Ron Popeil is a famed American inventor, pitchman, television star, and the creator of the television “infomercial”. Ron is the quintessential rags to riches tale. At sixteen, Ron began to sell the very products his father’s factory produced in the flea markets on Maxwell street in Chicago.
By age 17, Popeil had amassed enough of a savings to move out on his own and setup a stand at the flagship Woolworth store in Chicago. He hawked his gadgets six days a week, twelve hours each day. Popeil’s stand became an attraction with hundreds of people spending their lunch hours every day watching Ron’s pitch.
In the early 1950’s after discovering the reach and power of the televised airwaves and their ability to beam his pitch into America’s living rooms, Ron created the first infomercial and commercials. Along with his partner at the time, Mel Korey, he produced the first minute long, black and white commercial for slightly over $500. The first television infomercial was for the Ronco Chop-o-Matic. It quickly spread nationally and made millions turning Popeil into a household name.
Some of Ron’s products included: The Chop-O-Matic, Mr. Microphone (the first Karaoke machine), the Popeil Pocket Fisherman, the Veg-o-Matic, the Buttoneer, the Smokeless Ashtray, Popeil’s Electric Food Dehydrator, the Inside-the-Egg Scrambler, GLH-9 (Great Looking Hair Formula #9) Hair in a Can Spray, Rhinestone stud setter (Later called the Bedazzler), the Cap Snaffler, the Popeil Automatic Pasta Maker, the Ronco Electric Food Dehydrator, the Ronco 6 Star Plus Knives, and the Showtime Rotisserie and BBQ. His product sales grossed in the billions and his media buys saturated American television for the better part of a century.
Popeil has been on more television channels for more hours in more markets for more years than virtually all other celebrities in American television history. Popeil’s sales format, pitch style, and catch phrases were almost immediately duplicated by dozens of other pitchmen. Most of the marketing sales on television today, and the “countdown pricing methods” are direct derivatives of Popeil’s works. The expression and branding “As Seen on TV” was first coined to describe Ron’s legendary success.
Many of the phrases and pitches Ron has used in his infomercials have become an inseparable part of America’s household and entertainment vernacular including: “Set it and Forget it”, “But wait, there’s more”, “Now how much would you pay?” and of course “Less Shipping and Handling”.
Popeil also helped build the brand QVC with exclusive packaging and airings, Popeil’s appearances consistently established new benchmarks for success in direct marketing on television. In 2000, Popeil broke worldwide sales records by selling over $1 million worth of his Showtime Rotisseries during a one-hour live airing on QVC television (selling approximately 150 units each minute to viewers).
Popeil’s has self-authored a biography, “Salesman of the Century”, and has authored pieces for nationally circulated publications including Time magazine. He was the featured subject of Malcolm Gladwell’s best seller “What the Dog Saw” as well as Gladwell’s profile in The New Yorker which won the National Magazine Award in 1999.
Popeil sold his company Ronco in 2005 but his programs continue to air to this day. He is currently in the final stages of developing yet another housewares invention, and at this writing is in the midst of producing yet another infomercial.
He currently lives with his wife Robin and his youngest two (of five) daughters in Beverly Hills, California.