functioning TV channels with one nuance: all programs are active advertising,” says the ex-producer of one of these TV shops, Peter (the name was changed at the request of the hero). - Everything is arranged in the same way: they have their own studios, presenters, broadcast network, control room, where the director, producer and other important participants in the process sit. The two most popular questions I am asked are: who writes the text to the presenter and whether they have a prompter. I answer: no one writes texts, and everything that the presenters say in the frame is pure improvisation on a given topic. At least that's how it was with us. The prompter, of course, also does not exist and cannot be; all communication with the control room takes place through the "ear" - a small microphone, which cannot be seen on the presenter in the frame."
The most important and one of the most numerous departments of such companies is the purchasing department: Peter says that each of the buyers in his company was responsible for his own category of goods, having a good understanding of the entrusted industry. First of all, they were looking for the most profitable things, from the sale of which it was possible to get the maximum profit - for this, in particular, they chose Russian manufacturers. “Every working day began with a meeting with those buyers whose products we filmed: they talked about the competitive advantages, what is important to mention in the shot, and what is better to remain silent about”.
The main person on the set is the producer, he is responsible for everything that happens in and out of the frame. “If a product sold poorly, they ask first of all from him or from her, because he regulates and directs the process. The working day consisted of several live broadcasts, in each of which we promoted lots of one category: clothes, jewelry, kitchen utensils, and so on,”recalls Peter.
TV shops are constantly using marketing tricks. Ideally, they should subtly nudge the viewer into buying, but many of them have long been the object of jokes and memes because of their clumsy. Remember the episode from the TV series "Friends" in which Joe could not open a bag of milk without a special device - and how absurd it looks from the outside. “Such stores definitely have their own audience,” says Kirill Kadyvkin, senior strategic planning manager at e: mg creative agency. - Pros work on scripts who know exactly how to sell this or that thing. The main marketing tricks are trigger words (“exclusive offer”, “this has not happened before”), the “here and now” effect and, of course, all kinds of discounts, even if they are fictitious. These TV shows target the most watched audience of people over forty and housewives."
The techniques used by "shops on the couch" have not changed for decades and have long been studied: the declared shortage of the product ("buy only today!") And the monotonous repetition of actions that will bring you closer to golden earrings or a miracle knife (" just pick up the phone and dial … "), and a clearly posed problem at the very beginning of the transmission, which, of course, is faced by absolutely everyone (" peeling potatoes takes a long time? ").
Audience composition is forcing TV shops to exploit gender stereotypes as another means of increasing sales. Studies say that sexism in advertising "consumer goods" is widespread, and the broadcast of gender stereotypes is not at all a Russian invention. “Every TV shop has a clear idea of its viewers,” continues Peter. - They know almost everything about her: where is she from, how much money she has, what she prefers to wear, what size she has. All this data is collected by operators over the phone, we clearly knew who we were working for.Of course, all the spectators are different, but their differences do not interfere with compiling an average portrait of the client, to whom the presenters turn."
Hide flaws, highlight advantages
Often women look at shops on the couch, who have no opportunity to go to the store to choose something suitable for themselves: either there is no such place nearby, or what is sold there, for some reason, does not suit them. Some of the common ones are the lack of suitable sizes offline and the fear of shopping in online stores. Buyers of TV shops understand this very well, so they buy things that should suit most customers with non-model sizes. The rhetoric of the presenters, however, is not aimed at accepting the body, but at the need for the notorious "disguise of imperfections": "Clothes should emphasize the merits and hide the flaws" - the general slogan of such programs. “This dress will hide the little nuances of our figure,” “this blouse will hide flaws,” “problem areas are concealed” - behind the supposedly “harmless” euphemisms lies the routine humiliation of the appearance of potential clients.
Not only shaming rhetoric helps to sell clothes. TV shops are based on a stereotypical idea of how a woman “should” look, so their assortment and presentation are appropriate. The presenters regularly remind customers that they need to dress not only in the notoriously “feminine” way, but also in such a way as to win the approval of those around them. “The dress makes a woman a woman with a capital letter”, “you will not remain unnoticed among the male half”, “the title of the queen of the evening will be guaranteed for you” - this is how cocktail and evening dresses are served. It is almost impossible to hear an offer to buy a thing simply because you liked it.
to tie your shoelaces
No less problematic is the segment of teleshopping, which is responsible for personal care. Usually they offer not only cosmetics, but also dietary supplements - however, instead of talking about the real effectiveness of these funds (obviously, minimal), the presenters appeal to the complexes of the spectators, only strengthening their hatred of their own body.
