How old is the classic formula for writing infomercials, long form direct response ads, presentations and sales letters?
I used to think the oldest examples could be found in US publications from the late 1800s.
Now I’m not so sure.
Here is a form-perfect sales presentation embedded in the opera L’Elisir d’Amore (”The Elixir of Love”) by Gaetano Donizetti which premiered in Milan, Italy way back in 1832.
Dr. Dulcamara arrives in town as an unknown, catches the villagers attention, establishes his credentials, lays out the problem, shows how his product solves the problem, and then shows what a great deal his solution is.
He creates a sense of scarcity and a time limit to buy; uses testimonials to back up his claims; and then, only after he establishes his product’s value, reveals its price in classic infomericial style which, following his well-crafted build up, appears like a great bargain.
The villagers clamor for the product and the buying frenzy begins.
Yeah, he’s a ham and the whole thing is way over the top. This is a comic opera after all, but his sales sequence is impeccable.
The music isn’t bad either!
Here’s a rough translation:
DULCAMARA: Signore! Signori! Good day dear friends! Come closer…can you all hear me? Now then, I reckon you’ve heard of me. That’s why you’ve turned out to cheer me. I’m doctor of posology and modern pharmacology, of medical essentials I’ve heaps of top credentials. I’ve cured so many terminal cases that I’m famous all over the world, and…and…in other places. As one who loves the human race, my philanthropic feeling requires my travelling place to place to share my gift of healing. I empty out the hospitals wherever I arrive. It’s Dulcamara’s magic cure that makes the patients thrive, and eases the diseases so that dying men survive. Without my skill the deathly ill would not still be alive!
For flatulence, anaemia, lock-jaw or septicaemia, this potion here will clear it up… (concocted in Bohemia) This tonic’s a salvation for chronic constipation, I have here testimonials in praise of what I’ve done.
Here’s one from a Bavarian, a male octogenarian, who bought my primal water… then sired a baby daughter by Charlotte, who’s a starlet, and has just turned twenty-one!
And since then he has sired another daughter and a son!
The water that he’s taken is certain to awaken the slumbering libido of old men in search of fun!
For ladies of a certain age with bottoms growing bigger…this potion, made from thyme and sage, restores your girlish figure.
Two spoonfuls of the liquor, you take each night with dinner.
In just a week, or quicker, you’ll look five kilos thinner.
There’s nothing like it anywhere. My friends, take my advice… because you’re all so nice, Ill give a special price!
As I’m the sole supplier, and stocks may soon expire, the limit’s ONE per buyer……unless you want it twice.
I’ve pills for disabilities, from dropsy to asthmatic wheeze, for every sniffle, cough and sneeze, I’ve remedies to stem disease.
And if your veins are varicose, the symptoms I can diagnose. I’d recommend a double dose of potions I suggest.
For gentlemen whose pates are bare, I’ve something here for loss of hair…applied for just a month, I swear, your thatch will match a grizzly bear. There’s nothing like it anywhere – you really have to try it. There’s nowhere else to buy it, from Paris to Trieste. I guarantee you won’t resent the paltry, piddling sum you’ve spent on hair restoring liniment – discovering you are blessed with shocks of locks that manifest – yes, more than you before possessed! The doctor always knows what’s best!
You’re convinced my potions cure you, but you’re looking apprehensive…you’re mistaken, I assure you, if you think that they’re expensive. Fifty lire? No. Thirty? No. Twenty? Some shops would charge you plenty! But for you, a proposition – I’ll discount my own commission and I’ll give away each bottle for ten lire – as a gift.
VILLAGERS: Just ten lire – what a bargain! What a sympathetic man…and honest too!
DULCAMARA: Here’s one more…this one’s stupendous! As a cure-all, it’s tremendous. Throughout Europe I have sold this to crowned heads and big-time spenders…but because my tour has ended, and you folks have been so splendid, it is yours for fifteen lire…twenty less than I intended. (to assistant) Gelsomina, sound the trumpet! So then nothing could be clearer..each one bought saves twenty lire…so the more you buy, then the more you are saving… buy two, and put one away. It’s the panacea so many are craving for syndromes unknown to most doctors today. Time has shown I know better than they!
VILLAGERS: If we profit when we buy it, then we’re fools if we don’t try it. What a wonderful preparation, this all-purpose medication. Doctor, we shall never forget you. We’re so lucky you came to town. We’re so honoured we met you…such a man of great renown.
DULCAMARA: Now, some say doctors may be greedy, but you’ll find I’m kind and fair. If I treat a patient who’s needy, I only charge what the poor beggar can bear.
VILLAGERS: A more kind, benevolent man you won’t find anywhere.
DULCAMARA: Ah! What I sacrifice, to relieve human suffering…my chief concern is in serving mankind.
VILLAGERS: A fairer man you’ll never find!