I Hate Billy Mays

(Update on 6-28-09 — Today Billy Mays was found dead in his Florida home.  My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.)

You know, the guy on TV who yells at you as he sells those amazing products that are NOT AVAILABLE IN STORES!  It started with that silly shammy (But they hold all that water!), or was it Oxy Clean?  And now, OMG, drills, window cleaner, wall hangers, health insurance and that garden drill-thing I have no idea what it does.  His latest product and most poignant expression of the absurdity that is Billy Mays?  The five burger slider cooker.

I don’t hate Billy Mays because his commercials are the most obnoxious on TV or, arguably, the most grating in a decade.  I don’t hate Billy Mays because the claims he makes are over the top.  I hate Billy Mays because I imagine him “laughing all the way to the bank” as we marketers toil away in the belief that presenting the benefits of our clients’ products and services in ways that are consistent with buyers’ expectations is the right thing to do.

Maybe Billy isn’t such a bad guy after all.  Maybe I was just jealous.  Maybe we can learn from him:

  • Like your message has to cut through the clutter to be heard.  Maybe we don’t yell, but you’re right Billy, we have to find a way to cut through.
  • Like you have to demonstrate the benefits.  Bang, bang, bang.  Don’t get to esoteric or ramble.  Simple and direct.  Okay Billy, good point, thanks.
  • And you have to give people an incentive to act.  Yep, right again Billy.

I guess I don’t hate Billy Mays after all.  In fact, I’m growing to appreciate him.  After all, he has become a cultural icon, just check out YouTube (parodies and remixes!):


And clearly the biggest compliment of all, parodies:


And a promo by his production company (With the bi-line “Television you cannot ignore,” which tells me they are smarter than we think):

11 thoughts on “I Hate Billy Mays

  1. bonnie vaillancourt

    my husband laughed as i hit the mute button on one of billy’s commercials. i told him “you don’t yell at me, i’ll be damned if this asshole is gonna come in my house and yell at me!!!!”

  2. Sick of Billy Mays

    Ship this moron out of the country.
    I will not buy any product endorsed by
    him, Antony Sullivan or John Scherer.
    There are a few others too but I have gone far enough for now.
    There a lot of things I would like to do to these guys but it would not be appropiate to post them here.

  3. hamilton Post author

    Ah, the poetry of your first sentence. Yet, he moves product! Not the way you or I would, but he moves it nonetheless. I do my best to learn from everything and he has much to teach.

  4. Richard Cranium

    will never – ever buy anything Billy Mays trys to sell
    dont care if it was free…..

    i have to turn channel any time he is on ..

    who would be so dumb as to have him sell a product for them ??
    i guess just crappy product companys ! !

  5. hamilton Post author

    Richard, isn’t it funny, no, annoying, to realize how many annoying commercials seem to hang around? Which, by the way, means they’re working. Billy Mays could be the poster boy for The Annoying Strategy, but Vince with sham-wow isn’t far behind (at least Vince doesn’t yell). The first job of a marketer is to cut through all the clutter. Mays certainly accomplished that, whether you agreed with him tactic or not.

  6. David

    What say ye now folks? I too could not stand the yelling, but now I might just miss it. Go figure…

    Liked him or not, he SOLD product. One of, or THE, best in his field.

  7. Alexander Dombroff

    I saw an infomercial last night for Oxi Clean! and reminded me how much I miss him!

  8. Alexander Dombroff

    Mike Tyson is such a jerk! Did you see him on Oprah last month, it was totally ridiculous

  9. Mollie

    Okay, when are the airways going to be free of the obnoxious Billy Mays, who I hate so much? His commercials are on just as much now as before he died. When will he go away? Isn’t there some kind of rule that after the spokesperson dies, you don’t play his or her commercials anymore? Honestly, enough is enough!

  10. hamilton Post author

    Actually, there is hope. His spots will slowly fade as the response fades. Just as the market isn’t judgmental (regardless of taste, if it sells product, it runs), it also isn’t sentimental (the day they stop making money on those spots they’ll pull them).

    Your patience will be rewarded. . .

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