New products are also on the agenda, and Scherer came up with an idea for one of them in an especially odd way. Upon becoming a victim of identity theft committed by a former employee, he went public about his experiences even as his staff was whipping up identity-theft-prevention software and a tutorial about how to use it. His other causes include supporting troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. The company sends free discs to any soldier stationed there who requests them, and it built a computer lab at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where many of the most gravely wounded are treated. Scherer, who was once in the Army, preaches about the need for corporations to use their resources to help vets -- a point he's driven home during cameos on Fox News alongside personalities Tony Snow and Neil Cavuto.
Appearances such as these have the side effect of introducing Video Professor to people who are awake during the day, as do alternative marketing schemes like the Sundance Festival stopover and a previous one at the Country Music Association Awards, where VP's booth drew the notice of the Wall Street Journal. (Last December, a photo of Grammy winner Alison Krauss holding up a Video Professor box adorned the front of the Journal's business section.) But for Scherer, nothing can top being needled by Jay Leno in a monologue on the Tonight show. During one commercial, Scherer had held up handwritten letters from contented customers, and Leno wanted to know why people who'd supposedly learned how to use computers were resorting to pens.
In another kind of exposure, the Denver Post's Bill Husted supplemented an item about Video Professor's purchase of Tillie the dummy with a note that Scherer had been at an adjacent table during a Husted visit to the Diamond Cabaret steak-and-strip joint. If this revelation bothered him, he hasn't let on to Olson, who points out that Scherer is "all grown up" -- and single, too. His closest companion is his yellow lab, Payson, named for a town in Arizona; Scherer spends extended stretches in the state. "He's a great dog," he reports, "but he's allergic to everything."
For his part, Scherer is mainly sensitive to criticism. Knowing that the Ben E. Bradys of the world are out there denigrating him at this very moment visibly upsets him. "You become successful and people want to take potshots against you," he grumbles. But he brightens at the thought of his increasing notoriety, even if it cuts in on his privacy.
"I can go to the store, but if I do, everyone will say, 'You're the guy on TV,'" he says. "At the dry cleaner's the other day, they did the same thing. But that's not bad. That tells us we're there; we've penetrated the market. If we're a household name, we've done something right."