Ads for the Asking

Although many television watchers often go for a beer or something to eat as soon as commercials flash on the screen, the giant J. Walter Thompson ad agency is betting that it can get viewers to pick up their telephones and ask for more spiels. Thompson has already persuaded 21 advertisers to display their products on a cable TV system in Peabody, Mass., in spots lasting from three to eight minutes. Nicknamed "infomercials," the ads are a cross between a sales pitch and an instruction manual. Oscar Mayer gives recipes for low-calorie meals, for example, while Genesco explains what to look...

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