NL informercial firm takes a spin with 'Real Housewives'

Mercedes McCoy, left, touches-up Kristen Taekman's make-up before Taekman, a model and star of the reality TV series
Mercedes McCoy, left, touches-up Kristen Taekman's make-up before Taekman, a model and star of the reality TV series "Real Housewives of New York City," films an infomercial at National Media Connection in New London Tuesday, May 12, 2015. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

New London — "Real Housewives of New York" regular Kristen Taekman had been reading lines for a couple of hours under the lights in a small studio at downtown advertising-production firm National Media Connection when she hit a rough patch and had to stifle a yawn.

"Do you want to take a nap?" said infomercial director Hank Tenney, a vice president of the firm, with a note of concern. "Seriously, you want to put your feet up for a while?"

"No, I'm good," said Taekman with a good-humored smile, soldiering on for a couple of more hours before catching an afternoon train back to New York City.

Taekman, a slender former teen model in her second season on "Real Housewives," has added some pizzazz to National Media Connection's latest ad campaign for Loan Depot that started airing Thursday, only a little over a month after her visit to New London.

For Matt Goldreich, National Media Connection's president and chief executive, a quick turnaround is part of his formula for success. Less complicated productions have been completed in as little as three days, he said, compared with most other companies' lead times of three to six months.

"We tend to be more turnkey than most companies," Goldreich said.

That's because Goldreich charges nothing up front for his company's video advertisements, figuring to make a profit on a per-call charge he receives for those who respond to the infomercial. Goldreich makes all the arrangements for talent, shoots and edits the ad in his eight-person office, and even takes care of all the network placements.

In the case of Taekman, Loan Depot made the call to hire the reality star, a married mother of two who plays a relatively minor roll in the television series and is not one of the more controversial figures. As Taekman tells it, there are actually only two married women featured in the series because several others are going through breakups or have divorced.

Taekman, taking a lunch break in National Media Connection's conference room with agent Tina Kiniry of John Casablancas modeling and acting agency in Rocky Hill, said she was a fan of "Real Housewives" even before being spotted during a party scene and asked to audition. She enjoys watching people's lives on screen and sees reality TV as a kind of therapy.

"It's really easy to act natural when you have a camera following you five days a week for five months," said Taekman, a Farmington native now living in Manhattan. "I think people like the New York franchise because it's so different from the way people in other parts of the country live."

Taekman's life includes the recent launch of her own line of nail polish, appearing occasionally as a guest host on the "Better Connecticut" television show with Scot Haney on WFSB and doing various modeling gigs, but this is her first infomercial.

"I think it's a perfect location," Taekman said of the National Media Connection office a short walk from the downtown train station.

Taekman is the host of the Loan Depot informercial, which is being done in two 14-minute consecutive segments to fill the typical half-hour time slot. Her audition consisted of reading a few lines into her iPhone.

"I could see she had a good voice, which was important," Goldreich said. "And she had a nice on-camera presence."

Tenney, the director, said he had some trepidation about casting Taekman because she had no background in acting, but he felt she came across well — beautiful, warm, approachable, with a touch of innocence yet projecting a serious air.

"Commercial acting is a different form of acting, and not everyone can do it well," said Tenney, who did the commercial's voice overs. "I think she handled herself quite well, quite professionally."

Of course, for National Media Connection the proof is in making phones chime for his clients, and Goldreich said Thursday that the jury was still out on whether the infomercial was going to work. An early airing produced few calls, but a later spot on another network seemed more promising.

"People respond to emotion and justify with logic," Goldreich said. "We're very good at making the phones ring."

l.howard@theday.com

Twitter: @KingstonLeeHow

Director Hank Tenney, right, gives instructions to Kristen Taekman, a model and star of the reality TV series
Director Hank Tenney, right, gives instructions to Kristen Taekman, a model and star of the reality TV series "Real Housewives of New York City," as cameraman Ed Noyes starts the camera during the filming of an infomercial at National Media Connection in New London Tuesday, May 12, 2015. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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