If you've ever been awake in the middle of the night watching television, you've probably heard this familiar phrase: "But wait, there's more!"
It is a classic line in the world of late-night infomercials, and AJ Khubani, who could be called the infomercial king, said "more" is the secret to infomercial success. "There's got to be more," he said. "There's always more."
Khubani is the master of the night … he wants you to get up out of bed, grab the phone and buy stuff. His stuff. What Khubani is after, always, is the right kind of product for what is officially called direct response television. … We know them as infomercials.
"They're not intending to make the purchase," he explained, "but there's something about the commercial and the product and the pitch and the offer that compels people to pick up the phone and take out their credit card and make the call."
Khubani is a first-generation Indian immigrant who has been in the infomercial business for more than two decades. He is also the unapologetic champion of products you probably never thought you needed, never knew you wanted but bought anyway. He's sold 200,000 adhesive earlobe supporters, 3 million stick-on light bulbs, and 3 million sets of portable stairs for dogs.
And his latest product?
"I have been doing this for 24 years. I have looked at thousands of products, and one of my favorite products is the Go-Duster," he said, referring to a motorized duster the company sells.
It's not easy coming up with stuff like this. Every day at the not-so-glamorous New Jersey headquarters of his company, Telebrands, Khubani and his cohorts try to dream up the next big thing. On the day "Nightline" visited, the ideas they kicked around included the Heli-clocker -- part alarm clock, part helicopter, and the Petsy -- a self-cleaning brush for dogs.
"The product is key," he said. "The product is key. It has to be with the right product. It has to demonstrate well. Consumers have got to relate to it. It's got to convey a problem and a solution that consumers can identify with."
Problems are big in Khubani's world. He's convinced that curing a problem sells better than preventing one. "Something to prevent people from gaining weight would not sell as much as something that makes people lose weight," he said.
So Telebrands offers cures for sagging earlobes, yellow teeth, heavy furniture and fat, arthritic dogs.
"There are other things -- good value for money, the belief there's more, there's always the extra bonus -- and we think that there's something to a British accent. We're not quite sure, we haven't tested it, but we're thinking a British accent just gets people's attention," he said.
The 'Wow' Moment
That British accent is most often from the mouth of Anthony Sullivan: actor, producer and pitchman for things like a new kind of pop-up hanger.
Sullivan has a seen a whole lot of Khubani's work, and has his own ideas for what works best.
"I think what makes an infomercial great is every two-minute spot has a 'wow' moment -- one demonstration that people remember," he said. "When we dropped the Stick-Up Bulb on the floor and it bounced … you expect to see pieces shatter, but it bounced, a bouncing light bulb. People remember that … these tag lines, demonstrations that people remember. For all the marketing surveys we do and all the focus groups, [it's] that one little thing that you come up with on the day that sets your products apart from the rest. AJ is great at working on that."
Perhaps more than anything, Khubani is a salesman, a sales junkie, with no cure in sight. He said he even finds himself pushing products in his daily life.
The Hard Sell
Not all of Khubani's products are big hits with consumers or critics -- he lost millions on inflatable massage boots, and has had problems with the government. He paid a fine when the Federal Trade Commission said that ads for his Ab-Force implied it led to weight loss, which it didn't. Khubani said he stands behind his products 100 percent, despite some of the reviews and ridicule his business receives (remember the bass-o-matic on "Saturday Night Live"?)
But he does admit that there is a stigma when it comes to infomercials.
"I think there is a stigma, that, I think … that the stigma is there because of the way we advertise, because our products are sold with a hard sell, and that's basically it," he said. "Our commercials, I admit it, our commercials are over the top. And what when I realized what was going on, I started lecturing at Princeton University. The first time I lectured at Princeton University and showed them my commercials, the students laughed. And that got me angry, initially. But then I realized, I stepped back, our commercials are humorous, they are over the top, and maybe people do laugh at them, and it doesn't really matter to me because they are effective."
Khubani can always be counted on to deliver a hard sell.