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Concepts TV Featured in The Star Ledger

Infomercial vet reflects on 30 years of

selling Bedazzler, Pajama Jeans and more



Collette Liantonio, CEO of Concepts TV, second form left, likes what she see as she and her crew, produce an infomercial at The Gravity Vault, an indoor rock climbing gym in Chatham.

By Stacy Jones/The Star-Ledger

CHATHAM— Collette Liantonio pulled off her headphones and craned her neck to gaze at the actress who had just scaled a 35-foot rock climbing wall at The Gravity Vault in Chatham.

The stunt woman twisted this way and that, mugging for the camera and practicing lines as she searched for a flattering angle — a challenge when suspended by a harness.

Minutes later she descended and Liantonio’s production crew, Concepts TV of Boonton, broke for lunch. The rock climbing gym had been the set for the team’s shoot as it finished up a 28-minute infomercial for a piece of home exercise equipment.

"We’ve already done eight days of shooting with physical fitness experts who gave testimonials. We did muscle testing in Orange County, California. We shot with people who have been on the program to show their before and after transformations," she said. "And now we’re shooting at a rock climbing facility to liken the muscle activity you get from this product to climbing."

Her client asked her not to reveal the name because the ad, which airs in July, is meant to introduce the product to U.S. consumers.

(L-R) Alice Rietveld, an actor and stunt woman along with Mark Harari, owner of a fitness club, in LA. star in a infomercial produced by Collette Liantonio, CEO of Concepts TV. Robert Sciarrino/The Star-Ledger

The direct marketing and infomercial veteran has produced and directed ads for the George Foreman Grill, Bedazzler, Ped Egg and hundreds of other products that made their debut on television. Her 30-year career began just as marketers were realizing two things: It takes longer than two minutes to sell someone an expensive product and most television networks had nothing to put on the air at 2 a.m.

In 1984, Kevin Harrington, chairman of TVGoods and As Seen on TV, was looking for someone to produce a 28-minute ad for Arnold Morris’s Ginsu knives. Morris had been demo-ing his products at home shows, doing what most viewers will remember them for: Cutting through soda cans and gliding through tomatoes to produce wafer-thin slices.

"There were no infomercial producers then because it was a new industry, so I researched the people who produced 2-minute spots. Collette’s name kept coming up, so I called her," he said. "We did a bunch of early projects together. They were some of the first ever infomercials."

Harrington prides himself on his ability to detect products and people with potential. He discovered Billy Mays, the late OxiClean and Kaboom pitchman, and has appeared on ABC’s "Shark Tank," which gives entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their inventions to investors. He said he admires Liantonio for her instincts, decisiveness and guts.

"If she doesn’t like it, she’ll say, ‚ÄòYou know what, I just don’t see it. I don’t think it’ll work’," he said. "I’d call her sometimes to see if she liked an idea and if she loved it, she’d say, ‚ÄòOk, we’ll shoot it in the next 30 days.’ Four weeks later she’d have it done."

Liantonio has never been one to envy the multimillion dollar budgets of corporate advertisers. Budgets for 2-minute ads usually start at $40,000 and the 28-minute infomercials start at $250,000.

Her love for the industry spread to her three children. One of her daughters has managed the company’s finances, something Liantonio did for her father’s moving company when she was in high school and college.

Her brother took over the Flatbush Moving Company, but Liantonio couldn’t shake the entrepreneurship bug.

She was a single mother when she founded her company in Wayne. After moving the business to Montville and Mountain Lakes, she eventually settled into an office on Main Street in Boonton for the convenience and family-life balance it provided.

"There’s wonderful houses that I rent here. So I shoot in real settings that show our products to their best advantage," she said. "So if I’m doing something like a fireplace, I’m not in a studio, I’m in a real home."

In fact, anyone who’s ever seen the 2-minute spot for Pajama Jeans has seen the inside of Liantonio’s Towaco home. Later this year she’ll open a second office in California, where she does a lot of work with clients.

She’s also cast her own children in spots and Dana Conklin, a producer and assistant director, first worked with Concepts TV as a 3-year-old actress.

Sonia Makurdsik, executive vice president of marketing and new business at Hampton Direct, first met Liantonio about 15 years ago when she was looking for someone to produce an ad for Furniture Fix, a board that stops cushions from sagging on otherwise worn-out couches.

"We had to show the strength of the product and I said, ‚ÄòCollette, think of putting together two sumo wrestlers,’‚ÄØ" she said.

Two 600-pound sumo wrestlers later, they had what Makurdsik calls a channel stopper.

"As long as she’s been doing this, she’s only gotten better with time and I don’t see her stopping at all. I think she’s going to do this until ... I don’t know ... maybe when she can’t see anymore," she said. "She loves this, it shows and that’s the reason I really adore working with her."