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The Calm After the Storm

The Calm After the Storm

Concepts TV meets deadlines in spite of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction

The Calm After the Storm

The sky was orange, and the wind howled. Above toppled power lines, neon splashes of color appeared like misplaced fireworks amid torrents of rain. Pop, pop! There goes another transformer.


More than 8.5 million people lost power in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Homes went unheated, and gas stations couldn’t pump gas. Schools closed, and hospitals were evacuated. Businesses were literally in the dark. Early estimates predict $20 billion in lost business between the structural damage, power outages, and interruptions to business. After Katrina, Sandy will likely be the most costly storm in U.S. history.


Once power was restored, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced, the state would rebuild. But area business owners like Collette Liantonio, CEO of Boonton, N.J.-based Concepts TV, couldn’t wait that long. Deadlines had been set; she didn’t want to disappoint clients in the increasingly just-in-time world of infomercial marketing.


With the company modeled after theater production companies, most of Liantonio’s employees were used to working together closely. After establishing that the team was safe, Liantonio offered her home‚Äîpartially powered by a natural gas generator‚Äîas shelter to her extended Concepts family. Spouses, children, and even nannies were welcome to take advantage of the physical and interpersonal warmth so many suddenly lacked.

After Katrina, Sandy will likely be the most costly storm in U.S. history.

With gasoline in short supply, Liantonio asked only a few employees to meet at the office to assess the damage and brainstorm the next steps for the company. The office was structurally sound, but the power was out indefinitely‚Äîmaking the company’s editing suites , phone lines, and servers inoperable. Documents and company emails were inaccessible.

The company contacted clients using backup, hard-copy contact sheets. Then, work was delegated to the rest of the staff via text message. Creatives in makeshift home offices relied on pen and paper, while administrators focused on logistics. Generators were brought in to power up edit suites. Cell-phone hotspots were created for Wi-Fi access. Battery-powered laptops were set up. And the company conference room was transformed temporarily into a roundtable workstation, similar to a newsroom bullpen.


In one week’s time, most of the Concepts staff was able to return to the office, with multiple Plan Bs in hand. They contacted clients again, this time with revised production schedules, adjusted office hours, and rescheduled shoots. Editing schedules changed, but deadlines did not. And to the surprise and delight of clients across the country, projects stayed on course.


Liantonio credits her staff’s ingenuity, tireless work ethic, and unfaltering teamwork with saving the day. She’s quick to point out that the sense of camaraderie also extends to her clients, who were gracious and understanding. One Wisconsin-based client remarked, ‚“We’re with you for the long haul. If you need anything, let us know.”


As Helen Keller said, ‚“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” In the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the Concepts TV family‚Äîstaff, clients, and vendors‚Äîfound out how true those words can be.

To read more about this article, please visit: http://www.electronicretailermag.com/2013/03/the-calm-after-the-storm/


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Concepts TV Ranked One of the Top Entrepreneurial Businesses in the Nation by Diversity Business

Concepts TV Ranked One of the Top Entrepreneurial Businesses in the Nation 

For Immediate Release

BOONTON, N.J. (February 27, 2013) - NJ DRTV agency, Concepts TV Productions, was recently acknowledged as one of the nation’s leading entrepreneurs, selected as a 2013 ‚“Top Business” recipient by DiversityBusiness.com.

Based on annual gross revenues and business profiles, over 1.3 million businesses competed for this prestigious honor.  Five hundred were chosen and Concepts ranked #403. Read more


Opinion Based on Fact: Short-Form DRTV is the Red Hot Entrance to a Sizzling Retail Market

This article may be a guest opinion, but the fact remains that short-form DRTV spending continues to gain momentum; responsible for a large portion of direct response retail success in a floundering economy. Read more


Family Response


Keeping it in the family, Collette Liantonio & her daughter, Collette DeBenedetto, are both featured in Response Magazine’s, All In the Family. In this article, Collette is viewed as a role model to her daughter who admires her mother’s entrepreneurial spirit and hopes to someday follow in the same footsteps. Read more


Collette Liantonio reports from her Center Office to the Corner Office in NJ Tech News Magazine!

Collette participates in an intimate industry Q & A regarding the progression of DRTV and how her influence has helped the industry evolve… Read more

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Interview and Podcast with Collette Liantonio on Startup Nation

Jeff and Rich Sloan are talking infomercials and new products again and they spoke to Collette about the industry and had callers pitch their ideas.  To listen to the podcast and check out Collette's interview, head over to Startup Nation by clicking here.


Concepts TV Productions Featured on the New Jersey Technology Council’s TechWire

Concepts TV On Fire In New Jersey's Infomercial Hotbed

With 3 Decades of Production Success, the Boonton-Based Company Remains at the Core of the DRTV Explosion

For Immediate Release:

BOONTON, N.J. (4/2/12) ‚Äì Ever wonder where all those addictive infomercials originate? Like California’s Silicon Valley, the Northeast has given rise to a similar infomercial mecca stretching from New England to the Philadelphia suburbs. One infomercial agency, Concepts TV Productions in Boonton, New Jersey remains at its center.

Founded by Montville, N.J., resident and Brooklyn native Collette Liantonio in 1983, this creative boutique has been involved in hundreds of infomercial hits. Four of its recent productions (Furniture Fix, Wonder Hanger, Twin Draft Guard and Total Pillow for Vermont-based marketer Hampton Direct) are contributing to this amazing success story. Concepts’ large portfolio of direct marketing clients also includes New Jersey based marketers TELEBrands, IdeaVillage, Ontel and Tristar Products.

‚“We are proud of all of the work we’ve done to create infomercial hits during the past three decades, but it’s our work with those in the Tri-State region, that has been the most satisfying,” says Liantonio. The president and founder of Concepts TV Productions has won more than 70 production awards for her direct response television work. ‚“In fact, three of our Garden State’s earliest DRTV hit products, Ambervision (TELEBrands), Topsy Tail and Bedazzler (TV Winners), were crucial to elevating New Jersey into a leadership role in the world of commercial television.”

To read the entire article, please click here.



Collette Liantonio’s Latest Article For Response Magazine

Repair Rather Than Replace

Housewares products hit the right note in tough times

by Collette Liantonio,                                                                   from the March issue of Response Magazine




Since the onset of the Great Recession in 2008, DR agencies have been faced with one tough question that overrides all others for their clients: How can a consumer justify a purchase when he or she is barely holding on to a job or a home?

It’s not easy. When DRTV commercial producers create a spot or long-form infomercial, defining the true value of a product is crucial to the sale. Getting the consumer to grasp that he or she is, in fact, getting a great deal for a great product is tougher than ever. One needs to look no further than the explosion of ‚“buy one, get one free” offers being used to prompt consumer action.

Consumers can’t afford to replace major household products when money is tight. The need for home improvement doesn’t go away. It just means consumers have to look in another direction.

Perhaps that’s why the housewares space continues to be very good to DR marketers. Rather than replacing worn out items, or spending thousands on home improvement projects that were all the rage in the home equity heyday of 10 years ago, consumers are now looking for low-cost replacements until the economy turns around.

Three products from Hampton Direct have had great success — Twin Draft Guard, Wonder Hanger and Furniture Fix. In each case, the product was built for DRTV demonstration. Each was a simple, inexpensive solution rather than an expensive replacement.

