Infomercials are typically reserved for very late
night programming on the main TV networks. But at Blab Network Inc., or BlabTV
as it’s known in the Pensacola, Fla., market, infomercials are all the cable
channel airs, 24/7. In a two-part blog, Retail Details will examine
how Barry Cole, owner of Beré Jewelers, became a BlabTV client and how
infomercials have benefited his business.
BlabTV got its start in 1984. Cole became a
BlabTV client in 1994, and today he is the cable channel’s longest-running
retail-jewelry store client.
“Many retail jewelers have come and gone since we
started the company,” says BlabTV president Fred Vigodsky. “But Barry and his
staff have been at it the longest of all of them. Over the years, he’s really
played his cards right to become one the top retail jewelers in Pensacola.”
Cole got the idea to become a BlabTV client from
Joe Scarborough, the host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe show. In the early
1990s, Scarborough was a young Republican running for a seat in Florida’s First
Congressional District. He effectively used BlabTV to run his campaigning
messages. Winning that election against Democrat opponent Vinnie Whibbs, back
then Cole reasoned: “If it worked for Joe Scarborough, it can work for me,”
A BlabTV infomercial link is on the store’s homepage.
Cole did his first BlabTV show in 1995. Back then
as today, Cole uses a newscaster-type presentation. Cole and a staff member
usually talk about the store and store events, but the bulk of the content for
each show is mainly fashion trends, new product arrivals, introducing new
manufacturers, and the store’s custom jewelry department.
“We’re constantly making new pieces,” says Cole.
“We can talk at length about how special these custom pieces are, which can
fill a lot of time in an average broadcast.”
Another production staple for Cole is having a
hostess do the intro and closing for the Beré Jewelers Show. That same
woman often models pieces of jewelry during the show. Over the years it has
been essential to have a young woman on staff that could not only perform her
store duties well, but also work with Cole to produce the show. That duty now
belongs to Ashleigh Bigby, manager of the Pensacola store.
For the first three years, Cole did weekly live
shows. But by 1998, he decided to bring on many of the industry’s leading
jewelry and watch brands. That decision forced Cole to shift the allocation of
marketing dollars from BlabTV to other promotional platforms that were in
keeping with contractual agreements with these vendors, which, for the most
part, did not include cable-access programming. His weekly schedule changed to
monthly and then seasonal.
The seasonal block of time is, of course, the
fourth quarter. Shows are a 50/50 split between live shows at the studio and
taped shows at the store. Both shows have their own set of benefits.
The in-store shows offer the customer a better store
experience as they can see more of the showroom’s many departments, including
the bench area where custom pieces are made. Since the store shows are taped,
this gives Cole and staff a redo in the event of a mistake.
Ashleigh Bigby and Barry Cole in a recent BlabTV infomercial.
But Cole likes the live shows at the studio
better. “They’re more spontaneous,” says Cole. “As much as I like some of the
production perks we get with the in-store taped sessions, such as well-done
product close-ups sprinkled in throughout a show, the live in-studio shows feel
For the past eight years, Cole has been doing
seasonal shows around the holidays with a return to the weekly production
schedule to keep the content fresh at the peak shopping time of the year.
According to his contract with BlabTV, the first
show is aired during prime time, with reruns scheduled throughout the week,
sometimes as many as seven to 10 scheduled programming slots. Each show being
an hour long gives Cole roughly 28–40 hours of air time each month. Multiple
that by four months, and the store owner gets excellent market saturation
during the holiday season.
“The upside is many viewers at that time of the
year are tuning in more often and are more attentive given it’s a gift-giving
season,” says Cole.
Cole also benefits from BlabTV’s channel
placement. BlabTV is Channel 6 in his local market, placing the cable channel
between ABC and CBS on the lower end. As viewers surf upward towards NBC and
FOX, they’ll fly by or a get a cursory glance at BlabTV’s programming,
depending on the viewer’s channel-surfing speed.
This allows Cole’s lengthier infomercials to
effectively vie for viewers’ attention against his main competitors’ 30- and
60-second holiday spots.