THIS IS WHERE THE SPORTS coat comes in. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of his shouting ads or the “that’s not all” $19.99 products he pitches, by now you undoubtedly know the Mays brand. That’s because Billy Mays can sell himself too. On Pitchmen, viewers are able to see the painstaking process Mays goes through to evaluate the products he pitches. After a decade of selling on TV, he doesn’t want to risk his reputation on some flimsy piece of plastic with a catchy name.
And now, Mays wants to parlay his personal brand into endorsements for more substantial products. An old, established, and trusted brand like Arm & Hammer is a good start, but it’s also safe. What’s riskier is his backing of iCan Benefit Group’s health insurance. Health insurance? From this loudmouthed pitchman, who, in the words of one comedian, looks like “he drew his beard on with a Sharpie”? Is it possible that people trust Mays with their personal well-being now? Evidently, yes -- a fact that sometimes surprises even Mays.
“A couple came up to me a few weeks ago, and the husband had lost his job,” Mays says. “They got insurance through iCan just before the husband was diagnosed with cancer, and they said if it wasn’t for my telling them to get insurance, they wouldn’t have been covered. It just stunned me. That’s been the most humbling experience.”
The gravity of the subject matter inspired Mays to get a little more serious in the most recent iCan commercials, in which he even dons a blazer -- the first time he has ever been dressed up on TV.
“It was a big step to cross over from dicers and cleaning products to people trusting me with their health,” Mays says. “I mean, Oxi-Clean is probably my biggest product, but I don’t think OxiClean has ever saved someone’s life. Maybe it has saved someone’s butt because they had a stain on the carpet, but not their life.”
Still, Mays isn’t sure exactly what will come next for him. He’s not turning away cleaners and choppers by any means, but he does think he’s been successful enough at selling the Billy Mays brand that he can use it for some greater good. Not convinced? Here’s his pitch: “I’m not that guy on TV,” he says. “Well, I am that guy, but that’s not who I really am. I’m a sensitive guy, and I have an opportunity now. I’m not going to let other people who may have a problem with me -- the way I pitch -- deter me, because I have a lot to give and a lot to do yet in my life. I think there is a bigger platform out there for me now.”
So the question is, who wants to be the first buyer?