Consumers on a budget simply felt more comfortable utilizing a quality product like Twin Draft Guard, rather than contracting out for a complete weather-stripping job on their homes. By using Wonder Hangers, they also were able to find a simple and easy way to expand their closet space, without knocking out walls to rebuild their closets. And rather than shelling out $1,000 for a new living room set, they were able to easily repair sagging chairs and couches with Furniture Fix.

While each of these products hit a sweet spot during the Great Recession, they still required an eye for the production capabilities particular to direct response marketing. Any successful DRTV campaign is built around amazing product demonstrations that cut through the clutter of a crowded television landscape and turn ever-skeptical consumers into customers.

In the Furniture Fix spot, sumo wrestlers weighing a combined 1,000 pounds sit together on a couch using Furniture Fix to emphasize the product’s strength. In the Wonder Hanger spot, the product supports a 20-pound weight. The difference that proper creative development can make to allow your campaign to cut through the clutter is immeasurable. At the same time, it’s crucial that your producer knows the leaders in the DR space to connect you to other capable vendors. If your producer doesn’t have a complete DRTV network, beware.

Still, the ultimate key is that the right DRTV production agency can help you find the right message to reach the right consumer. And with the right producer ‚Äî one that understands your product, whether it falls into the housewares vertical or beauty or fitness ‚Äî your product stands a much better chance of finding its way into consumers’ homes, even in a difficult economy.



Pajama Jeans Featured in Response Magazine

Pajama Jeans, a Moxie award winner and one of Concepts' biggest hits, are featured in the March issue of Response Magazine.  Response spoke to Concepts' president Collette Liantonio and Sonia Makurdsik, exclusive marketing consultant for Hampton Direct about this worldwide phenomenon.

A Comfortable Fit for DRTV

By: Nicole Urso

Kathy Griffin owns wearing her PajamaJeans.

‚“I am in PajamaJeans, and I’m not a paid spokesperson, I’m just saying they’re pajamas and jeans in one. They have no zipper, you just lift them up and down,” she said as she demonstrated the elastic waistband during a segment of Griffin’s ‚“Emmy’s Aftermath.”

Wendy Williams is also a fan. She bedazzled her famous catchphrase ‚“How U Doin’?” onto the backside of a pair and gave them to guest Holly Madison. Then she surprised her studio audience and sent them home with a pair, too.

The famous As Seen On TV jeans have appeared on the ‚“Today Show,” ‚“Today with Kathie Lee & Hoda,” ‚“Good Morning America,” ‚“The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” ‚“Nightline,” MTV, ‚“The Jimmy Kimmel Show” and ‚“Conan O’Brien.”

‚“Once the PR took off, it took on its own life, and the pop culture appeal of the product was the big home run,” says Steve Heroux, CEO of Burlington, Vt.-based Hampton Direct.

The wildfire popularity of PajamaJeans draws obvious comparisons to the Snuggie, a loungewear novelty and celebration of comfort that debuted in 2008. The famous blanket with sleeves went on to major retail success, which is exactly what Heroux set out to achieve when he first took over the exclusive licensing and distribution of PajamaJeans in 2010.

The Perfect Pair

PajamaJeans are designed to have the look of jeans and the feel of pajamas. They are made of a stretchy blend of cotton and spandex with an interior lining of DormiSoft, a proprietary fabric that feels like the inside of sweatpants. They were developed and originally sold by PajamaGram, sister brand of The Vermont Teddy Bear Co., and just a 20-minute drive south from Hampton Direct.

PajamaGram sells ‚“gifts of relaxation” including pajama gift sets and the Hoodie-Footie, a head-to-toe, zip-front onesie for adults and kids. It launched PajamaJeans in 2009 and sold them through its catalog and website for $59.95, but it was the first PajamaJeans TV commercial that caught Heroux’s attention.

‚“I think their business model was a little bit different than what I felt PajamaJeans needed, so I had a couple meetings with their CEO John Gilbert, and we went back and forth and signed an exclusive agreement to do all of their distribution in the summer of 2010. That is when we took over the project and the brand,” says Heroux, a member of the Response Advisory Board.

Heroux called in his right-hand direct marketing sage, Sonia Makurdsik, to help him develop the campaign. Makurdsik has been the exclusive marketing consultant for Hampton Direct since 2005 and helped bring products to retail including the Total Pillow and Wonder Hanger. The two met at QVC. Makurdsik was producing direct response spots while Heroux would pitch products from various vendors. Makurdsik joined Hampton Direct last month officially as the new executive vice president of marketing.

Her work on PajamaJeans started with the requisite market research where she identified a trend in comfort wear but a need for stylish options.

‚“You see college kids going to school in pajamas,” says Makurdsik. ‚“You see the very expensive sweatsuits being worn in the airports. You see how Crocs became its own brand in itself, and doctors and nurses were wearing them. We saw Uggs, that style, that comfort wear, and the message was there.”

She worked with the creative team to re-shoot a new PajamaJeans commercial in a direct response format. With the help of Concepts TV Productions, they made 60- and 120-second short-form commercials explaining the features — the look of denim with pocket embroidery, brass details and flared bootcut — and the benefit of comfort with the elastic waistband and DormiSoft fabric technology.

Collette Liantonio, president of Concepts TV Productions, says, ‚“Our challenge was to cast a variety of models with various body types who would look comfy, yet trendy. Fortunately, the jeans flatter almost every figure.”

The commercial also demonstrates various uses of PajamaJeans for today’s modern multitasking women, from traveling and working out to toting around the kids. They come in 8 sizes, ranging from extra small (size 4) to 3 XL (sizes 26-28), all with a 31-inch inseam. Styles include a blue bootcut and the new black skinny, which is sold exclusively online.

Makurdsik, a modern mom who travels frequently, owns two pairs of the blue bootcut. ‚“Personally, because I travel so much, I love them because I can run around the airport and don’t need to deal with sitting so long and getting those marks. It feels like I have sweats, but yet I can go out to a client meeting after I arrive at the airport.”

To read the entire article, please click here.





Collette Liantonio featured in Response Magazine

Collette Liantonio, President of Concepts TV Productions is featured in the March issue of Response Magazine, speaking about how technology has helped producers work smarter and more efficiently in a challenging economic environment.

DRTV producers focus on quality shows that entice consumers and add value to their lives.

One Hit at a Time


By: Bridget McCrea

The recent recession changed the way a lot of companies do business. And while the DRTV industry as a whole was somewhat insulated from its effects, both long-form and short-form producers have learned to work smarter, better and faster in the challenging environment.

The fact that modern-day technology and sites like YouTube have turned all of us into videographers has put even more pressure on the professionals. ‚“All of my children got HD cameras for Christmas this year and their production quality is incredible,” says Collette Liantonio, president at Boonton, N.J.-based Concepts TV Productions. ‚“But there’s more to developing DRTV campaigns than just a camera; people don’t always appreciate the fact that we’re DR gurus and not just producers.”

That lack of appreciation has pushed key players in the industry to find less expensive production techniques — all the while maintaining (or enhancing) the overall look, feel and effectiveness of the campaigns themselves. Technology helps producers achieve this balancing act, what with the myriad production techniques (like green screens) and editing suites (which allow remote parties to work on the computer from their own location) that are available on the market today.

‚“We don’t have to send rough cuts out of the state or country for client review and approval anymore,” says Liantonio. ‚“We all get into the virtual editing suite and get the job done much more efficiently.”

