TV Product Marketers Move Faster TO Thwart Knockoffs

NEW YORK— The knockoff threat is not a challenge exclusive to the As Seen On TV business.

But for a business predicated on seeding retail demand for new items with hefty sums of direct-response advertising, the increasing frequency among frontline marketers in the category— not just opportunistic As Seen On TV wannabes— launching similar-looking and similar-performing TV-supported products at virtually the same time is sounding new alarms.

It is becoming the norm for two, three or four like items to be advertised and offered to retail concurrently by As Seen On TV marketers. And that amplifies key questions: Who came first? Does being first matter? And who wins?

Knockoffs in this colloquial context, unlike counterfeit products , generally are represented as alternatives that resemble original products without hijacking the original products’ trademarks.

Legal action remains a frequent course for As Seen On TV marketers when intellectual property violations and unscrupulous advertising are suspected. But in many cases the fate of similar items is left to conventional competitive forces, including speed to market, product quality, marketing effectiveness and retailer decisions about which products to offer.

The knockoff factor in the As Seen On TV market has been amplified perhaps by the business’ recent success in an otherwise uneven retail marketplace.

“Last year, this category exploded, the pricepoints exploded,” said Craig Jordan, svp/sales and customer solutions for Ontel Products. “People are going to chase that and want to follow the best items. If you can get 10% of the market, that might be a substantial piece of business.”

Scott Boilen, CEO of Allstar Products, added, “Some items seem so big that everyone thinks they are able to win, especially with higher-priced items.”

A close-knit industry, coupled with the intensified competitiveness of a business that has refined the swift output of new products and infomercials, might make it harder to contain As Seen On TV items that test favorably.

“In a lot of these cases, when people come out within two weeks of each other, they’re already all working on the same things” Boilen said. “The big difference is the speed at which our market moves today.”

TeleBrands CEO AJ Khubani, though, suspects more might be at play than nimble development and marketing dexterity.

“The first thing we have to do is overcome a problem in the industry: The leaking of information,” Khubani said. “Within days of successfully testing an item, that information is out. We’ve got to come up with very strong procedures and agreements.”

Khubani said his company has implemented procedures, although he wouldn’t specify them, and contracted expert guidance to help combat the release of information that might contribute to fast knockoffs.

Even with such measures, Khubani agreed the need to be faster and more aggressive when developing new items, testing direct response, securing prime media and locking in retail business

ahead of likely followers.

“The best way is to [limit the knockoffs]is to be really good at what you do,” Khubani said. “We’re confident we’re strong in the manufacturing supply and marketing sides.”

“We got a big head start on one new item,” he added. “A competitor managed to get a sample to the