The Transforma Ladder was the pinnacle of infomercial innovation

Lucy Zee counts the many ways the Transforma Ladder infomercial impressed audiences everywhere, from its multitude of uses to its dapper salesman. 

Imagine you’re a kid, home alone, feeling smug because you managed to convince your parents that you were too sick to go to school today. Jokes on you, because your brother locked the PlayStation in his room and your 6-in-1 Brick Game is dead. All you have left is the TV – no Sky, we’re not made of money!

You locate the remote – no not that remote, that’s the remote for the stereo – and you flick on the box. You just missed Blues Clues (gutted) and caught the tail end of Barney and now all there is to watch is infomercials. The Magic Bullet, the Ab-Flex, Natural Glow, Magne Sleep…

It’s enough to lull you back to sleep, until you hear a fresh voice cut through all the American and English accents of the past hour:

“Most jobs require more than one size ladder.”

Enter one of the most hypnotic infomercials, one that tried so desperately to sell you a product you know you will never need to buy. It opens with a boom, an illuminated ladder appears and spins with futuristic, sci-fi sound effects. Just like a Digimon, it transforms into something quite spectacular.   

A ladder that changes into 24 different sizes. No one predicted this was to be the pinnacle of building and DIY hardware. The dad-bod host drags a ladder out of the backseat of a car and proceeds to spend the next minute explaining the ladder to us. Unlike most ladders, this one is “telescopic”. It’s also four ladders in one. Sounds great right?

There’s also NO spreader bar, perfect for all those wanting to ruin a superstitious person’s day by walking straight under with no interference.

The ladder also is a gateway to an alternate reality where your world is perfectly mirrored, even down to your bootcut jeans!

During this part, he says “four hands are better than two. Two MEN on the ladder that is.”

The emphasis on MEN in this part is quite possibly an attempt at humour? But it’s delivered in such a rehearsed way, you might completely miss it. Not only can this ladder transform, it is also sexist, exclusionary and anti-feminist.

The host proceeds to wank on about how great the ladder is, how you can get into tight spots, how big it can get and how long it can go. The ladder is starting to sound like a lot like a fuckboy. This ladder also rescues cats trying to run away from its paranormal sexism.

It’s around the 1:48 mark that he says something startling: the ladder can reach the second level of a two-storey structure. “Great for getting those colour TVs out.” If I heard him correctly, this ad is actually encouraging people to invade and rob other people’s homes.

He then acts like he’s hasn’t said anything out of the ordinary, and goes on to talk about the flare of the bottom and rubber feet. I’m not exactly sure if he’s talking about the ladder or his outfit here.

Then in some blink and you’ll miss it, flick of the wrist TV-host magic, he turns the ladder into TWO ladders. I believe these to be the dark arts of scaffolding.

We’re about at the halfway point now of this five minute infomercial and there’s no going back. The host brings out what he says is like “an oversized cheese grater.” If this cold steel item doesn’t give you sci-fi horror chills, I don’t know what will.  

Turns out, it’s a little foot platform to show off the weird hem of your jeans and surprisingly high-heeled boots.

Now here comes the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The cup of tea.

Let me ruin this part for you too. He presents the ledge and says “...for your cup of tea. Or that’s what they think is in there anyway.”

If the high-heeled I’m-going-clubbing-in-town-tonight-before-I-end-up-at-Showgirls boots weren’t already an OSH safety hazard, your man is also DRINKING ON THE JOB.

If you’re as suspicious of this ladder as I am, you have good reason. In 2015 the company was fined $153,000 for falsely advertising the maximum weight that the ladder could handle. In the infomercial and the product itself, it claims to be able to handle a load of 180kg. One statement read “the ladder became deformed during testing and the testing had to be abandoned.” Yikes.

If that isn’t enough to put you off buying one, the Transforma ladder costs about $800, compared to the average cost of $250 for almost identical ladders currently on the market.

Now I want you to think about what I’ve shown you today. I’ve shown you not one really weird ladder infomercial, but 24 reasons not to buy this ladder in one compact, portable, easy to read article. Plus: it’s a perfect place for your cup of tea.


This content, like all television coverage we do at The Spinoff, is brought to you thanks to the excellent folk at Lightbox. Do us and yourself a favour by clicking here to start a FREE 30 day trial of this truly wonderful service.

The Spinoff Longform Fund is dedicated to facilitating investigative journalism. Our focus is on supporting in-depth reporting on important New Zealand stories. Your donation will help us sustain this most resource-intensive form of journalism, ensuring that the most complex and important stories still get told.

Related:


The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.