Liantonio also uses virtual backgrounds when shooting testimonials to minimize crew and costs that add up when working on location. ‚“As long as it doesn’t compromise the integrity of the testimonial’s message,” she says, ‚“it’s a great way to save both time and money.”

To stay on top of the game, the most experienced producers are making sure to stay in tune to the key trends, opportunities and challenges currently impacting short- and long-form production.

Going Short

Rolling up Their Sleeves

Short-form producers rolled up their sleeves in 2011 and found innovative ways to meet higher production standards without breaking budgets. ‚“Even emerging, entrepreneurial brands are demanding higher production values, knowing that those values are vital to building a business that can compete with established brands,” says Tim Hawthorne, chairman and executive creative director at Hawthorne Direct in Fairfield, Iowa, and member of the Response Advisory Board.

Concurrently, ‚“faster and cheaper seem to be a growing trend,” says Hawthorne, who increasingly turns to technology to help achieve the delicate balance between high production values and smaller budgets. ‚“Client requests for faster, cheaper shows is not a positive trend for the industry,” adds Hawthorne, ‚“but it’s certainly representative of the current economic climate.”

To augment its clients’ short-form campaigns in a cost-effective manner, Hawthorne Direct incorporates online video into all websites; actively uses social networking for research and ‚“listening” to consumer feedback; uses SMS text as a response mechanism; and is experimenting with the use of QR codes.

Liantonio says the Web has become a hotbed for short-form testing. Some test shows are created with an in-house camera, no set price points, and few, if any, production values. Those efforts have pushed short-form producers into the role of Web designers.

‚“That’s a big change that’s taken place in our industry,” says Liantonio. ‚“If you can’t do Web design, you really can’t be in short-form production.”

Taking Center Stage

Concepts TV’s biggest short-form successes over the past year included Miracle Socks, which are compression socks designed for the senior market, and the Sift & Toss cat litter system. The Miracle Socks campaign honed in on phone sales, based on the target demographic, while Sift & Toss capitalized on the Web, social media and mobile, the latter of which increased product sales by 12 percent.

Web and social media have also taken center stage at THOR Associates in New York, where CEO and Founder Fern Lee says all marketing efforts revolve around multichannel platforms.

‚“When developing creative we make sure to have assets that can be culled down to 10 seconds, 15 seconds and 30 seconds,” explains Lee, a member of the Response Advisory Board, ‚“so that the DR can drive to retail and have media assets for all digital use ‚Äî from social networking to affiliate marketing.”

THOR’s short-form hits for 2011 included Looney Tunes ClickN Read Phonics. That campaign required Lee and her team to shoot a show that included more than 20 children, animation from Looney Tunes and a Spanish-language version.

‚“We were able to integrate digital and traditional direct marketing touch points for a strong ROI,” says Lee, ‚“and a very successful campaign.”

To read the entire article, click here.


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Concepts TV Are 2011 ERA Moxie Award Winners!












Las Vegas, Nevada

Concepts TV continued its winning tradition by being awarded two Moxie Awards at last night's 2011 ERA D2C Moxie Awards Gala. Concepts won in the following categories: Best Short Form of the Year Under $50k and People's Choice Short Form. Both awards were for the immensely successful product Pajama Jeans, produced for Direct Marketer Hampton Direct and Consultant SRM Direct.

With a 30 year history as a DRTV infomercial hitmaker, Concepts is proud to add these awards to its long list of accomplishments.

Concepts TV would like to congratulate all the 2011 Moxie award winners!



Double Grand Slam for Concepts TV at the Moxies

Double Grand Slam for Concepts TV at the Moxies

Boonton, NJ – The biggest convention of the year for direct response marketers and production companies, the Electronic Retailer Association Direct to Consumer Convention, may have come to a close but Concepts TV Productions is still celebrating after winning two major Moxie Awards. Concepts TV won the Best Long Form of the Year under $250K for "The Amish Heat Surge Fireplace" from Heat Surge LLC and the Best Short Form Variety Commercial for "Emery Cat" from All Star Marketing. "Two major wins in one night is incredible!" exclaimed Founder and President of Concepts TV Productions, Collette Liantonio. "Working with these products and these marketers was a pleasure, and I'm so proud that these productions were recognized by a jury of our peers. We look forward to producing many more award-winning productions for our clients." Concepts TV Productions is well known in the direct response industry for making exceptional short-form spots, but their long-form capabilities are finally being recognized. The 30 minute Amish Heat Surge Fireplace, which already won two Aurora awards, was filmed all over the country. However, the most memorable shooting days took place in Winesburg, Ohio, home to the largest Amish community in America. There, Concepts filmed the Amish carpenters and the community working together in Amish barns to handcraft the authentic mantles. "I love it when a project takes you on a breathtaking journey," says Dana Conklin, assistant director and producer at Concepts TV. "The Amish Heat Surge Fireplace is a product that people all across America really do love, and that's obvious in the heartfelt testimonials portrayed in the infomercial." Emery Cat, a cat scratching platform that enables cats to trim their own nails, was shot and produced in the Concepts TV studio and various homes in New Jersey. "That was an out of the ordinary shoot," Ms. Liantonio recalls with a laugh. "Most cats don't follow direction. When your featured talents aren't people, it really forces you to think outside of the box. And because of that…we were able to produce a fun and creative spot. It's the unique variety of projects that come our way that really make me love this business!" For more information on Concepts TV Productions, please call us at (973) 331 – 1500 or e-mail us at collette@conceptstv.com.


Concepts TV wins “Lucky 13” Telly Award for “Bottle Top”

Concepts TV wins "Lucky 13" Telly Award for "Bottle Top"

Boonton, NJ – Concepts TV Productions is thrilled to announce they have won their thirteenth Telly Award for the direct response production of "Bottle Top" on behalf of their client, Telebrands. "Bottle Top" is a device that turns any can into a bottle. This wildly successful 2009 TV campaign is currently a best seller in retail stores nationwide.

"I'm absolutely delighted with the award," says Concepts TV President and Founder Collette Liantonio. "Bottle Top is a great product…and coupled with a great commercial and strong offer, we were able to create a real demand from the consumer."

AJ Khubani, CEO of Telebrands, has worked with Concepts TV Productions for 25 years producing some of their biggest hits, such as Perfect Fit Button, Ambervision Sunglasses, Ped Egg, and EZ Combs. Khubani enthusiastically praised Concepts TV: "Concepts TV has a great creative team and they continue to produce hits for Telebrands year after year."

"Bottle Top" was produced and shot at Concepts TV's studio in Boonton, New Jersey, just 45 minutes away from New York City. For more information on Concepts TV Productions, please call us at (973) 331 – 1500 or e-mail us at collette@conceptstv.com.


Response Magazine: “A Winning Combination”

Collette Liantonio, President of Concepts TV Productions, was quoted in the March 2011 issue of Response Magazine, in the article ‚“A Winning Combination,” about how DRTV Producers balance the needs of their clients with end-user demands.

The article focuses on one of Concepts TV's latest hits, Pajama Jeans, and the strategy behind marketing it to a wide audience.

A Winning Combination
Bridget Mccrea

What do you get when you cross a successful DRTV marketer of products like Wonder Hanger with venerable toy maker Vermont Teddy Bear? The end result is PajamaJeans, an invention that the latter developed for its PajamaGram mail order firm. The product, which is pajama-soft but looks enough like real jeans to be worn in public, sold so well during the 2009 holiday season that Vermont Teddy Bear decided to market them to the masses.

