How These Two Guys
Became “The GINSU® Guys”
And The “Godfathers Of Direct Response Television”
In 1975, a young, ambitious broadcasting executive for an NBC affiliate (Ed Valenti) and an enterprising, young AAMCO Transmission Shop entrepreneur (Barry Becher) put their heads together, teamed up and forever changed the way products are marketed on television.
In the Beginning...
The idea for their first product evolved when Barry was faced with the tedious chore of painting his ceiling. While looking for a quick, easy method to do this, he discovered a paint pad with densely packed mohair bristles which prevented splatter. Barry tried the product at home and discovered that it allowed him to paint his ceiling in "half the time of a paint brush" without the "mess or fuss". After consulting with Ed, the pair dubbed the product "The Miracle Painter®". After facing continued rejection from ad agencies up and down Madison Avenue, Becher and Valenti decided to follow their dream of offering a product for sale on televisions across America, on their own. The challenge was getting a 20-25 minute demonstration into a 2 minute commercial. To get consumers attention and demonstrate the product's main benefit, Ed and Barry opened their commercial with a man in a tuxedo painting his ceiling and the immortal question…and answer:: "Why is this man painting a ceiling in a tuxedo? Because he's using the amazing new Miracle Painter® !” The pair wrote and produced the commercial themselves. In fact, demand for the product was so great, Ed and Barry were forced to lease 747 airplanes in England, where the product was manufactured, and fill them up with Miracle Painters® just to keep up with weekly orders back here in the States!
What a Country!
As a result of the enormous reaction to their ads, Dial Media (Ed and Barry's direct marketing company) was opened in 1976 and proceeded to develop other multi-million selling and equally "Miraculous" products including; the Miracle Slicer®, the Miracle Duster®, Claudette Louberge Hosiery®, Royal Durasteel®, Vacufresh®, The "Chainge" Adjustable Necklace®, Lusterware Flatware®, Armourcote Cookware® and of course, the legendary Ginsu Knives®.
The New Office
Thanks to the tremendous success of these products, "Ed and Barry Inc." went from being a part-time operation run out of Barry's garage to being one of the largest buyers of spot TV in the country, with over 150 employees and 20-30 products on the air in just about every market in the country at any given time (with Ed and Barry spending $5 million of their own money every quarter on ads all over America-an amount that ranked them just ahead of Coca-Cola and right behind AT&T on the list of America's top ad spenders in national "spot" T.V. markets!). Total sales for the enterprising duo's products, over a ten year period, were over 500 Million Dollars!
Secrets of Success
Why was Ed and Barry's method of direct response advertising so successful? Their outrageous, extraordinary, and oftentimes comical commercials were a major contributor to that success, although that was far from being the only reason. The times chosen to run the ads, the research that went into the creating of ads and choosing the stations and programs, the use of toll free "800" numbers, the accepting of credit card orders and the daily and weekly result analysis and invoice reconciliation methods were all revolutionary direct marketing techniques, pioneered and established by Ed and Barry. What's more, their unique style of product presentation and demonstration and "insider's knowledge" of media buying techniques and strategies not only made them very successful, it made them profitable beyond their wildest dreams and known throughout the world. In fact, many of their colorful, "catch phrases" ("But wait, there's more", "Isn't that amazing", "Now how much would you pay?" Don't answer!", "Act now and you'll also receive...", "It'll slice onions so fast that there isn't time to cry," etc.) are still remembered, used, and parodied today.
A Cut Above
Most of the products developed and marketed by Ed and Barry and marketed were incredibly successful, but only one has transcended its own success and evolved into a genuine Cultural Icon: the most memorable product ever promoted on T.V., Ginsu® Knives! After all, how many direct marketing products do you know of that celebrities ask for by name? Ed and Barry took orders for Ginsu® from thousands of stars...everyone from actors, Raquel Welch and John Wayne to comedian, Rob Riener. And speaking of comedians, it is largely thanks to them that Ginsu® to this day (over twenty years after the commercials last aired) is one of the most mentioned and well known products in history. Gallagher made a career out of mimicking the commercial's antics, Jerry Seinfeld recently did a routine on Ginsu® on Jay Leno the night of his show’s last episode, Johnny Carson used it as a standing part of his nightly routine for years, Joe Piscopo, John Belushi, Phil Hartman and Dan Akroyd all incorporated Ginsu® into skits on “Saturday Night Live,” Tony Soprano often mentions Ginsu® when seated at the “family” dinner table on the HBO series “The Sopranos,” and the comic strip, “The Wizard of Id” and The New Yorker Magazine cartoons routinely featured Ginsu® references. Mentions in movies such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Sleepless in Seattle and Scrooged with Bill Murray, as well as television sitcoms, are simply too numerous to mention. In addition, Ed, Barry, Ginsu® and their other TV products have recently been featured in numerous documentaries on national television networks ranging from, ABC (Chronicle) and The History Channel to The Discovery Channel and The Arts and Entertainment (A&E) Network and VH 1’s “Pop Up Videos ” and MTV ’s “I love the 70’s.
The Legend Lives On
In fact, it is clear that Ed and Barry's creation, the Ginsu® knife has become a worldwide household name and beloved cultural icon. Why? Maybe it was the catchy yet totally fabricated, Japanese sounding name or the impossible to ignore ads or the colorful, rapid fire copy; or perhaps, it was the incredible versatility, sharpness and durability of the knife itself! Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: people remember Ginsu®-the kitchen cutting tool that can "cut through a nail, a tin can and a radiator hose and still slice a tomato paper thin". Alas, even the world's greatest legends are not completely immune from the harsh light of reality: which is why it probably won't surprise you to learn that Ginsu®, the most famous "Japanese" product ever sold, was really manufactured in Freemont, Ohio by the Douglas Quikut Division of Scott Fetzer. Today, Ed and Barry's former company is owned by Wall Street wizard Warren Buffet, one of the wealthiest and most successful men in America.
The "Ginsu© Guys" Today
Hitting it big even once in America’s competitive business environment is an extraordinary feat … doing it twice is almost unheard of. Yet, today, Barry is happily retired and Ed is the co-founder owner and COO of one of America’s most successful media buying and marketing firms, PriMedia Inc. Combining a unique “virtual agency” structure that delivers top quality media and marketing services to clients at a much lower cost than more traditional firms, with the vast knowledge and pioneering experiences of their Ginsu® days, the pair have successfully helped clients like Xerox, Air Canada, Collette Vacations, Caritas Christi Healthcare, Dairy Mart, New England Electric, APC (American Power Conversion), IMAX, Blimpie, Boston Acoustics, Stannah Stairlifts, RE/MAX, Astra Zeneca, Merck, Legal Sea Foods, Citadel Communications, Sylvan Learning Centers, and many more, save millions of dollars through more efficient, targeted media buying and generate millions more in sales through award winning direct marketing programs (television, radio, outdoor, direct mail, newspaper, magazines and integrated multi-media). If you’d like to learn more about PriMedia, and/or contact us about the world-class direct marketing and media buying services we provide, please visit us at the following web address: www.primediahq.com
If you’re interested in contacting PriMedia Founder/COO and “Ginsu Guy” Ed Valenti about speaking to your group or organization, please visit our Contacts/Links page.