DirecTV ditches Rob Lowe ad campaign that helped drive sub growth by 60%

DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV) is shelving its highly successful TV advertising campaign starring actor Rob Lowe after the advertising industry's self-regulatory body sided with a Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) complaint regarding the campaign's claims.

DirecTV, which is appealing the decision by the National Advertising Division, is admitting that the ruling caused it to pull the Lowe ads. But it is immediately switching over to a new campaign featuring Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Hannah Davis.

In case you've been on an Antarctic expedition or in deep space for the past six months, DirecTV ran a series of national TV commercials, each featuring Rob Lowe playing two characters: One was always the dapper actor himself, entertaining guests with DirecTV; the other was his creepy alter-ego, watching cable in a shabby apartment.

Comcast challenged the validity of DirecTV's various claims of superiority.

"NAD determined that a reasonable takeaway from the 'Creepy Rob Lowe' commercial was that DirecTV has better signal reliability than cable, that the 'Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe Commercial' conveyed the message that DirecTV has shorter customer service wait times than cable and that the 'Far Less Attractive Rob Lowe' commercial made an implied claim that DirecTV has better picture and sound quality than cable," the group said. "Given the absence in the record of supporting evidence, NAD recommended the advertiser discontinue the claims."

DirecTV accused Comcast and the NAD of lacking a sense of humor, responding that "the various Rob Lowe advertisements are so outlandish and exaggerated that no reasonable consumer would believe that the statements being made by the alter-ego characters are comparative or need to be substantiated."

The satellite operator's subscriber data presents a picture of success for the campaign, with U.S. customer additions up 60 percent in the fourth quarter to 149,000.

Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Jon Gieselman, DirecTV's senior VP of marketing, acknowledged that the pay-TV game has shifted from the simple tug-of-war between satellite and cable that was played out over the last decade.

"The category is not growing," he said. "People are leaving pay TV. It's a share shifting challenge. We're trying to steal one another's customers."

For more:
- see this Ars Technica story
- see this Deadline Hollywood story
- see this Los Angeles Times story
- see this National Advertising Division press release

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