Top 10 Most Persuasive TV Ads of All Time


Not long after the television was invented, commercials were invented; soon to be followed by their bigger brother, the infomercial. Since then, our favorite television shows have transformed into a morphine drip of short intervals of satisfaction, followed by a seemingly greater span of watching TV ads about 1952 die cast Chevy Pickups, and ultra absorbent maxi pads. Some are good, however, and some are funny; some even make you want to reach for your wallet. What follows, then, is my top ten list of persuasive TV ads. Some are commercials and some are Infomercials, but all are compelling in their own way…Enjoy!

10.  Proactiv

Founded by two dermatologists, Proactiv began selling its products through the infomercial medium in 1994, and have since moved to mall kiosks and online websites.

Claiming up to 10 million customers, this acne treatment has exploded onto the skin care market with the help of a number of high profile spokespeople including, to name a few, Katy Perry, Vanessa Williams, Jessica Simpson, Lindsay Lohan, Justin Beiber,  and P. Diddy. Who knew P. Diddy had acne?

9.  Nair

Nobody, male or female, likes to shave. Realizing this, Church & Dwight Co., Inc developed a depilatory cream capable of searing it off your body in only a few minutes. Be sure to only apply it to the areas listed as safe though, and don’t leave it on for too long or your skin will blister.

Still, the ads worked by rousing the interest of all those seeking a change from traditional hair removal methods, and propelled Nair into the top spot in the depilatory products market. In fact, having personally seen it work, I was surprised and simultaneously chagrined at both its effectiveness, and rotten cucumber smell, respectively. Surely, though, headway has since been made in this area.

8.    George Foreman Grill

Also know as the George Foreman Lean, Mean, Fat-Reducing Grilling Machine, this grill has gained steadily in popularity since its introduction in 1994, with more than 80 million units sold to date. The renowned pugilist has said that revenues earned through his Grill have exceeded his career boxing earnings.

The TV commercials feature an aproned Big George that charms the viewer into buying his product; a product, I should say, that actually does what it claims to do.

7.    Jack Lalanne’s Power Juicer

With no shortage of juicer television ads (Juiceman, Juice Master, etc), it’s a little tough to choose one; however, this is only a ten item list and I can’t just fill it with juicers. Credit has to be given to Jack, then, not just because of his lifetime commitment to health and fitness, but also due to the fact that, at 94, he looks better than a lot of 20 year-olds.

The infomercials featured Jack dressed in his trademarked blue astronaut pajamas, happily brewing up his thick swamp water-like concoctions while couch potatoes everywhere put down their sugar and sodium laden soft drinks, picked up their phones, and ordered a Power Juicer. As Jack would say: “That’s the power of the Juice!” No, that’s the power of persuasive ads.

See why Jack Lalanne was a superhuman!

6.    Slendertone Systems Abs

Who doesn’t want a ripped six pack? It’s one of those rare badges of honor that tells the world: “Hey, I take care of myself.” For those of us not blessed with the genetics of a naturally cut physique, just throw on this belt for 40 minutes, 3 times a week and in no time you’ll look like an extra from the movie 300.

Products promising quick changes to one’s appearance are always operating from a position of strength because they play off people’s ingrained insecurities. Add to that the promise of convenience, ease of use, and minimum effort and you have yourself a winner.

This product does just that and does it well, as is evidenced by it’s tally of over 2.5 million units sold to date.

5.  The Clapper

Time is money, and who likes wasting time turning on light switches? Enter the Clapper, which is specifically geared towards elderly or immobile consumers who would value the convenience of an automated unit capable of turning on appliances. The strength of The Clapper’s TV ad is its jingle, which once heard will follow you into the afterlife. While persuasive, it neglects to acknowledge the obvious downside of no longer being able to enjoy Wheel of Fortune without your lights turning rapidly on and off at every spin of the wheel.

4.    The Gazelle

Let’s face it, it’s hard not to derive some guilty pleasure from watching the infomercials where the ball cap wearing, blonde pony tail sporting Tony Little approaches critical mass as he becomes less and less capable of controlling his enthusiasm. Filled with plenty of great moments – like when “America’s Personal Trainer” invariably decides to climb onto the Gazelle with a host, and stays on just long enough for the situation to become awkward – it’s hard not to succumb to his over-the-top yet endearing personality.

3.    The ShamWow!

Now, I’m not one to get excited about absorbent towels, but after watching this commercial my outlook on household spills changed dramatically.

Filmed in the summer of 2007 for $20,000 and pitched by writer, director, and comedian Vince Offer – seemingly created by splicing the genes of a used car salesman and an auctioneer – he crams what could have been a half-hour infomercial into a two minute commercial that, when over, leaves the viewer out of breath.   All I can say is “ShamWow!”

2.    The Q-Ray

Many people grow up dreaming of magical rings and amulets that, if only possessed, would grant them special abilities. Most outgrow this childhood longing, but some don’t; some buy Q-Rays.

In upholding a 2006 U.S. District Court verdict, which forced QT Inc to pay out over 16 million U.S. to consumers for false advertising, U.S. Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook explained his decision as follows: “Defendants might as well have said: Beneficent creatures from the 17th dimension use this bracelet as a beacon to locate people who need pain relief, and whisk them off to their home world every night to provide help in ways unknown to our science.

The commercials are packed with the vague testimonials of wearers who ‘just feel better’, and the glib expositions of the bracelet’s abilities by so-called experts. Still, with sales reported during the aforementioned trial of $137,172,907 between 1996 and 2003, someone’s buying them. Therefore, given the fact that they are effectively a glorified metal bracelet with a price tag of U.S.$49-159 a pop, that makes for one hell of a persuasive television ad.

1.    Bowflex

The bowflex body: sought by so many and yet – be it from lack of time, willpower, interest, or any other reason – achieved by so few. Fortunately for Bowflex, along with their revolutionary Power Rod (and most recently Spiral Flex) technology, they developed an advanced form of mind control, which they incorporate liberally into their TV ads.

These commercials vary in length and are filled with Adonis-like physiques, purported to be attainable with just 20 minutes a day, three times a week. While most people would recognize the ridiculousness of this marketing claim, there nonetheless lingers some seed of fascination with the product, long after the commercial has ended.

Having been brainwashed myself, I can’t guarantee that it wasn’t my own Bowflex that convinced me to enter it into this list, but given their widespread success in spite of a couple of sizeable recalls, I think they warrant the top spot. After all, who could forget the genetic oddity that was the 50 year old grandmother with a Bowflex body who learned to feel comfortable again in her bikini? Truly inspirational! Truly a persuasive ad!

Written by Steve Straub

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  1. "This is Bob…." I'm surprised that Enzyte didn't make this list, considering how it loves to play on men's feelings of inadequacy in the nether-regions. Anything that says "this blue pill will hang you like a horse" and sell billions of units world-wide and spam e-mail boxes for life has got to at least earn an honorable mention!

  2. The ShamWow is one of the biggest piece of sh*t I have ever bought. $27 and change down the drain – the company does not answer its phones when you try to call to see about getting your money back, and after a while you just get fed up, a lesson well learned. If you recently bought it and wish to get your money back (oh, you will want to!), just go ahead and dispute it with your credit card, let them handle it. You will get nowhere on your own with these crooks.

  3. The clapper is definitely persuasive, along with Shamwow, proactive, the george foreman grill, juicer and Nair. People just can't resist any of that stuff.