November 15, 2015

Ron Popeil created the Veg-o-Matic and inspired the Bass-O-Matic (but didn’t say “It slices! It dices!”)

Ron Popeil, The Salesman of the CenturyWhen Ron Popeil titled his 1995 autobiographical book The Salesman of the Century it was not the kind of exaggeration used in the “As seen on TV” style of ads he pioneered.

Ron was born in New York City in 1935. He’s the son of inventor Samuel Popeil, creator of the Chop-o-Matic food chopper and its ultimately more famous offspring, the Veg-o-Matic food chopper and slicer.

Ron Popeil began his career in the 1950s, by selling those kitchen wonders and other gadgets invented by his father in live demonstrations at retail stores and county fairs.

By 1960 the Sam Popeil-coined name Veg-o-Matic was on its way to becoming a household word.

On November 15, 1960, the family received a trademark registration for it.

Ron helped take the Chop-o-Matic and Veg-o-Matic to the next level by appearing in early TV infomercials promoting them, using the same demonstration techniques and rapid-fire pitchman patter he had honed working for his father.

Contrary to what many people believe, he did not say “It slices! It dices!” in the Veg-o-Matic commercials. I always thought he did myself until I did some more research.

As Popeil adamantly stated in his biography and in interviews that book sparked, he never uttered the words “It slices! It dices!” in any ads.

"The only lines I used on TV about slicing and dicing,” he wrote in the book, “had to do with onions: ‘When slicing or dicing onions, the only tears you'll shed are tears of joy.’”

However, Popeil also noted that in some pitches and print ads the Veg-o-Matic was described as the product that “slices and dices and juliennes to perfection.”

And, at some point, the words “SLICES AND DICES” began being used on the Veg-o-Matic box. Moreover, many current online ads for the product, which is still being sold, say:

The Ronco Veg-o-Matic is the one kitchen appliance you'll wonder how you ever did without! It slices, it dices, and so much more!”

So there is a connection between the Veg-o-Matic and the famous marketing phrase. It’s not just a figment of our imaginations.

In 1964, Ron created the Ronco company and went on to even greater fame and fortune.

During the following two decades, he invented or licensed a long list of Ronco products and perfected the “As seen on TV” approach to marketing them.

Some of the Ronco TV ads featured Ron himself, such as the one for GLH (short for “Good Looking Hair”), the much-mocked colored spray designed to cover bald spots on men’s (or women’s) heads.

Other Ronco commercials were announcer voiceover style demonstrations, showing the ingenious aspects of products like the Ronco Bottle and Jar Cutter, the Buttoneer, the Smokeless Ashtray, Mr. Microphone, the Salad Spinner, and the Pocket Fisherman.

Popeil, his products and his marketing approach inspired many imitators. Some Ronco products, like the Veg-o-Matic, were also licensed and further promoted in TV commercials by K-Tel, another pioneering “As seen on TV” company.

His Veg-o-Matic ads also inspired one of the greatest Saturday Night Live TV ad spoofs of all: the ”Bass-O-Matic” sketch performed by Dan Aykroyd on Episode 17 of Season 1.

In addition, Popeil led the way for later infomercial pitchmen like Billy Mays and Anthony “Sully” Sullivan.

He may not have been “the greatest” salesman of the 20th Century. But he certainly was one of them.

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