Meet the CMOs: Comcast’s Lang oversees campaigns that target rivals, push mobile and home security

This is an entry in our new “Meet the CMOs” feature that will look at the top marketing executives in the nation’s biggest telecom companies. These executives oversee multi-million dollar advertising budgets and are charged with raising their company’s brand profile. 

CMO: Rick Lang 

Bio: A 30-year veteran of the cable industry, Lang was appointed to Comcast Cable’s top advertising-marketing position in July of last year. Lang joined Comcast in 2003 from Charter Communications and has also worked for Cable One. According to his Comcast bio, he now oversees the Comcast Cable’s “contribution to consumer revenue and market growth.” 

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How much money does the company spend on advertising? According to Kantar Media, Comcast spent $1.814 billion on advertising in 2016, down from $1.876 billion in 2015.

What’s the company’s marketing message? It’s worth noting that, outside of identifying who is actually in charge of the advertising strategy for its cable division, Comcast provided no further information on its advertising efforts. Anecdotally speaking, however, the company’s campaigns recently all focus on denigrating over-builders. Notable are a series of humorous TV ads themed, sort of Weird Al Yankovic-style, around ‘80s hits, targeting the satellite TV industry. “Kiss Your Shows Goodbye,” for example, is set to the music of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time,” with satellite-dish-holding dancers moving through heavy rain to the lyrics, “If there’s snow or high winds, or even hail, no shows tonight.” Other campaigns have targeted Verizon FiOS with superior speed claims. 

Comcast is also spending aggressively as it seeks to capture a portion of the $13 billion home security and automation business. Among myriad TV spots is this one that shows a couple monitoring bear activity outside their home with their smart phones. 

Meanwhile, the aggressive growth of Comcast’s X1 video platform—which is now deployed across 52% of Comcast’s footprint—has been fueled, in part, by several TV campaigns. Notably, despite its $300 million investment into customer service improvements, Comcast doesn’t seem to have embarked on the same kind of customer service-focused campaign as, say, Dish’s “Spokeslistener.” 

What’s the company’s advertising strategy? Comcast declined to provide any insight into its strategy, though it’s fair to say the company leverages a variety of marketing channels to get its message across.

Interestingly, Comcast also cited the promotional power of its NBCUniversal’s broadcast and cable TV programming as something it could leverage as part of its launch of its new Xfinity Mobile service. 

Comcast, like all cable companies, buys regionally. Thus, there’s no need for Comcast to advertise in big markets like Los Angeles and New York, which are not in the multiple-system operator's footprint.

Is the company’s advertising successful? In the first quarter, Comcast’s cable division revenue was up 5.8% to $12.9 billion, with video subscribers increasing by 42,000 and high-speed internet users up 429,000. Comcast says it now has 1 million home security/automation customers. And the uptick in X1 users—and increased customer satisfaction associated with that platform—has led to reduced churn for 11 straight quarters. So yes, Comcast seems to be getting a decent ROI from its ad spending.

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