April 14, 2009

     I’m talking about the SHAW WOW infomercial and the infamous Vince Offer AKA Vince Schlomi. The infomercial that sells the now famous SHAW WOW towel that claims in cleans and dries better than any other product; I don’t want to contest the claim or talk about Vince and his personal life (god knows he’s famous for suing everybody)…I want to talk about the Spanish version of his infomercial (link below)

As you will see it’s poorly done, condescending and stereotypes Hispanic women…a terrible adaptation/transcreation of the English version, you’ll see Vince struggle trying to read the phonetically translated copy in Spanish (to the point he becomes cross-eyed). I can understand Vince not wanting to hire experts to do this work correctly or at least advise/train him better and not stereotype women, but what really upsets me is that there’s Spanish network that plugged the spot into their programming and continue to do so…is it because the recession? Are they struggling so much and desperate that they’ll place anything? What about those of us who have work very hard to get the Hispanic segment recognized in this marketplace? Is it worth flushing down the drain 20-25 years of work? I don’t know, maybe I’m making too much of it but I believe it can generate some interesting conversations…what do you think?

To view commercial CLICK HERE.

So what do you think?

Matt Neidl - Group Director, Multicultural Marketing - Octa8on


I think you're referring to SHAM-WOW that came out around March of 2008? I find it interesting that you take exception with this commercial but miss mentioning ads like "La Pulsera Balance" and the cellulite creams and the "fajas" and the sexual aid ads and the [OMG can you say gratuitous] car sales man en el "Nor Wes" with his hoochie mama draped all over the cars. Sham wow is a mosquito bite compared to the West Nile Virus that are the aforementioned ads. I always have to tell myself that it's just a cultural thing because as a spanish language culture we still perpetuate these stereotypes. Look at the scantilly clad women on Despierta America. The question should be, "When will we grow out of our misogynist outlook?"

No lo puedo creer. I've never seen this in Spanish. How sad and horribly NOT funny. I agree with you completely, Matt. How could networks put this on air and feel fine about it? The next time they ask my CPG client for substantiation on a brand that's been around for over 50 yrs and is in every household in America, I'm going to send them this link! Chingada.....

I don't see what the big deal is, the Spanish language commercial is just as idiotic as the English language version. I agree with Abe Z. What about the "Medalla de la Suerte" or the magic "Te Chino" that will make you lose weight without working out or watching what you eat. Not sure how the Networks feel great about airing these infomercials but shouldn't the responsibility lie with the clients themselves and the DR agencies that PRODUCE them?

There are far worse commercials and far more stereotypical and offensive portrayals of Hispanics within the networks' own programming. If you're offended by this infomercial in particular, you probably need to spend more time watching Spanish language TV.

No doubt it's terrible and horrible en español or English, but I don't think regulating poor taste is as powerful as low ROI. It's DRTV, let the people vote with their wallets. If the CPC and CPA are too high due to the cost of media and low reponse, it'll be off the air in no time. And if it's a smart DRTV advertiser, they'll use the discipline of testing and refining and quickly seek the help of a professional (or maybe listen to the professional whose advice they disregarded in the first place) to test a different creative approach. But If this ad generates response and builds a business, why should we as advertising professionals slam it? Advertising aimed at the Hispanic market already has enough obstacles to overcome. We should welcome any new advertiser even if they don't get it (yet). Regarding magical, mystical promises and advertising that's stereotypical, as long as it exists I'll have a profession that strives to grow my clients' businesses based on enhancing and elevating the image of our culture in this country. By the looks of these posts, you will too!

I agree that this infomercial is pretty offensive in Spanish. Personally, I don't buy anything that's advertised like this, but the fact that Vince is reaching out to the Latin community by speaking broken and ill pronounced Spanish is awful. I award him no points for trying. In fact, I deduct points for his partial effort. I think, if anything, they should have found Latin American talent to use in the product pitch. This is the whole argument behind multicultural marketing/advertising. Vince does not connect on a personal level with the consumer. I think the only people that effectively sell the Shamwow in the whole infomercial are the women with the testimonials towards the end of the spot. Long story short, Vince should be ashamed of his poor attempt. Someone should reach out to him and let him know that he's not Latino. Clearly, he doesn't get it.