To gain exposure for the product, the manufacturer began working with Williston, VT based Hampton Direct, whose ‚“As Seen on TV” hits include Furniture Fix and Total Pillow. Also on board was Boonton, NJ based Concepts TV Productions, where President Collette Liantonio and her team came up with a short-form campaign for the $39.95 product.

Liantonio took a grassroots approach to the PajamaJeans show, which she knew would reach a broader audience if a wide range of female shapes and sizes were shown wearing the pants. ‚“We didn't want to just feature emaciated girls; a good booty is really important,” says Liantonio, laughing. ‚“We cast people who had 'real' bodies. That's the beauty of the spot.”

By acknowledging the fact that the world is made up of more than just ‚“skinny minny” models, Liantonio says the marketer has been able to reach a wider audience of DRTV viewers who either order directly from TV, or who visit the PajamaJeans website for more information before buying.

‚“I ususally warn clients against selling garments on TV that come in different sizes because those items are so personalized,” says Liantonio. ‚“But in this case, the clients hit a home run, thanks to the universal appeal of the spot and the fact that it was directed at 'real' women.”

The entire article can be read by clicking here.


Electronic Retailer: The 25th Anniversary of the Infomercial

President of Concepts TV, Collette Liantonio, was interviewed for Electronic Retailer's retrospective on the 25th anniversary of the informercial.

Electronic Retailer: How did you get your start in the DRTV industry?

Collette Liantonio: I have a Masters degree in theater education, with concentration in directing from New York University. I always wanted to direct a three-act play, but a three-act infomercial is equally exciting. I’ve taught The Art of Writing, Film Study and Spanish at a New Jersey high school. I worked as a director of public relations at a Fortune 500 company, but my first job in DRTV was as a director of production for Urban General Corp. In 1979, my first spot was ‚“The Exterminator,” an insect zapper‚Ķit was a hit! I produced approximately 30 DRTV spots my first year and my boss was so cheap, he made me cook the food myself for every food shoot‚Äîno prop stylist, just me. I started Concepts TV in 1983 and had a difficult time convincing my clients that DRTV doesn’t compete with the retail industry, but drives it! Now, every retailer in America demands an ‚“As Seen on TV” campaign for its new products. One of my first hits was Ambervision Sunglasses in 1984 and I worked with A.J. Khubani.

ER: What product or products changed the face of DRTV within the past 25 years?

Liantonio: In 1987, Kevin Harrington and Jim Caldwell of Quantum Marketing invited me to make an infomercial for ‚“The Blade.” I couldn’t believe that I actually had the luxury of an entire half hour to tell the story. It was a smash hit! Rob Woodrooffe of Interwood Direct had me produce a half hour for ‚“DiDi 7,” a phenomenal success that was a hit internationally.

My Spanish-language skills came in handy and I created dozens of spots for audiences decades before the Hispanic audience was discovered. I wrote and produced ‚“The Abdomenizer” for Fitness Quest‚Äîone of the first AB shows ever produced. I wrote and produced ‚“The Bedazzler,” ‚“Topsy Tail” and ‚“Harigami,” known by every girl in America. The George Foreman Grill‚ĶSmart Mop‚ĶThe Heat Surge Fireplace‚Ķso many memories.

ER: What is your most memorable (insightful, funny or endearing) story of the DRTV industry and/or a colleague in the industry to date?

Liantonio: In 1994, we captured two ERA awards for both short form, ‚“The Contour Pillow” and long form, ‚“The Smart Mop.” I remember numerous presentations I made to the big New York City Madison Avenue agencies. They were anxious to emulate our sales success, but disdainful of our ‚“primitive” direct approach. These same agencies now attempt to recreate these magic demonstrations in their ‚“mainstream” image commercials. The difference is their spots cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. In my next life, I’m going to do image ads.


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Concepts TV Has Produced the Gayest Infomercial Ever!

Infamous celebrity blogger Perez Hilton has dubbed Happy Chop, the chopping machine that minces foods fast, as ‚“The Gayest Infomercial Ever”‚Ķand he loves it!

Happy Chop was produced in 2009 by Concepts TV Productions for Thane Direct Inc. and it features the avidly gay writer, performer and overall funny man Frank DeCaro as host. DeCaro currently hosts his own comedy radio show ‚“The Frank DeCaro Show” on Sirius XM Satellite Radio.

So what was our President Collette Liantonio’s reaction to the flamboyant blogger’s claims of Happy Chop being completely ‚“gay, gay, gay”?

A resounding laugh that could be heard throughout the office.


Response Magazine: ‚“Long-Form Bounces Back”

Collette Liantonio, President of Concepts TV Productions, was quoted in the July issue of Response Magazine, in the article ‚“Long- Form Bounces Back,” about the return of infomercials after a rocky 2009 due to the recession. Collette spoke about seeing more brand advertisers turning to infomercials since mainstream adverting suffered their own hits during the recession: ‚“Brands are looking at an affordable intelligent return on investment and infomercials can produce an ROI that any brand company would appreciate. Once they discover infomercials, there is no going back.”

The infomercial industry is always evolving, and the recession has offset yet another change in the field. Now marketers who normally produce half-hour shows are turning to companies like Concepts TV for their short-form infomercials, and brand companies are turning away from $20 to $30 million in advertising to the financially feasible and investing in the successes of the infomercial.

To read the full article, click the link below.



NJ Savvy Living: “Infomercial Queen Has The Common Touch”

The April/May 2010 issue of NJ Savvy Living featured Collette as the "Infomercial Queen."

By Patricia Herold

A mere four words describe the influence Collette Liantonio wields in America's vast billion dollar commercial marketplace: ‚“Queen of the Infomercial.”

She didn't invent the form, but she's sure perfected it – selling Hooked on Phonics, Topsy Tail, Perfect Pasta Pot, George Foreman Grills and countless other legendary products, over and over again to millions of consumers.

People magazine once dubbed George Foreman ‚“The Marketing Champ of the World,” announcing that, ‚“Almost everything George Foreman touches seems to sell.”

Truth is, almost everything Liantonio touches seems to sell. ¬†This petite, Montville resident with bright blue eyes, blonde hair and stylish Chanel glasses is a heavyweight in the intensely competitive world of TV direct response, a star marketer with a gift for turning ordinary products into household names and getting us to drop the remote, grab the phone, and say: ‚“I want one!”

She's marketed a host of hits, chalked up more than 25 years in a male-dominated business and become an industry expert on what makes us want to buy.  Her secret?  There are many, but it all begins with the right words.

‚“I have a nice ability to turn a phrase that people like,” says Liantonio, something she dubs ‚“metaphors for the masses,” wording that makes consumers respond to the announcer, urging them to ‚“call now.”

When a client shows her a product, whether Bedazzled, ‚“the hottest craft item in America today,” (for adding rhinestones to clothes) or the $19.99 limited edition ‚“piece of history” plate celebrating Barack Obama's inauguration, her instincts tell her exactly how to make us ‚“get it.”

"I recognize a magic moment in a demonstration," Liantonio says, sitting in the sleek, spotless kitchen that adjoins her office at the cozy Boonton headquarters of her company, Concepts TV Productions Inc.


