Self-Regulation SupERAchiever - Jeff Meltzer

Self-Regulation is at the very core of ERA’s mission. In fact, it’s the foundation by which the association was formed back in 1991. Meltzer Media Productions (MMP) was among those early members who looked to ERA to set the blueprint for what would, years later, become the Electronic Retailing Association Self-Regulation Program (ERSP).

MMP LogoSince the mid-’80s, Meltzer Media Productions (MMP) has produced over 2,000 DRTV and radio campaigns. These campaigns span every product category and all price ranges. The firm’s client list reads like a who’s who of the infomercial world, including Gaiam, WORX, Sharp Electronics, Patent Health and Time Warner, to name a few.

ERA asked Jeff Meltzer, CEO, to go on the record about self-regulation and how the association’s work with ERSP has made a dramatic difference in his business and has helped shine a more favorable light on the industry.

The Backstory

Jeff MeltzerIn 1985, Jeff Meltzer was just beginning his career in DRTV, producing the first-ever skin care infomercial called Love Your Skin-Chae Basics with Linda Chae. “There were no rules and regulations at the time,” notes Meltzer, CEO of Meltzer Media Productions. He describes the early days of direct response as the Wild, Wild West. “Ultimately, we went to a dermatologist who created the first skin regime. We then gave these products to women in Denver, Colo., explained how to use them, waited 30 days and then went back and filmed these women in before-and-after shots. Women were declaring that the skin care products had changed their life. And, it was a massive hit.”

At the same time, other infomercial products had hit the television airwaves, making outrageous claims. These products, according to Meltzer, were not on the level and far from being above board with their claims. This eventually caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, prompting regulators to sternly warn the entire direct response industry that it had better start regulating itself or they would step in and do it. From that admonishment came the formation of the National Infomercial Marketing Association (NIMA) in 1991, which would later be called ERA.

Meltzer and his company became a NIMA member at the very beginning, but would withdraw its membership during the late ’90s. At that point, Meltzer says he had forged relationships with just about every member company, and he had exhausted all of ERA’s resources. He felt the association was no longer a viable investment for his company.
   
Embracing ERA and Self-Regulation

What brought Meltzer Media Productions back to the organization? In the mid-2000s, “it was apparent that it was time to step back in and that’s really when my career exploded,” he says. Meltzer noticed ERA was undergoing a transformation and restructuring process, in which the industry was growing and so was the association. “I was now accessing big players in the industry. That put me in a whole other league.”

Yet, it wasn’t just about networking with A-list members. The association was working hard to change the public’s perception about the direct response industry by establishing the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP).

This opened the doors to industry veterans like Meltzer, who were helping to remove that stigma cast upon direct response since the early years by mentoring the next generation of ERA member companies and working together to affect change. What’s more, the organization attracted high-profile clients, who depended on the integrity and honesty of its recommended members. 

Legitimacy in the Industry

I’ve been involved in over 2,000 DR campaigns and I’ve never had a problem with the claims made in my shows,” he says. Meltzer explains that because he is kept abreast of the rules and regulations for claims and testimonials, his production team is able to keep DR campaigns in check. “Neither the government agencies nor ERSP have ever had a reason to contact my company,” he notes.

He attributes that to ERA’s Government Affairs efforts on Capitol Hill. Meltzer also credits the work by ERA’s VP of government affairs, Bill McClellan, as well as ERSP, under the direction of Peter Marinello. He stresses the importance of providing education sessions, webinars and live events like the Government Affairs Fly-In to update members on the new rules and regulations that are constantly changing. Meltzer himself has attended the annual GA Fly-In.

“Knowing that ERA has these things in place gives the legitimate players in the business peace of mind. As long as they stay informed and remain up to date with the regulations, they don’t have to worry about anybody knocking on their door, telling them to back down or change their infomercials altogether,” he says. “And having programs like ERSP not only keeps our industry clean, but also keeps consumer confidence up.”

For an industry veteran like Meltzer, that’s the greatest member benefit.

Learn more about Jeff Meltzer by watching his ERAtv interview here.