Thanks for the post, Matt, you bring up a fascinating paradigm. Respectfully, I must agree w/ Abe Z + Veronica. The Sham-Wow Guy is a traditional role played out on TV in decades going back to the days of Earl William "Madman" Muntz from the 30's to the 80's on television hawking everything from cars to electronics. He plays the buffoon role and everyone knows it-that's his appeal. I honestly don't see a difference between the Sham Wow Guy and Sabado Gigante. It's all entertainment. You may not like it, but at the end of the day The Sham Wow Guy's role is to sell Shammies and Don Francisco's group's role is to attract big audiences which they expect will patronize the sponsors of their show. The public knows it, that's why they watch. They look be to entertained and they accept the advertising as a byproduct of the entertainment. Personally, I don't have a problem with either the Sham Wow Guy or Don Francisco. I know many Latinos that feel like Matt; I also know many Latinos that abhor the role Don Francisco plays (many more than people think). We must remember that our traditional mass media was created TO SELL US PRODUCTS/SERVICES/IDEAS. Our traditional mass media was not made to educate us and empower us-if that were the case we would not have all the non-educational programming we have these days on hundreds of channels. For those of us that look to educate, empower, and/or intellectually stimulate our senses through media-those people should be commended. However, I think people should really look at the history of our mass media so they can reflect on people like the Sham Wow Guy and fully understand his role in our media, it is much more ingrained than people may think. Matt brings up great questions about the network that chooses to air his infomercials. Same arguments could be made for the lack of bilingual programming for our community that is becoming more and more bilingual everyday; the complete absence of real-time documentation of the Latino integration/interactions with other multicultural communities-at the same time illustrating our commonalities with those other communities (sometimes I think as I am watching Spanish-Language channels, I am watching the equivalent of a Spanish-Language "Friends" show....); the dearth of Afro Latino and Latin American Indigenous personalities showcased. On an extended note, I think that is why the internet is so fascinating. Compared to our traditional mass media, the internet was created 40 years ago as a form of communication, not as a commercial vehicle. It is interesting to reflect on the differences.

Aw, Matt. I think you are biting a goldfish here. Really, I commend Vince for his tacky and quirky histrionics. Like one of the writers above noted, it is just as tacky in English as it is in Spanish. And if you are going to rate "quality" and "good taste", well hell... I will look you up for a definite definition of what "art" is. In the end, there are other commercials that are actually offensive to viewers than the SHAM-wOW. Case in point, the latest Comcast commercial airing on Univision Network, were you see none blacks being put in a giant pot of broth to be eaten by black cannibals (something like the old 1940s Warner Bros cartoons racist in the US but still getting viewing (and royalty) miles in Latin America). Matt... I think you just don't like this Vince guy by your comment that he "sues everyone". I don't know him but I really I grinned with humor when I saw it and was stunned at his funky sounding--but correct Spanish (which I can't always say of native-born or US-born Latinos. In the end, being in the publicity business, you have just done what the commercial producers want: create a buzz. You are doing their job, keeping the product's name on the consumer radar on your blog. Dah! Maybe before initiating a blog your thoughts should first be cleaned up... with a Sham-Wow!

I think you are making too much of it. I would agree that Vince doesn't sound like a native speaker but I can still understand everything he says. Is it not backwards to think that by placing a Latin American talent in front of the camera, as consumers, we would somehow make a stronger connection to the brand/product? Let's give ourselves a little more credit and realize that the quality and usefulness of a product is what genuinely make us feel 'connected' to it. Do you know what I find more offensive than a white guy trying hard to speak spanish? It's when "multicultural" marketing and advertising agencies don't try very hard at all to represent ALL Latinos. Example: I don't see too many black Latinos in all of those TV and print ads.

This commercial is an unfortunate miscalculation. There are ways of respectfully reaching out to the Hispanic community "in person" even though Spanish may not be your first language. It can even be funny and endearing if done properly. However, This commercial strikes the wrong tone, with a delivery that is forced and robotic, containing non of the campy "tongue in cheek" appeal Vince may have in English. DR must be trustworthy. It must convince you to "CALL NOW." Vince is scary, non-authentic and though his demonstrations are compelling (I'll give them that) it just screams "scam." As for the testimonials, they might appeal to a lowest common denominator, but I'm not sure that's a good strategy. It's usually the lad of the house that buys her cleaning supplies even though she may have help cleaning it.

I thought that commercial was ridiculously funny. I actually posted it on my Facebook because I thought it was so hilarious. I don't think he was trying to make a social commentary on Hispanics in this country. I think we need to just relax and laugh when something is funny. The other funny thing I laugh about...the author of this blog criticizing a commercial for a product he can't name correctly. THAT is funny!

All the above people seem to have missed a key point you made: why the networks airing this crap don't have a minimum standards for local/infomercial advertising.

Adaptation?! Good God! As Veronica first suggested, it is the most perfect RE-CREATION of its English version---in all of its glorious cheeziness! Kudos to Vince! The likes of Vince and Don Francisco are laughing all the way to the bank! This is TV! Trying to extract Oscar material from today's TV--English or Spanish--is like trying to extract caviar from a fast food restaurant. If you're looking for art go to Cannes--the FILM festival NOT the ad agency parranda!

Señoras y Señores, lo siento pero las ventas del producto se han incrementado tanto que continuaremos con la publicidad. Se que muchos de uds no han comprado nuestro producto, pero el mercado esta respondiendo, que explicacion sesuda tienen para esto. "Los perros ladran Sancho, es señal de que estamos avanzando." El Quijote de la Mancha Miguel Cervantes y Saavedra

To Maico: Response to: "why the networks airing this crap don’t have a minimum standards for local/infomercial advertising"... You missed the point, Maico... it is about defining "art". And whose definition are we supposed to swallow, yours or mine? There is nothing offensive said on the infomercial... only your perspective of WHAT the commercial should look and sound like, not what it has been said or displayed. And that's the issue. So, see... YOU missed the point.

Sorry for the delayed response, I should check back more often. Anyone who equates the SHAM WOW Infomercial in the Spanish version with art, needs to have their head examined. Like the judge said: "I don't know what crap is, but I know when I see it"

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