Black Sheep of Advertising: Tom Vu

Another entry in my series on advertising’s classic “suck to success” stories (as Seth has termed it).

Tom Vu ruled the late night infomercials in the early 90’s by selling secrets of real estate fortunes from aboard his yacht, in his stately mansion, luxury cars, while surrounded by gorgeous bikini-clad babes.

Secret Sauce Revealed: This was a Diddy video for the real estate set (the original “Tea Partay”!) And with this simple set-up, Tom Vu embodied the immigrant-up-from-poverty, rags-to-riches American Dream. But note Tom’s clever exploitation of unmentionable American fears of immigrant success. His schoolyard taunts from his yacht are intentional and directed square at the middle masses, and most advertisers wouldn’t even dare go there. Frankly, I can’t hate on a dude getting paid off of deep-seated prejudices of foreign invaders hacking our American system, and getting richer than us.

Classic quotes from Tom:

“Are you man enough to get off your lazy American ass and go to Vu’s seminars?”

“A lot of your friends will tell you, ‘Don’t come to the seminar. It’s a get-rich-quick plan.’ Well, tell them, It is a get-rich-quick plan because life is too short to get rich slow.”

“There’s two kinds of work in America: hard work and smart work. Which one are you doing now?”

“This is not a country club! This is my house!”

“Today I’m gonna show you how to drive a sports car. First, you need a lot of money!”

“Don’t listen to your friends. They’re losers!”

“Do you think these girls like me? NO, they like my money!”

Tom Vu often told the story of how “three little words” inspired him to achieve his success. The 3 words were revealed only after you paid for and attended a day’s seminar. Those 3 magic words were: “Don’t Give Up”. Pearls of wisdom, indeed.