In 1964 a gadget inventor and salesman named Ron Popeil started a company named Ronco and became instrumental in creating the television infomercial industry in the U.S. Poised between superficial talk shows and the strident tones of Madison Avenue, the half-hour ads originally existed in a kind of television netherworld--shown only late at night after most consumers had gone to bed. By 1995, however, infomercials were no longer limited to appliances such as Veg-O-Matics and the Ronco food dehydrator. Their products ranged from high-priced Barbie dolls to citrus fruit, from skin- and hair-care products to diet regimens, and from investment advice to methods for improving interpersonal relationships.
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