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Bad Girls Do Good for Home Shopping Nets

2/20/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Fans of MTV’s hit Jersey Shore
know who “Crocodilly” is.

The stuffed toy crocodile is one of
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi’s many bedmates
on the reality show. Last fall, HSN viewers
were introduced to Crocodilly, the big and
small versions, when Polizzi appeared on
the home-shopping network to hawk a
variety of products.

“This is like my best friend, and it had a
child,” Polizzi said of the plush toy.

The large Crocodilly, $35, and the small
one, $20, both flew out the door, as did her
perfume, signature sunglasses and purses.

NO MORE BLAND

“We were thrilled,” Bill Brand, HSN’s executive
vice president of programming, marketing and
business development, said in an email. “During
the two hours she was on air in November,
she sold out of her fragrance and most of her
collection, nine sellouts in all, and beyond that,
it made for fun, entertaining and compelling
programming.”

Back in the day, home shopping networks
were ridiculed for having bland hosts and
vendors selling the most banal merchandise.

Times have changed.

Polizzi — known for going commando,
flashing folks at clubs and “smushing” tanned
muscle heads — is a bad girl who did good
for HSN.

And she’s not the only one.

The No. 2 home-shopping network’s roster
now includes Loree Rodkin, whose
edgy, pricey goth jewelry is favored by celebrities;
pop star Mariah Carey, who has a
reputation as a demanding diva; and two
controversy-stirring cast members from Bravo’s
The Real Housewives of New York City,
Ramona Singer and Jill Zarin.

The dominant home-shopping network,
QVC, isn’t playing it safe with vendors, either.
Most recently, it has partnered with Wendy
Williams, the flamboyant, wig-wearing host
of The Wendy Williams Show. This month
Williams launched an accessory line, called
Adorn, on QVC.

“It’s very difficult not to shout from the
moon, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m going to be on the Q,’ ”
Williams told QVC host Lisa Robertson during
her first appearance on the network.

QVC, the dominant electronic retailer, pioneered
featuring “bad girl” vendors when it
put acerbic comedian Joan Rivers on the air
with her own line of fashion jewelry 20 years
ago. The collection has been a huge success,
generating an estimated $800 million in sales.

“QVC has always worked with strong and
confident personalities with whom our viewers
can connect and relate,” Doug Rose, QVC
senior vice president of multichannel programming
and marketing, said in an email. “We sell
unique and progressive products you can’t find
anywhere else, and we also entertain and engage
our customers like few retailers can do.”

More recently, QVC has fashion lines from
the Kardashian sisters, led by Kim, whose
brief marriage to Kris Humphries of the National
Basketball Association’s New Jersey
Nets sparked a backlash against her and her
mom Kris Jenner, who also has a QVC line.

“We work with vendors who not only offer
quality, one-of-a-kind products, but who also
inspire our viewers through their creativity,
individualism, and the struggles and triumphs
they’ve gone through to get to where
they are today,” Rose said.

To hear Brand tell it, Polizzi was a nat ural
for home shopping.

“HSN is a tremendous supporter of women
and entrepreneurs in general, so when we
learned that Snooki was launching a new signature
fragrance and other gift-able items during
the holidays, we were intrigued,” Brand said.

“In contrast to how some may view her
based upon the persona she portrays on Jersey
Shore
, Nicole as an enterprising entrepreneur
was very impressive,” he said. “She
was smart, passionate, very engaged in the
development of her fragrance and we immediately
knew she would be a perfect, fun,
holiday surprise for our customers … Nicole
was fantastic on-air and was able to connect
with our audiences.”

Rodkin’s jewelry creations are as different
from the network’s cubic zirconia Absolute
line as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s
punk investigator Lisbeth Salander is from
Nancy Drew.

“It speaks to how far HSN has come in its
evolution as a destination for great jewelry,”
Brand said. “Our customers are always looking
for designs that are unique and different
than what they’ve seen before and they loved
the big and bold items that we showed them
when Loree debuted on HSN.”

Courting controversial “bad girls” has its
risks.

Last summer, QVC pulled the plug on a
scheduled appearance by Jane Fonda, who
was hawking her book Prime Time, when angry
viewers complained, citing the actress’s
actions during the Vietnam War.

And edited, mocking video clips of the HSN
appearances of Carey and Liza Minnelli, who
slumped and slurred her words, went viral.

SNOOKI’S SLIPPERS

Celebrities such as Polizzi, Carey and Minnelli
are all part of HSN’s strategy to lure new
customers and drive sales with unique products,
according to Brand, through long-term
partnerships or one-time events.

The special events “are more about entertaining
our audiences with great content
and fun items that allow the audience to own
a piece of a pop-culture icon, whether it is
Snooki’s fuzzy slippers or Liza’s sequin-covered
jacket,” Brand said.

Polizzi’s appearance was “a great opportunity
to not take ourselves so seriously and
present our customers with a unique, entertaining
two-hour primetime special that
would be fun,” according to Brand.

“And the success of her launch speaks for
itself,” he said.

HSN seemed undaunted by those viral
videos of Carey.

“The buzz that is generated whenever
Mariah is on HSN is unbelievable. But at the
end of the day, it’s about converting that buzz
and that interest into sales and this is what
we are focused on,” Brand said.

September