"A magic moment is the 'ah hah' moment in a commercial that makes you want to buy a product, she says. And  although Liantonio has been called the "queen," her tremendous success probably has more to do with her kitchen table instincts than royal ways. She seems to have the common touch, a knack for knowing just what words and images will make the average consumer buy the product, "as seen on TV."

Born in Brooklyn, Liantonio knew early on she would not be going into the family moving business her grandfather started.  .It was successful and, she explains, "It was for men. My father and his brother wanted to give the business to the boys ... It was like 'and Sons.'  That's how it used to be."

Besides, her interest lay in theater and directing, not trucking. (Her father had been a journalism major who went into the family business after the war, but dabbled in writing, penning articles for Movers News.) In high school, Liantonio was an actress who wrote poetry. Her career plan was to run a college theater. But at 22, she ended up with a job at Rutherford High School, teaching classes in film, writing and Spanish. She wasn't much older than her students, and the closeness in age made her uncomfortable.

After three years, Liantonio decided to put her writing to work, doing brochures for people in her Clifton neighborhood and getting a job on the local paper on the bottom rung: covering night municipal meetings. Eventually, she moved on to work at a direct response business, later taking a position as an account supervisor for an ad agency. By this time, her first marriage had broken up, and she was on her own, so full-time work was a necessity. She remembers chain smoking at night, working only after her children had gone to bed. "I had two kids; I had no options," she recalls.

The ad agency work focused on client relations, and she missed what she calls "executing" ... seeing something through from beginning to end." Eventually, she went out on her own.

These days, Liantonio still gets to "execute," whether writing a script, attending a product demonstration or traveling to Mexico City to collect and shoot testimonials from native Spanish speakers for a "Hooked on English" commercial.


She acknowledges that she's well known and has a history of success, but Liantonio takes nothing for granted. "As an entrepreneur, I don't think anybody ever knows. I'm insecure always; there's an ebb and flow to business." And although she's made it in a risky field (she's a member of the Women Presidents Organization, reserved for women with multimillion dollar businesses) and has won numerous industry awards, Liantonio describes her company philosophy as conservative.

Her core principles: "I don't believe in overhiring (she employs 10 people); I don't believe in debt ... I'm old school that way.  I don't leverage; that's my comfort.  I hire generalists.  I hire people who can grow. People who are smart ... eager."

She also has been delighted to hire family members and friends from time to time.  Her daughter, Eve Fusco, now director of creative services, once managed Concept TV's finances.  (Liantonio's office, located in a cozy renovated frame house is barely a mile from Eve and two little grandsons' doorstep.) And daughter, Collette DeBenedetto, currently working for Creative Artists in Los Angeles, once expressed an interest in making her mother's family business a two-generation affair.

Liantonio also draws in members of her community.  Residents of Mountain Lakes, where she and husband Jan DeBenedetto once lived in a imposing lakeside home, aren't surprised to spot neighbors as models in Concepts ads or learn an acquaintance is working for - or has interned with – the company. One of Liantonio's daughter's good friends, Dana Conklin, is a prized producer.


In fact, it's Conklin's mother who provided the set for a recent Concepts TV shoot, her well-furnished suburban colonial near the Morristown/Mendham border. A make-up artist and model have taken over one end of Conklin's long dining room table, while in the upstairs master suite, Liantonio is directing.Wearing comfortable black shoes, she's surrounded by production assistants, her favorite three-man camera crew and a Montclair State intern, one of many interns she's welcomed over the years.

"Animating" an inanimate product made of plastic or steel - making it live in the consumer's mind - is a Liantonio specialty, something she describes as, "Here's what it is; here's what it does." The pace is relaxed.

"Are we comfy?" she asks the group circled around the whirlpool tub, on whose edge is poised the object of their attention: a graceful foot demonstrating a nail invention. "Camera is rolling ... and action!" The camera stays fixed on the foot and the model's hand, daintily painting her toenails. Collette stands face to face with the screen that frames the camera's shot, seemingly scrutinizing every pixel, studying the effect.

Spontaneously, the model lifts her foot gently, her toes delicately poised on the tub. "That's great! I like the arch," Collette says. "Now model it... we love your feet, Jen!  Angle your toes a little bit ... Nice, that's good on the light, Pete ... Excellent." They've shot this sequence a couple of times, but for now, the Queen of the Infomercial finds it just right.

"The beauty of this business is you put it up on the air and it either sells or it's a bomb," she notes.  In a few months, if those perfect nails set off by that perfect arching foot and a few perfect words get TV watchers to reach for their credit cards and pick up their phones, Collette Liantonio will once again have had her say.


Concepts TV Productions President Collette Liantonio Takes Part In Inventor’s Casting Call With Telebrands CEO A.J. Khubani

To read the entire article, click here.


Response Magazine: “Hooked On English Show Shot In Mexico”

By Thomas Haire

MEXICO CITY — When Mark Mashaw, vice president of marketing at Baltimore-based Hooked on Phonics Inc./Smarterville, saw the success of the company's flagship product in non-English speaking nations, he first considered the idea of marketing a new product under the name "Hooked on English." "When we acquired Hooked on Phonics in 2005, we noticed that the product had gained some success in retail as a learn-to-read product overseas," he says. "Costco tested the product in a couple of Asian locations, and results came back extremely strong — even better than our strong U.S. sales."

According to Mashaw, this interest in such products "fueled the creative process" for the "Hooked on English" product that is just now rolling out in a series of international markets. However, the product is not the only unique thing about this new long-form DRTV campaign. A traditional long-form production was shot domestically in English by Boonton, N.J.-based Concepts TV Productions. However, marketers also wanted a Spanish-language show for the booming Latin American market — and Concepts TV teamed with Mashaw's group to shoot on location in Mexico City earlier in 2007.

"We wanted real testimonials from real Mexican families — in order to be as authentic as possible, we wanted to avoid using the U.S. immigrant population that may already have some grasp of English," says Collette Liantonio, founder of Concepts TV. "We wanted to introduce the product to Mexican families in Mexico with kids who needed to learn to speak English. We had great assistance from a team down there in finding the right families to use and speak about the product. In the testimonials, the children were more articulate in English than their parents!"

Concepts TV's Jaime Schneider was a producer on the project, and contends shooting in Mexico was a "great experience." She adds, "Authenticity was crucial with the market this product is going to appeal to."

Working with a Mexican crew on location, Liantonio, Mashaw and their team were able to shoot testimonials in users' homes. The team also enlisted the services of Martha Debayle, a well-known radio and TV personality and parenting expert. Mashaw says Debayle, who launched a popular parenting magazine and Web site under the name bbmundo (www.bbmundo.com), is "the face" for the product. "She's known in Mexico for her perfect English," he adds. "She's an amazing combination — a media persona and parenting expert. We don't have someone similar in the U.S."

Mashaw calls Concepts TV a "creative and flexible partner" that was "very responsive through the process." For her part, Liantonio credits Edwin Garrubbo of Creative Commerce for bringing her company into the process.

"Because of our ability to produce in Spanish and English, Ed got us involved with the idea of bringing this product to every country in the world," she says. "Over a series of months, we interviewed with Mark and made a deal. The excitement for this product on our end is the international aspect — we're talking about French and German versions right now."

Garrubbo adds, "We wanted to work with Concepts TV because of its decades in 'selling experience.' Of course, the show needed to look good, but it also really needed to sell. Concepts TV is expert at both. We approach every business and product as an international opportunity. Therefore, we had no problem suggesting that 'Hooked on English' start internationally and then work its way back into the United States."


