Who Are the Best TV Pitchmen of All Time?

But Wait, There’s More! The TV Pitchman’s Hall of Fame

Updated April 1, 2024 by Rachel Calvis, originally written by John Sammon Sr.

Anytime you’re at the local watering hole you’re sure to come across conversations about “the best” for any given category. For baseball, was it Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, the Mick, or maybe Reggie Jackson? Switch to basketball, and it might be between Michael, Kareem, and LeBron.

These “the best” debates have dragged on forever. We raise the challenge of whether you can compare people from different playing periods, question the steroid era, and consider the addition of the three-point shot. Whether the core subject is ever resolved or not, we continue to have these beer-infused arguments.

hall of fame

Recently, I was lost in thought when someone down the bar asked a question about TV salesmen. Who was the pitchman who always hit it out of the park?

Some names immediately came to mind, like Ron Popiel, the ShamWow guy, Billy Mays, and George Forman. What about the classic spokespersons from the golden age of television, like John Cameron Swayze telling us the Timex “takes a licking and keeps on ticking”? How about Ed McMahon and the Publishers Clearing House?

After much consternation, I have listed my top choices below.

1. Ron Popiel

Without question, famed pitchman Ron Popiel has to top the list. Founder of the company, Ronco, Popiel sold many of the kitchen gadgets invented by his father. You surely remember the Veg-O-Matic, even if only from parody – “It slices! It dices! It peels!” His commercials contain some of the more memorable pitchman lines like “All your onions chopped without shedding a tear” and “But wait, there’s more!” He made such an impact that his commercials are still seen on late-night television.

2. George Foreman

Yes, the man who gave a small, fat-reducing, indoor grill a name. What college student doesn’t leave for school or head to their first apartment without the “George”? George Foreman was a famed boxer known for a career that included Olympic Gold and the Heavyweight Boxing title. He continued to box well into his late forties, then turned his attention to salesmanship, having great commercial success.

While I will always remember him for his highly publicized fight against Muhammad Ali, “The Rumble in the Jungle,” many people will remember Foreman for his iconic grill. He actually made more money selling grills than he did during his boxing career!

3. Richard Simmons

He was the maestro of “Sweating to the Oldies,” but long before that Simmons graduated from high school weighing 268 pounds. After working as a maître d’ in a Los Angeles restaurant, he became interested in fitness. But none of the fad diets made sense to Simmons, so he opened a gym in Los Angeles called Slimmons catering to the overweight.

After developing a program for utilizing aerobics alongside a healthy diet, he moved his program to television with “Slim Cookin” and “The Richard Simmons Show.” Though now retired from public life, he still has a website that sells his cookbooks and audio/video library.

4. Billy Mays

Billy Mays could sell anything, and he did. He started his career in selling on the Boardwalk at Atlantic City. Most pitchmen are primarily associated with a single product, but not Mays. He sold over forty different products, though is probably best remembered for OxiClean, Orange Glo, Kaboom, and Zorbeez. Though Mays passed away in 2009, he’ll always be remembered for his stellar showmanship and stage presence.

5. Flo from Progressive

This one causes a love/hate relationship for me. Flo from Progressive started out as the endearing spokeswoman for an insurance company. She then added her co-worker Jamie to the cast. She pushed me over to the dark side when she introduced her family and her cousin. And while only representing a single product, Flo certainly has staying power. You see her every day. There are times I even see her in my sleep. I know, this one is a controversial choice.

6. Alex Trebek

Best known for his longstanding career as the host of TV’s Jeopardy!, Alex Trebek is also known for his slew of infomercials for the Colonial Penn Program, which is guaranteed whole life insurance.

With his strong spoken word and calm, authoritative demeanor, Alex Trebek is the perfect pitchman to convey an informational message, as well as build credibility for the Colonial Penn brand for over 25 years.

7. The Mayhem Guy

Since 2010, Allstate has successfully pitched insurance coverage through their creation of “Mayhem,” a persona who seems to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time. So, by the company creating commercials depicting various scenarios, such as car crashes, falling, and other types of accidents, they are reminding the viewer that, hey, coverage doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

What makes Mayhem an incredibly unique pitchman is that he is, technically, the face of the company, though what he is selling is protection from the “what if” factor that we all attempt to avoid in our everyday lives.

8. Anthony “Sully” Sullivan

After Billy Mays, there was Anthony “Sully” Sullivan. Best known for being the current face of OxiClean, Sully’s role has been to carry on the brand’s legacy with a strong and personable pitchman to relay the brand’s overall goals and initiatives.

With the online atmosphere drastically changing, it’s incredibly interesting to see brands (like OxiClean), adapt their online strategy to adhere to these changes! For example, the brand is doing its part to create vertical, short-firm content for social media, such as the video below.

9. The ShamWow Guy

Whoever thought they needed a glorified, heavy-duty dish towel in 2006? Well, thanks to Vince Offer, many of us were dying for the opportunity to see if the ShamWow lived up to its name. With Vince’s exceptional stage presence, mixed with an attention-grabbing name and product demo to show the towel in action, the ShamWow remains a notable 2000s item that we all can reminisce about.

10. Jake From State Farm

Alongside characters like Flo from Progressive and Mayhem from Allstate, Jake from State Farm was also created to encapsulate a pitchman persona through a laid-back and relatable character. Some may call it a subtle pitch, but these campaigns have since created such great success that new commercials are still being created to this day and the “Jake from State Farm” persona is constantly being reinvented for endless possibilities.

Honorable Mentions: Other Notable Famous TV Pitchmen

That is my list of top five TV pitchmen, but many other performers who’ve made serious careers of selling products on television.

Who are some runners-up? Here are a few people that might make the list. They are definitely worthy of an honorable mention:

  • Paul (“Can you hear me now?”)
  • Clara (“Where’s the beef?”)
  • Ed McMahon
  • Suzanne Somers
  • The Geiko Gecko
  • Peyton Manning
  • Tony Little
  • Tom Selleck
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Sixth City Marketing

This post was written and edited by employees at Sixth City Marketing, a full-service SEO and digital marketing agency helping clients across all industries since 2010.

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