TV Ad Is Gross, But We Smell Money
By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 24, 2009
Once upon a time in this great land, there was a roofing contractor. His name was Adam. He lived on Long Island.
It came to pass that Adam had an idea for a personal grooming product (on the way to the gym, natch), and because this is America, where anybody can do anything, Adam begot something so completely and wonderfully absurd that he took to the airwaves to advertise it himself.
And so there came to be Doc Bottoms Aspray, billing itself as the first "All Over" deodorant.
The resulting two-minute infomercial, featuring wildly enthusiastic Adam Jay Geisinger as pitchman, is so cheerfully mortifying, such a big fat spritz over the line of good taste, that it reaches its own level of art. Or something.
It showcases green gases emerging from various body "odor zones," a construction worker musing that "I got odor in special places," people spraying their "privates" and Geisinger shouting the unforgettable tag line: "NO BACTERIA, NO STINK!" Think of a blond and beardless Billy Mays, as directed by Ed Wood. MSNBC says it aired the ad once a couple of weeks ago, in the television graveyard of 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. The channel pulled the spot immediately.
"The first time it aired was the last time it aired," says Jeremy Gaines, an MSNBC spokesman, noting the demo the network was given did not match the full ad. (Geisinger counters that the ad aired more than once, and may air yet again. "I pay for it, so I have the logs to prove it.")
Even by the Wild West standards of infomercial-dom, Doc Bottoms is being greeted with awe. "I just couldn't believe it was real," says Remy Stern, author of "But Wait . . . There's More!," a history of the infomercial biz. "I'd put it right up there near the top of the all-time most ridiculous ads."
And he means the bigs, the Hall of Fame, the Infomercial Unforgettables.
Hallowed icons like "I've fallen and I can't get up!" The HeadOn commercial, about a topical analgesic you rub on your forehead, though all the ad ever really said was "HeadOn! Apply directly to the forehead!" over and over and over again until you threw a large rock through the television. And the jaw-dropping ad for the Tiddy Bear, a teddy bear that clips onto seat belts, featuring a saleswoman who appeared to have a monstrous black eye. Have we mentioned that, in the Doc Bottoms ad, Adam says you can "Aspray your butt"? Did we say that when we asked a Post researcher to help track down the company, she replied, "This is the most degrading thing I've ever done for money"?
And here he is, in his first media interview, Adam Jay Geisinger, square jaw, good looks and all, though of course we couldn't see the good looks because he was talking on the phone.
"How am I doing so far?" he asks, about three questions in. "I gotta admit, I'm a little nervous." He's doing fine. Seems like a nice guy. He's 38 years old, married to a Wendi Rogers, who was a stalwart on infomercials in the 1990s with beauty products. He's explaining the genesis of Aspray. He thought of such a product in his truck about two years ago, because, "Frankly, I needed it."
A contractor who sells roofing, siding and other outdoor building materials, he works up a working man's sweat during the day. Afterward, he likes to go to the gym, without stopping by home first for a quick shower. The result, he said, was that "the funk was building up."
"Now, I'm not a dirty person. I'm not someone who doesn't shower or who has a weird, smelly disease."
He looked for an antibacterial product that could be sprayed all over the body, didn't find much, worked with his wife and a "team" that developed a product without alcohol, aerosols or other irritants. It's designed to stop odors before they start, not just mask them, he says. The product is licensed and everything. He swears business is fab, never mind those prudes at MSNBC. He slapped it on YouTube, and it's garnered more than a quarter-million hits in two weeks.
"We've created a monster," he says. "The reaction from the public has been unbelievable."
According to the product's Web site, $14.99 plus $7.95 shipping and handling brings you a bottle described as "full size," plus a pen-shaped "pocket shot" of Aspray. People are actually buying?
"Absolutely buying," he says. "We knew there had to be humor to get the message across. It may be controversial, but if it wasn't, I don't think you'd be talking to me."
In the sell-now-or-die direct-marketing business, where only one in 30 products makes money, there's a reason people make "bottom-feeder" ads like this, says Sam Catanese, president of the Infomercial Monitoring Service Corp., a Philadelphia-based outfit that chronicles the comings and goings of infomercials. "They work," he says. "Campy stuff works, goofy stuff works. . . . If it's like, 'Uh-oh, oh no they didn't!' and it stops you in your tracks, then they've gotten your attention."
That's key, because the shelf life for these products can be two weeks or less, he says.
"If you keep seeing a goofy ad, it's because somebody's buying it." Aspray may or may not live on as product. But the ad is history. washingtonpost.com