How I Mastered Marketing by Losing $25,000 of Ron Popeil’s Money in Just 48 Hours


Gavin reflects on his early experience working for Popeil and the lessons even the most brand-conscious marketer can learn without running cheesy, late-night infomercials.

 I lost $25,000 of his in just one weekend.

“They are only your friends because you have my credit card!”

That’s what he told me the Friday before the weekend started.

And who could argue with a man who sold over $1 Billion in Rotisserie Ovens?

This guy was brilliant; he knew it was going to happen.

Ron Popeil is a marketing genius.

But what many may not know is that he was also an incredible media buyer.

Early in my career, I was a media buyer for the famous pitchman.

Maybe you’ve heard of some of his “amazing” inventions:

The Pocket Fisherman, the Inside-the-Egg Scrambler, or even GLH 9 (Spray on Hair!).

Ok…maybe you don’t know his products…but you may know some of his catchphrases:

“Set it and Forget it”… or “Not $200, Not $100 just three easy payments of $19.95!”

Or the most famous one…”But wait there’s more…”

(FYI – He never actually said that one but much of the infomercial world credits it to him)

Over the years many have written about Ron Popeil, the King of Late Night Infomercials.

Even podcast host and writer Malcolm Gladwell has written glowingly about his salesmanship and product design.

It’s true…he insisted on a glass door for the rotisserie so you could see the food cooking.

I can tell you, watching a spinning chicken basting in its own fat is actually hours of great entertainment. Really!

But salesmanship and product innovation weren’t the only pieces of this puzzle.


5 Helpful Lessons for Today’s Performance Marketers


1. When it Comes to Media Buying…Hire Salespeople!

When Ron Popeil hired me to be a media buyer, I was surprised.

I had never actually bought media…not $1.

I had only ever been a radio salesperson.

But 8-out-of-10 of his media buyers also used to be salespeople!

To be successful in performance marketing, you’ll be buying at below-market rates.

Buying performance media often means buying at rates and times that networks don’t really want to sell.

I was shocked how much persuasion and nudging to take my (Ron’s) money.

That’s why you need to hire a smart, aggressive, and persuasive media agency that can sell media vendors on bending to your campaign’s needs.

2. In the media world…past performance is a decent indicator of future performance.

Every Friday was terrifying.

Ron would call each media buyer to review the weekend’s buys.

He’d start at one end of the hall and spend 15-20 minutes with each buyer.

You better know everything about your media buys and how to defend them.

We were buying $1-2 million in media each week when I was at Ronco.

That was across hundreds of networks and local stations.

He knew all the stations around the country intimately.  He knew how much they were worth.

And he always knew which one of your buys was the weakest.

If you didn’t’ have good reason to have made the buy…watch out!

It was somewhat of a career highlight for me when Ron let me have it for making a bad buy!

His approach was simple:

If you got 100 orders from a station last Saturday afternoon, then

Assume the same station for the next Sunday afternoon would be 85 orders or less.

That was key when you when offering a rate to clear the show. Know how much they are worth. 

3. Build and stack value to create a compelling offer.

In order to create an offer that was impossible to ignore he focused relentlessly on increasing the perceived value of his offer.

He always looked for complementary items with high value as an incentive.

Once the value was high enough he could make the offer “frictionless” taking away as many barriers to responding as possible.

When you look at your offer or your landing page, are you making it as easy as possible for a consumer to respond?

4. Every customer interaction is a sales opportunity.

Ron Popeil made $500K/week in profit from customer complaints.  Think about that! 

Ron took great pains to monitor each and every aspect of the customer engagement,  all with an eye towards improving Lifetime Value (LTV).

There was a large customer service department whose job it was to field calls from consumers complaining about the products and figure out how to end the call with an upsell to things like chicken ties (to keep the chicken from burning as spun), cleaning supplies, and even his other products like spray-on hair!

But Ron didn’t want to wait for upsells to make money, he insisted on being profitable on the FIRST sale.  

5. The product is the star.

Ron Popeil understood that as good as he was at connecting with his audience – it was the product that sold itself, and that made it a business.

You will not find a group that believes as strongly in the power of an influencer or host endorsement than Oxford Road.

However, before you put someone else’s name or voice on top of your brand spend a great time and effort to make sure your product is as compelling as it can be.

Imagine if you didn’t have the luxury of a great host endorsing your product.

Would your product stand up on its own?

Could it drive people to call or buy right now on its own merits?

Get the product or service as close to being the star before you add on host endorsements.

Ron Popeil built a rotisserie oven business into a unicorn.

But he had 50+ years to perfect his approach to performance marketing.

I’m guessing you and your investors don’t have that kind of time to learn.

You certainly don’t want to lose money with a bad media buy.

Find a partner who has already learned from the mistakes.

Find a media partner who has depth of experience and knows your space.

Shorten the learning curve.

Need a recommendation? I know a group that’s here and ready to work with you.

“But wait there’s more…” 

Call me now…operators are standing by.

(310) 499-3526

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