The Olympic Games can always be counted on to spur patriotism and add viewership. When Atlanta hosted the summer games in 1996, interest was at an all-time high. To capitalize on America’s Olympic fever, King World Direct, the direct-response division of the company behind long-running game shows Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, sold Olympic memorabilia alongside its programs. Hosts Alex Trebek and Pat Sajak pitched a selection of commemorative T-shirts, totes, and videos in spots at the ends of their programs, with Southern Calif.-based Motivational Fulfillment & Logistics Services handling payment and shipping.
In the early days of DR, the concept of calling in with credit card information was still new; the spots included a street address for those customers who preferred to send a check. But something about King World’s spots—a confusing call-to-action or just the viewer demographic—got many viewers to create a third payment option. “The first week they aired, we got our first credit card in the mail,” says Andrea Stuhley, now executive vice president of Motivational. “An actual credit card. We got a big kick out of it. We all laughed and thought, ‘Who could do this? How odd.’”
In the weeks that ensued, more credit cards showed up—almost 50 in all—and some included instructions from the buyers. “There were letters in there saying, ‘Can you use it and send it back to me? I need it to pay for dinner on Saturday night.’” Motivational tracked the senders back to spots aired during Wheel of Fortune. “It was something about the Wheel of Fortune demographic or the way they were pitching it that they just didn’t get it,” Stuhley says. “And it wasn’t just one person—it was dozens of people.”
Regardless, the campaign sold lots of Olympic memorabilia for King World and earned kudos for the fulfillment company. And after processing their orders, Motivational returned all of the credit cards to their rightful owners—maybe in time for dinner on Saturday night.