November 26, a live broadcast of the Shop & Show TV channel. There are two presenters in the frame: a man and a woman. Lot of the day - "fat burning cream", the manufacturers of which promise "incredible weight loss in the shortest possible time." The presenter seems to be an expert (what is not clear), while the presenter, according to the laws of the drama of such shows, does not say anything about the product, but only asks questions and reminds to call and order as soon as possible. Speaking about the miraculous properties of the drug, the presenter not only resorts to fatphobia ("Fat steals your years! Fat steals your life!"), But also cites pseudoscientific statements like: "the molecules in the balm allow our body to literally feed on its own fatty deposits "Or" the molecules in the balm loosen the fat, but this is not enough - you need it to literally burn out. " Sellers promise that "after the New Year, even if you overeat with Olivier salad, you will continue to lose weight!" Then a woman who has allegedly lost weight with the help of this cream is invited to the studio. A photo “before” pops up on the screen, and the presenter, in picturesque surprise, screams: “Is that you? God, how did you live? Could you at least tie your shoelaces? " The smiling heroine, who wore about size 54 before losing weight, changes in her face. “Of course I could,” she blushes.
Tablet for horoscopes
In the "Technique" section, the sellers play another card. If in the previous headings the presence of the male presenter was optional, here it is mandatory: it is obviously believed that the representative of the “strong” half will be able to tell better about the technique. It does not matter what kind of products we are talking about and who gave the presenter the right to be called an "expert", the scenario does not change - a woman can only ask questions, repeating all the time: "Oh, I don't understand anything about technology."With each new phrase, a man's speech becomes more and more a parody of himself: in order to convey to the audience the advantages of the advertised product, the presenter uses "understandable to everyone" associations - cleaning, cooking, household life.
The presenter and presenter of the Shop & Show show introduces viewers to the new tablet. The presenter talks about the technical advantages of the novelty, the presenter draws attention to “what beautiful and bright body colors it has”, and also to the fact that “it is stylish”. The man in the frame mentions how much he loves to read the news; woman - how she checks the horoscope with the help of the tablet. “Every morning I start by knowing what awaits me today,” she says.
Similarly, in October 2018, the Sofitel hotel in Brisbane, Australia, advertised itself. The plot of the advertising campaign was simple: a couple, a man and a woman, are enjoying their stay at the hotel: he is with a newspaper, and she is with a book about Chanel. The Sofitel was predictably accused of sexism and gender stereotyping, so the hotel management had to apologize to their guests. “We didn’t want to portray stereotypes, but we admit our mistake and ask forgiveness from everyone who could offend this advertising campaign,” the hotel representatives said.
A frying pan for every woman
In the case of household goods, roughly the same scheme works: TV shops refer to the “duty of every woman” - to look after the house and create comfort in it. In reality, the house is still run by the owner of TV shops, and this stereotype is recorded even in the names of goods. The appearance of a man in such an advertisement is nonsense, because the “breadwinner of the family”, as you know, should not think about such things. The only exception is advertising for kitchen utensils, which supports another old gender stereotype: the male chef is much more popular. However, the presenters still address the female part of the audience. “Every woman should have such a frying pan in the kitchen,” they argue.
However, while technically sophisticated products for the home are advertised by men, then relatively simple ones, like a mop or vegetable cutter, are shown by women. “Yes, I, of course, am an actress and TV presenter, but also a wife and a mother of two children,” the presenter seems to be justifying herself. At the beginning of the video, she says that she loves to cook and that the new vegetable cutter has accelerated this process, but for some reason this argument is not enough: the producers of the TV shop cannot but remind their spectators that after work they will have a “second shift”.
Despite the massive expansion of online shopping (Lamoda alone makes up to forty thousand purchases every day), couch shops continue to flourish: the size of the American market alone in this area is about two hundred and fifty billion dollars. The influence of this kind of business should not be underestimated, because according to all marketing canons, the presenters of advertising shows sell not only goods, but also a certain image. Former producer of the TV shop Peter is sure that “the presenters have no and never had a goal to humiliate their customers, on the contrary, they tell them how to improve their lives, how to ease the household routine”. However, while cheerful salespeople assure that happiness depends on how well the clothes “hide flaws” and the cream “burns fat”, the audience will be forced to listen and perceive this sermon - whether they like it or not.