Response Magazine: Major Brands Have Learned To Love Long-Form

President of Concepts TV Collette Liantonio was quoted in the July 2007 issue of Response Magazine about the advantages and cost effectiveness of using Virtual Sets.

Tapping Technology
By Bridget McCrea

When Collette Liantonio wants to produce an infomercial on the shores of Waikiki, she no longer has to fly spokespeople and/or celebrities to Honolulu. Instead, the president of Boonton, N.J.-based Concepts TV Productions uses a "virtual set" to achieve the same effect — and for much less money. The TV personality is simply filmed in front of a green or blue screen anywhere in the world, and then "cut out" and placed on the set during the editing process.

"That technology is helping to bring down the price of an infomercial," says Liantonio. "We can actually shoot the beach at Waikiki and green-screen the person over that background." And while that new technology helps producers cut corners, the most costly aspect of an infomercial — the real-life testimonials and endorsements — have become more expensive and time consuming.

"To legitimately get testimonials you have to develop people properly over time," says Liantonio. To show an amazing alteration in someone's appearance due to face cream, for example, takes eight weeks of close tracking, according to Liantonio. "While digital technology enables us to bring the cost of photography down," she says, "the human element, the time and the labor intensity haven't decreased at all."

You can read the entire article by clicking here.


Start Ups – Electronic Retailer

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Inventions & Us

So, where do you go to find the next great American inventor? A good place to start is Pittsburgh, Pa. That's right, Pittsburgh.

The Invention & New Product Exposition (INPEX) held its 22nd annual invention trade show on June 7-10. INPEX is America's largest invention trade show and exposition showcasing numerous inventions and new products available to license, manufacture or market. As I entered the trade show floor, you could practically feel the excitement and enthusiasm that surrounds the show, as more than 350 inventors from 20 countries around the world gathered under one roof in hopes of getting their product on store shelves or featured on a live shopping show.

The show featured innovations ranging from an upside-down Christmas tree, to new power tool and fitness ideas, to a love-detection collar for pets.

INPEX is also where amateur inventors get chosen and invited to participate in ERA’s annual Invention Showcase. The association launched the show in 1999 to provide inventors with a safe forum to understand the invention process and see firsthand how to turn their dreams into a marketable reality and to bring new products and ideas to ERA member companies.

For the fifth consecutive year, ERA hosted a product review panel to qualify products for its 2006 Invention Showcase to be held September 10-12 in Las Vegas. The panel was comprised of six ERA members representing all segments of the multichannel marketing and direct response industry, from catalog to DRTV to Internet to call centers. Industry experts included: Collette Liantonio, president, Concepts TV Productions Inc.; Karen Hyman, president, Live Link TV; Bridget Corish, director of business development, Livemercial Inc.; Tami Cubel, vice president of client development, InPulse Response Group; Wendi Cooper, CEO, C Spot Run Productions, LLC; and Curtis Clarke, vice president of Catalog Solutions Inc. Each panelist brought a unique perspective to the panel and represented years of direct response knowledge and experience.

Over 50 inventors with products geared toward the direct-to-consumer industry presented their ideas and innovations in the hopes of pre-qualifying for this year's Showcase. Products ranging from things that make you go to those that made you ask yourself "now why didn't I think of that?" Were auditioned; the panel invited more than 30 inventors to exhibit in Vegas.

As our industry becomes increasingly more sophisticated and focused on the big brand Fortune 500 companies, it's thrilling to see the high-level of entrepreneurship entering the direct response world says Concepts TV Productions; Collette Liantonio. Its exciting to see the American Dream in action and to have the opportunity to recognize the next great breakthrough that is destined to make our lives better.

This year's inventors are no doubt hoping to duplicate the success of one of last year's Invention Showcase winner, Carrie Jeske. Her invention, Sports Shade, a portable awning that can be attached to a fixed object to provide shade and cover during summertime recreational activities, was recently featured live on QVC and is available for sale on its website.

As the long day ended, marking another successful partnership with INPEX, ERA and Invention Showcase Task Force chair, Wendy Cooper, commented, "Every year it is such a joy to be able to give back to the people who make our industry thrive‚Äîthe inventors. It's so refreshing to see how ERA’s Invention Showcase has grown, how ERA members have stayed committed, and how our efforts with the support of everyone at INPEX provide exactly what we set out to do: provide a safe forum where education meets opportunity. And it's thrilling to see the high-level of entrepreneurship entering the direct response world.

Collette Liantonio, Concepts TV Productions Inc.
Information about ERA & Invention Showcase, including a list of past winners, is available at www.americaninventiveness.org.


Daily Record: Production Company In Boonton Shoots Infomercials Around Globe

DOSSIER: Collette Liantonio, President, Concepts TV Productions, Boonton

On the tube: Unless you haven't watched TV in 20 years, chances are you've seen an info­mercial produced by Mountain Lakes resident Collette Lianto­nio, president of Concepts TV Productions.

The company: Founded in 1983 by Liantonio, the Boonton based company has been honored with more than 200 awards for its work in direct-response televi­sion, featuring such celebrities as Joe Namath, George Foreman and Arnold Palmer selling every­thing from cookware to hair care. Some of Liantonio's hits include the Pasta Pot, Topsy Tail and Jack Lalanne Stepper.

What is direct-response television? Any commercial that can get immediate action whether ordering via telephone or the Internet — all those 800-number commercials.

How did you get started in this field? "I was doing this type of work for other people and asked my employer if he would hire me. He was my first cus­tomer. I'm primarily a script writer."

Family business: "My daugh­ter Eve Fusco is chief financial officer, and my son, John Calder­aro, manages the Los Angeles office."

"My other daughter, Collette DeBenedetto, is a junior at the University of Pennsylvania. "I also have a a 4 month old grandson, Cosmo."

"My business is run like a fam­ily. I like that idea. I have only 10 employees. and we're a very close-knit group."

"My Parents live in a down­stairs apartment at my house, and growing up, I lived in an apartment above the family business."

Born: July 12, 1949, in Brook­lyn and grew up there.

Education: After graduating high school at 16, went to Fordham University to New York on a scholarship majoring in English. Also has master's degree from New York University in theater education with a concentration in directing.

Jersey girl: Moved to New Jersey when she married at age 22, settling first in Clifton. Taught English and Spanish at Rutherford High School for sever­al years.

Also lived in Wayne and Montville. "I kept moving west."

Is there any other profes­sion you would have liked to try? "Acting, but I'm too insecure for all the rejection. You have to have a thick skin."

How long have you lived In Mountain Lakes? "I've lived in Mountain Lakes for 11 years with my husband. Jon DeBenedetto."

Favorite restaurants: South City Grill in Mountain Lakes and Attila's Kitchen in Denville."

What Is you love to do? "To go. I'm a globe-trotter. I go to Hawaii every couple of years, and in two weeks, I'm going to Spain. I like the whole Spanish culture."

"I've also shot commercials in Africa, Korea, England and Scot­land and was in Serbia when war broke out. I would like to go to Bali and Egypt."

Did you have any female role models? "There weren't a lot of women coming up through the ranks then, mostly men."

Pet peeve: "I dislike it when someone in business acts unethi­cal or immoral, then says, 'It's business.'"

Do you think women have come a long way? "I was in the second class of women to gradu­ate from Fordham, which was all male until 1965. There were 10 men to every woman."

