Late Billy Mays leaves infomercial stardom void

June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson, the recently deceased “King of Pop”, was also lauded as a pioneer in celebrity advertising.  But many in the marketing industry appeared much more personally upset by a tragedy that was closer to home — the death on Sunday of  Billy Mays, the “King of Infomercials”.

Some viewers flee infomercials, which often last almost a half hour, and are filled with brash claims about products that, of course, are always the best inventions on the market for anything from peeling a vegetable or cleaning a house.

But Mays, who made it big in the late ninetes with a stain remover called OxiClean, convinced many viewers to listen by shouting his wares. As a result he became a popular icon and created a close following among marketers who saw him as a valuable pitchman.

“He’s on the air more than any other pitch person … He probably has been in more direct response spots than anybody else,” said Sam Catanese, the head of Infomercial Monitoring Service (IMS).

But while he seemed to always yell on the TV, Mays collaborators said he spoke at a normal tone in person and was very sincere, if a bit more energetic than most of us. “He was a sweet dear nice guy. Everybody’s going to miss him a lot,” said Catanese who last met Mays in San Diego a few weeks ago when he asked for IMS to get involved in his Discovery Channel show PitchMen, which documents Mays’ search for marketable inventions.

Mays followed in the footsteps of  Ron Popeil, who is seen by marketers as the grandfather of infomercials who turned “late night viewing into a profitable situation” for television networks, said Barry Consulting President Bill Kittel.

Executives said it will be hard for a pitchman to fill Mays shoes and match his fame. “I think he should be recognized,” said Catanese.

Keep an eye on:

  • Dell is developing a pocket-sized Internet device (WSJ)
  • Supreme Court allows wider DVR use (New York Times)
  • Facebook taps ex-Genentech CFO (Reuters)
  • Wall-to-wall media coverage of Jackson receding (Associated Press)
  • Three percent of centenarians Tweet (Reuters)
  • Windows 7 pre-orders a hit on Amazon (CNET)

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billy will be truly missed. check out this great rap tribute i found to him! 06/29/rip-billy-mays/

Posted by hanna | Report as abusive

If I could match half of the success Billy Mays realized in his short life, I will consider my work well done. My heart goes out to his wife, family members, and friends. He was an incredible person with integrity that showed through the TV screen. The world was blessed to have him.

Posted by Julila Tetrault | Report as abusive

He didn’t respect me or other tv veiwers. He proved this in the way he shouted at us all the time.Now we’re supposed to mourn his passing?

Posted by Joe | Report as abusive

Billy Mays didn’t shout at people, he presented the products he endorsed with enthusiasm and vigor. Its called passion and it is what made him so unique and successful. They say that a good salesman can sell ice to eskimos, and Billy Mays could sell ice to THOSE guys. He is an American icon.

Posted by Jenifer Lewis | Report as abusive

@JoeI can’t believe you would say something as stupid as this ever, let alone right after the man died. Great people like Billy are taken from us everyday and then we get stuck with the scum like you. I cant believe I’ve actually met someone with so little intelligence and human emotion as you. How can you live with yourself?

Posted by Nick | Report as abusive