Here’s a Smart Tape Trick: Dial 411

When titles like ‘The Well-Dressed Man’s Guide to Five Classic Tie Knots’ need exposure, producers call on niche specialist Leslie McClure.

April 16, 1995|Donald Liebenson, Donald Liebenson is a Chicago-based free-lancer who writes about home video

When the staff of “The Late Show With David Letterman” wants one-of-a-kind titles for “Dave’s Video Collection,” they dial 411–as in 411 Video Information, a Pebble Beach, Calif.-based marketing and consulting firm for special-interest video producers.

Titles such as the “The Ottoman,” “Business Networking Made Easy” and “Actors at Work: Getting the Part” may be amusing to Dave, but somewhere out there are aspiring upholsterers, business people or thespians who did know these videos existed.

Leslie McClure, 411 Video’s president, is responsible for this not-so-stupid marketing trick, and it has helped to make her a patron saint of special-interest and instructional videos.

The Special Interest Video Assn. reports that consumers spent $925 million on special-interest videos last year, up from $849 million the previous year.

Awareness of this market has never been higher, said SIVA’s president and executive director, Paul Caravatt, thanks in part to direct response, catalogues and infomercials.

But in the hit-driven video industry, independent producers without studio or distribution muscle behind them face the challenge of getting their product noticed in the commercial marketplace. What chance does “French Braiding Made Easy” have against “The Lion King”?

Calling McClure’s 411 is one way for independent producers to tap into this burgeoning market. The 11-year industry veteran has found her niche by “helping independent producers reach consumers they couldn’t reach on their own, by generating publicity that gives a title credibility.”

“French Braiding,” for example, is a 15-minute video made by a flight attendant who thought others would appreciate tips on how to keep their hair off their face as per airline regulations.

It was difficult persuading distributors, librarians, retailers and catalogue houses to carry the tape until McClure helped get it reviewed in People magazine. Nearly 3,000 copies were sold in about four weeks.

Current events can create unlikely bestsellers. The trial of O.J. Simpson “has put law videos on the map,” McClure said. “Understanding the Child Witness” and “How to Give a Good Deposition and How to Testify Well in Court” became hot items after a tabloid show used clips in a story on how attorneys prepare witnesses for the stand.

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