Billy Mays, Dies at Age 50 Billy Mays.

Billy Mays, renowned for his booming voice and dynamic sales pitches, became a household name through his infomercials promoting products like OxiClean, Zorbeez, and Mighty Putty. Born on July 20, 1958, in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, Mays discovered his niche in direct-response advertising after a brief stint in semi-professional football. His career took off on the Atlantic City boardwalk, where he learned the art of pitching products from seasoned salesmen.

What Led to Billy Mays’ Unexpected Death?

On the morning of June 28, 2009, Billy Mays was found unresponsive at his home in Tampa, Florida, and was pronounced dead by a fire rescue crew at 7:45 a.m. The cause of his death was initially unclear, though he had reported feeling unwell after a rough landing on a U.S. Airways flight the day before. During the flight, an object from the overhead compartment struck him on the head. Mays mentioned this incident in an interview, noting the severity of the hit but joking about his resilience. The medical examination to determine the exact cause of his death was scheduled for the days following his passing.

How Did Billy Mays Impact the Advertising World?

Billy Mays stood out in the advertising field for his straightforward, enthusiastic approach that hearkened back to earlier styles of product promotion. This method proved incredibly effective in a time when irony and subtlety had become prevalent in ads. Mays’ style connected with a broad audience, leading to over $1 billion in product sales alongside his colleague, Anthony Sullivan. The duo’s success was highlighted in their reality TV show “Pitchmen,” which aired on the Discovery Channel, further cementing Mays’ status as a leading figure in direct-response television.

What Was Unique About Mays’ Promotional Techniques?

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Mays’ promotional techniques relied heavily on his genuine belief in the products he sold. He often stated that the longevity of his career was due to the effectiveness of the products. His trademark enthusiasm and guarantee of quality helped build a trust-based relationship with his audience, making his pitches more than just sales talks—they were assurances backed by his personal integrity.

How Did Billy Mays Engage with Modern Media Trends?

In an era dominated by digital media, Mays adapted by participating in self-parodying advertisements and embracing internet culture. He starred in ads that played on his infomercial fame, including promotions for brands like and DC Shoes. This adaptability showed his understanding of changing advertising dynamics and his ability to engage with a new generation of consumers through humor and self-awareness.

What Was the Impact of Mays’ Death on the Industry?

Billy Mays’ death marked the end of an era for direct-response advertising. His passing was felt deeply by fans and colleagues alike, who remembered him not only for his pitches but also for his charismatic and generous nature. Anthony Sullivan, his co-star on “Pitchmen,” expressed profound loss, highlighting Mays’ role as both a friend and a monumental figure in the advertising world. The industry had to adjust to the absence of one of its most iconic figures, whose methods and personality had left an indelible mark on the way products were sold on television.


Billy Mays’ legacy as a pitchman is characterized by his distinctive style, his ability to sell products effectively, and his adaptability to media trends. His untimely death brought to light the significant impact he had on direct-response advertising and his role in shaping consumer culture. Mays’ influence persists in the industry, a testament to his skill and passion for his work.

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