"It's hard for women to com­bine business and a career unless you want your kids raised by a nanny."

"I don't think things have changed except that there are greater expectations going from a career to motherhood."

"I feel badly that we don't do a good job with child care in this country."

"If I were going to make political statement, child care would be the issue."

Dossier was reported by Sally Silverman, a freelance writer.




Electronic Retailer: Shoot for the Sale: DRTV Production Basics

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That's a WRAP!
By Collette Liantonio 

Shoot for the Sale: DRTV Production Basics

While every DRTV marketer would love to win an artistic award for Best Infomercial, the real goal is to create a commercial that sells your product. You may claim that your primary goal is to build your brand but without strong sales, your commercial will be abandoned at the test phase and the world will never learn about your brand. So how does one create a compelling commercial that drives sales and builds your brand?

After you determine that your product is a viable DRTV project, the first decision should be regarding the length of the commercial. Unless you have very deep pockets and a three-month lead time, a half hour infomercial can be daunting.

While higher ticket items usually sell well through the infomercial genre, they can also be very effectively marketed in short-form commercials using payment plans, free trial offers and lead generation. Shows built around emotional testimonials and endorsements usually require the longer formats to persuade the consumer to purchase. In selecting a producer, the marketer should make sure that the selection of the commercial format is based on sound marketing criteria and not the limited expertise of the potential producer. Thus, you should ask three important questions of the potential producer:
How much will it cost me? Get a budget and a contract.
How long will it take? Get a schedule.
What have you done successfully in this category? Get a simple disk of successful DRTV projects and a list of referrals.

Once the length has been decided and the producer selected, the single most important production element is the script. At the end of an infomercial half hour, or a short form 120- or 60 second spot, the viewer should be compelled to reach into his or her pocket, take out a credit card and in a gigantic leap of faith, part with his or her hard earned dollars.

That calls for a crystal clear message. Any confusion whatsoever will kill the sale. Obviously every second, every syllable counts. That's why there's a formula, the problem, the solution (your product), the demonstration, the proof (testimonials, endorsements, science) and the offer!

Why do I repeat the offer? The most important testing element is the offer itself. Do you get one widget or two? Do you get to try it before you buy it? Do you get a free shoe phone with your magazine? Do you spend $9.95 or $99.95? The wise entrepreneur invests his or her money in the test phase.

How much money do you spend on production? Many DRTV experts answer this question with the metaphorical. Do you want a Mercedes or a Volkswagen? Cheap or expensive is not the point. The secret engine that drives the sale is the script. It's about the integrity of the spot, the message, the value of the offer...and that can be conveyed with Beta, SP, HDTV or 35mm film. It's about the execution of a great script.

Shows built around
Testimonials and
usually require the
longer formats to
persuade the
consumer to

But what about the creative tone of the spot? You don't have to yell and sell, but you do need to cut through the TV clutter, and you should compel the audience to stop, look and listen, not calmly and passively, but as an active participant. At the end of the minute (or so), the viewer should be driven to reach into his or her wallet, remove the credit card and call the 800 number or log on to the company's web site and act now, or go to a store and look for the product now! Or the beautiful, award-winning commercial will be considered a very expensive mistake.

So how does one create a great script with a spectacular offer and a compelling spot that makes the viewer order now? One hires an experienced expert to create a spectacular commercial with two or three different offers at the endings. One hires an experienced media buyer to test the offers. One hires a great call center to cross-sell and upsell, and one prays that one's commercial will defy the odds and become the next DRTV hit. So don't delay. Act now and call the expert.

Collette Liantonio is president of Concepts TV Productions Inc. in Boonton, N.J. She can be reached at (973) 331-1500, or via e-mail at collette@conceptstv.com.


Putting Them On the Spot – Response Magazine

DRTV spots are performing well across the board this year.

When Collette Liantonio hunkers down to lay out her plan for a new short-form DRTV spot,
she likes to use a clean slate and original idea. ‚“I like to create spots from scratch,” says
Liantonio, president of Concepts TV Productions in Boonton, N.J. ‚“I don’t even want to
see anyone else’s spots, even if I’m creating a competitive show.”

Fiercely independent and creative, Liantonio was shocked last year when a little birdie told her that a competitor not only copied much of her Better Pasta Pot show, but that he had the gall to run her show on a monitor in the very studio where he was shooting his own pasta pot show. ‚“They studied my show right as they were producing theirs so they could emulate the camera angles that we used,” says Liantonio. ‚“That’s just not right.”

It may not be ‚“right,” but mimicry is very common in an industry characterized by copycats and knockoffs. Liantonio attributes the lapse in judgment to a definite lack of ‚“original brains” in the short-form arena. ‚“It’s not that there can’t be competitive products, but at least write your own script and shoot your own spot,” she says, adding that the race to be ‚“first and best” is getting harder and harder to win in the short-form arena.

Despite the rampant competition, Liantonio says her firm’s Better Pasta Pot did claim its share of the pasta pot-craze, and went neck-and-neck with a similar product for first position. ‚“I know for a fact that one campaign is spending $750,000 per week on media profitably," says Liantonio. "That's one in a very crowded field. Once again, it was not a patented item. Everybody and his brother got in the act. It was crazy."

The craziness comes from one simple source: the fact that short-form spots are hot right now, and everyone is using them - from the gadget producers to the housewares marketers to corporations like Radio Shack and Microsoft. In the past year, many marketers have also begun using spokespeople in their spots - a rarity until just recently, says Liantonio - and using the shows to drive both retail and online sales.

The latter is particularly popular, according to Liantonio. "We're seeing a lot of short form being used to drive people to web sites," she says, adding that short form is also being used for higher-ticket items, such as high-tech products. "It's not all gadgets and gizmos anymore, but those products certainly aren't suffering either."

Yet another way marketers are milking more profit out of their $19.95 ceiling on short-form products is by creatively charging double the shipping and handling costs for what - to the consumer - appears to be two separate orders. After agreeing to pay $7.95 shipping and handling on a $19.95 pasta pot, for example, customers are offered a free package of accessories, as long as they pay the $8.95 shipping and handling charge.

Add it up, says Liantonio, and you get a $36.85 short-form product. "$29.95 doesn't work with short-form housewares and gadgets," says Liantonio. "This is helping marketers stay on the air at $19.95."

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A Personal Look At One of DRTV’s Hottest Short-Form Producers

By Kellie Reagen (from Response Magazine October 1999)

It's a Friday afternoon, and Collette Liantonio, president of Concepts TV Productions, is interrupted by the telephone. It's past 1 p.m., and her receptionist, producers and other employees have left the Montville, N.J.-based production house for the day to get a jump on the weekend at either the Jersey shore or the Hamptons. "We act like an agency on Fridays," she says, referring to the summer hours held by many skyscraping advertising agencies in Manhattan. Liantonio has places to be, too. But before she leaves to go to a Junior Olympics track meet, where her youngest daughter is competing, she reviews a recently completed spot. "I pride myself on being a wordsmith," she admits. "But one good visual says it all."

The writer within

It was her writing capabilities that launched her career in direct response. For those who have been in direct response for a while, the production house Concepts TV Productions is familiar. And those who may not recognize the name are certain to have seen spots for popular housewares products such as the Great Wok of China, Smart Mop, Static Duster and Didi Seven.

