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A Little History on As Seen on TV

Think As Seen on TV products are a new phenomenon?  Think again…As Seen on TV products actually started back in the 1950’s with Ron Popeils, the founder of Ronco, a company still inventing As Seen on TV products today.  Some of the first As Seen on TV products were Pocket Fisherman, Minc-O-Matic, Dial-O-Matic, Chop-O-Matic, and Veg-O-Matic, which is now featured in the Smithsonian Institute.  Some of these sound familiar, eh?  The Chop-O-Matic was brought back to life by Vince Shlomi (aka “the Shamwow guy”) in 2009 with Slap Chop, Slice-O-Matic surfaced in 2011, and Pocket Fisherman can still be found today.  For those who scoff at the silly TV commercials late at night and think these products couldn’t possibly do what they say, the popularity of these items over the past 60 years proves otherwise.  Besides the fact that these products do some amazing things and make life a little easier and fun, the “pitchman” has played a huge role in the success of As Seen on TV products over time.  The first pitchman was, of course, Ron Popeils.


Born in 1935, Ron came to live with his grandparents after living in foster care from age 4-7 years old.  Living with his grandparents proved to be worse than foster care and he was on his own by 16.  He eventually reconnected with his father, Samuel Popeil, who was an inventor and sold to Sears, Walgreens, Woolworth’s, and more.  Ron helped his father by doing demonstrations in those stores to persuade store owners, managers, and buyers that customers would buy in large quantities.  Business was good.

Ron seemed to have a knack for sales and was good with people. His success as a salesman helped get him back on his feet and finally feel connected again...

"I didn't have to be poor for the rest of my life. Through selling, I could escape from poverty and the miserable existence I had with my grandparents. I had lived for 16 years in homes without love, and now I finally found a form of affection and human connection through sales.”

Ron finally loved what he was doing and what his life was about.  He was infectious, people gravitated to him and he sold a lot of his father's inventions as well as his own. 

When Television was on the rise in the mid 1950s, Ron Popeils saw an opportunity to expand his business.  The first commercial he produced was in Tampa, FL at TV station WFLA.  The first product they shot for was Spray Gun, made by Ronco.  Spray Gun was a gun-shaped garden hose nozzle with a chamber in the handle for soap, wax, weed killer, fertilizer, or insecticide.  The commercial was shot in Florida but aired in Chicago where his products were being sold.  It was a huge success and made Ron one of the first people to make millions in this medium.  He became the first As Seen on TV Pitchman and continued to sell his own and his father’s products through the 70’s and 80’s.  Ron is now happily retired and enjoys fishing with his Pocket Fisherman.

Through the years, The Pitchman has become a household term.  Some of the most popular and successful are Billy Mays, Vince Shlomi, Richard Simmons, James Dyson, Billy Blanks, Montel Williams and George Foreman.  They all share an enthusiasm for what they do and the products they sell.  Slap Chop, Snuggie, Shamwow, Mighty Putty, Sweatin to the Oldies, George Foreman's Grill, and The Clapper are now a part of pop culture, and the pitchmen have a lot to do with that success.

As Seen on TV has proven to be a great catalyst for many inventors and entrepreneurs looking to get their products out to customers.  The products that get picked up are problem solvers and appeal to a mass market, many of them leaving us saying "now why didn't I think of that?".  Many of these products can be found in homes across America, and yes, they do work :)