Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"Hi, Billy Mays here. From beyond the grave."

One day last week, after a meeting in Boston, I went back to my hotel room to relax before joining my colleagues for dinner. I turned on the TV and started unpacking my laptop, when suddenly the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

The voice screaming at me was instantly recognizable.


I felt like the kid in "The Sixth Sense." 

"I see dead people," I thought to myself, "and they're yelling at me."

There he was, the dead pitchman, pitching at me with all the vigor of an extremely live pitchman. And unlike in his other spots, he was driving a car while doing it!

It was a bit unnerving. Billy seemed so alive, so eager to sell this amazing little miracle product!

Never before had I been held so entranced by a hardcore direct response commercial. I practically had to fight myself from picking up the phone and ordering a few of the damn things.

Why was I so much more captivated by this infomercial than any other I had seen?

Then it hit me. For an infomercial, this was the perfect storm: A famous dead guy driving his car – possibly with cocaine in his system – while pitching a product that he promises could save your life.

What could have more stopping power than that?

(Okay, the only thing that might have made this spot even more unsettling is if he had crashed into something as he spoke to the camera.)

Later, I read that this spot was Billy's last. I suppose the next time I see it, I won't be so caught off guard.

Unless he starts to decompose more with each subsequent airing...


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1 comment:

  1. "I felt like the kid in 'The Sixth Sense.'" I share your feelings, as my reaction when I first saw it paralleled yours.

    The only thing even more unnerving might be if the late Strom Thurmond came back to promote Dixie Crystal Sugar or some such product. Then again, they did bring back the late Orville Redenbacher to run several his company's commercials for the brand’s "natural" popcorn snacks, introduced 13 years after his death (2008), and featured a clip of him at the end.