It was 1979 when Liantonio was recruited by Frank Brady of Urban General Corp. to make direct response spots. "I had never done that before," Liantonio recalls. "But it sounded like a neat thing to do."

Liantonio's academic background was in theater and directing. She received her master's degree in theater from New York University in 1971. While teaching high school English and writing composition, she began entering poetry and writing competitions. As she developed a reputation as a writer, her friends began asking her to tap out brochures and copy for advertisements.

Where Liantonio had a dearth of commercial production experience, she made up for it in a reserve of ambition. Self-taught in advertising writing, Liantonio quickly initiated herself into direct response at Urban General, taking an academic approach.

"I started watching all these 800-number commercials in a marathon study," she says. In the late 1970s, the airwaves were not wont for direct response spots. And Liantonio watched them all—repeatedly. She noticed a formula and applied it to her first spot for a patio device that killed mosquitoes and insects. It was a hit.

"It was so exciting to put a commercial on the air and the next day know that you got people to reach into their pockets and spend money," she says. "It's a rush to know that you have that persuasive power. Plus, it's a living."


The agency route

Within four years, Liantonio would spear the direct response industry with her own company's stake. But first, she would test the waters in a big agency. In 1983, she briefly joined a large agency in Manhattan.

She lasted six months."I couldn't take it be‑cause I was pigeon‑holed," she says. "I was hired as an account supervisor, so I was dealing with clients and selling ideas. But I wanted to write and produce and direct."

To sate her desire to work on every step of the production process, Liantonio opened her own agency that same year. Today, Concepts TV Productions still adheres to Liantonio's interest in the entire production process. But unlike a highrise Manhattan agency, Concepts TV Productions is more like a cottage.

The personal touch

Instead of a staff of hundreds, the staff at Concepts ranges between seven and nine employees. There are no department managers and account coordinators. Liantonio oversees every step of production. In fact, every spot and infomercial begins with a script she personally writes. During any given week, Liantonio can be found writing, editing, directing and producing spots and infomercials for her direct response clientele, which includes Emson and TriStar.

At any given time, Liantonio has three producers, a technical editor, a marketing person, a financial advisor, several interns and a receptionist on staff. Last year, she opened a satellite office in Santa Monica, Calif, which is run by her son.

"All writing and creative is done in house," Liantonio says. "The benefit is that nobody does it better. It is a formula that we know very well."

Her track record speaks volumes. Among the top-selling spots created by Concepts TV Productions are Citrus Express, Bacon Wave, Denise Austin's Abs, Loadhandler, Select Comfort and Mt. Fuji Pillow. The agency has developed a reputation for short-form production, but Liantonio adds that her agency does long- form shows as well.

"People want to see a huge volume [of productions]," Liantonio says. She adds that the agency lost a potential long- form client in July because the company wanted to know which long-form hits Concepts had done recently.

"I've had success with half-hour shows. Smart Mop did seven to one," Liantonio says. "But I just don't do the volume." Concepts' most recent long- form hits have included Powercraft and a 15-minute show for Rotato.

The short form advantage

The bread and butter of Concepts is its spots. About 90 percent of the productions coming from Concepts are short- form spots, many for regular clients such as Emson, Telebrands and Tristar.

And the agency is most known for its productions done for kitchen products. "I'm a woman, and I'm comfortable in the kitchen," says Liantonio, who was a past president of her gourmet cooking club. "Clients are funny because, if you have a hit in something, then you're an expert."

Liantonio says she has seen some success with cleaning products, too. "I don't clean," she admits. "I've always hired someone to clean for me. But I've made lot of money with the Smart Mop and Static Duster." She also says that exercise products have worked well for her too.

There are categories that she is interested in that she hasn't yet done projects on. "I haven't got lot of motiva­tional shows because that is a half-hour arena. I want to do more motiva­tional shows, and I would also love to do travel shows," Liantonio says.

It isn't surprising that Liantonio has an interest in the travel category. When she isn't working or devoting time to other hobbies, which include cooking and gardening, she's planning trips she wants to take. Whether she's navigating class seven rapids along the Colorado River with her girlfriends or planning a family trip to Italy, Lianto­nio plays like she works—with obses­sive attention to every detail.

During a typical week at Concepts, Liantonio and her staff are working on upwards of five different projects, many of which are ongoing.

"We are always in various stages with various projects," Liantonio says. "Yesterday we shot a show for a new device for the shower. Today, we were editing a half-hour show we've been working on since January for a new oven that's coming out."

The following week the agency did a half-day shoot for the latest Jim Neigh­bors gospel collection on CD. "We've got all these various things in the works," she says.

Many hats

Just as varied as the agency's projects are the roles that Liantonio plays. One day may find Liantonio in a flannel shirt, writing a script for a new kitchen appliance. The next day may find her in a pressed suit, pitching an idea for a commercial to another client.

"The beauty of what I'm in is that I can do everything, from concept to completion, with the help of my creative staff."

Refining the formula for success

Liantonio's entrepreneurial approach to direct response has remained constant since her first spot for the bug zapper. Perhaps it's this trait that has preserved her direct response production house that sits on a changing horizon. Although Liantonio has been following a formula for creating direct response spots since she first identified it in 1979, she says that the industry is now in the process of redefining itself.

"The industry is in such a slump now as far as the traditional manner in which it used to generate income," she says. It is true that today one in 20 direct response spots pay out. Liantonio says that number used to be closer to one out of six that were profitable.

"But is is more exciting now because mainstream advertising has acknowledged that accountability is the way to go," Liantonio says. "Suddenly, direct response is legitimate, so it has broadened out. But old-time direct response has taken a hit."

Liantonio says many of her longstanding clients, such as Emson and Telebrands, have weathered the changes by setting up channels of retail distribution. "My steady customers who are direct response experts are fully integrated in the business and don't rely on me to give them the one hit wonder."

But this doesn't alleviate the pressure to create a hit show. In fact, it produces additional challenges with which Liantonio and her staff must contend. Many "new" clients are still reticent about the hard-selling television medium. "These clients are different because they want to be in direct response, but they don't want it to look like direct response," she says. "You can't have it both ways unless you're prepared to do a media blitz."

The surge in media rates is another reason Liantonio cites for the hit taken by direct response in recent years. Although Concepts doesn't buy media, the agency is affected by skyrocketing rates. Concepts' revenues are directly tied to sales generated by spots created for its clients. "We're not always profitable, but we're always busy," Liantonio says.

Being a business owner is another formidable hat that Liantonio dons enthusiastically. "I was never trained in business," she says. Some days, she admits to feeling like a high school teacher again, delegating assignments and settling conflicts.

Other days, she's a creative person who just expects people to do their thing happily. And still, she's an entrepreneur who has a vision for how to accomplish all the tasks in a production cycle. "Dealing with employees and clients and the other modes of thinking is kind of hard," she says.

In spite of, or maybe because of, the different directions in which her business pulls her, Liantonio says she has to remain focused on the objective. "It's important to balance the sell with the creative," she says.

This is the root of her company's philosophy and perhaps the catalyst for her reputation as one of the most recognized producers of direct responsespots. Concepts TV Productions, like any other Manhattan agency, recognizes that the sell is the bottom line.  But unlike larger agencies where a production is pieced together department by department, Concepts is one of the few places where the president knows a project's status every step of the way.  Liantonio wouldn't have it any other way. "It's nice to take an idea and develop it and see it all the way to birth.  There's a gratification in that," she says.