Ron Popeil – Grandfather of the TV Sales Pitch

Ron Popeil TV PitchmanThe name may not be one you remember, but there is no doubt that you have heard of some of the gadgets and items that he has sold. Every television pitchman owes something to Ronald M. Popeil, because he initiated the craft and made it into a finely oiled machine.

You may have heard of the “Pocket Fisherman,” “Dial-O-Matic,” “Electric Food Dehydrator,” and many more. If you don’t remember those names, you might recall “Ronco,” the company founded by Popeil where all the nifty utensils came from.

Ron Popeil learned his trade from his father Samuel who worked carnies and sold items that he invented. The Pocket Fisherman was actually invented by Samuel, as were the Chop-O-Matic and the Veg-O-Matic.

The choppers were so efficient that traveling salesmen couldn’t keep enough vegetables to chop up in demonstrations. This spurred Ron to get into television because the taped commercial could be seen repeatedly without the need of salesmen to do the demonstrations in person.

Popeil’s delivery was different from the calm and subdued sales of most of the television fare in the mid 1950’s. The rapid fire was something that people were more familiar with who went to county fairs and carnivals. Of course, he got his training from his father’s experience in fast-talking to people who were hurrying to pass.

Some of the phrases that Ron coined or became famous for were:

  • But wait, there’s more!
  • Just set it and forget it. (the Showtime Rotisserie)
  • Broadcast your voice on any FM radio. (Mr. Microphone)
  • The biggest fishing invention since the hook, and still only $19.95! (Popeil Pocket Fisherman)

Ron was given the lg Nobel Prize in 1993 because of his contribution to the industrial revolution through his and his father’s inventions. These awards began in 1991 as a parody of the Nobel Prizes. They are given for the 10 achievements that “first make people laugh and then make them think.”

Ron wasn’t ready to give up his pitchman status until 2005, when he sold his beloved Ronco for $55 million. You might think he’s out there somewhere coming up with the next kitchen gadget that everyone will have to have.

Ron retired because he wanted to spend more time with his family in California where he resides with his wife and two of his five daughters.