Fans of the man who played an unforgettable sax solo in “St. Elmo’s Fire” have reason to lament today. After a business watchdog group cried foul about some of its claims, DirecTV has eighty-sixed its Rob Lowe ad campaign.
The campaign, which featured a suave Lowe purchasing DirecTV as various lesser versions of Lowe went for cable, was the perfect ironic pitch for a digital service in a rapidly changing television market. Featuring Lowe alter-egos such as “Creepy Rob Lowe” and “Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe,” it was funny. It was shareable. It starred an actor beloved by baby boomers and Generation X for his turns in “The Outsiders” and “About Last Night” — and by millennials for his appearances in “Parks and Recreation.” And Lowe had “completely gotten into the characters,” according to a DirecTV executive.
But Comcast — a DirecTV competitor if there ever was one — said the claims made in the ads weren’t quite true, as the Los Angeles Times reported. The National Advertising Division (NAD), a part of the Council of Better Business Bureaus that keeps an eye on truth in advertising, said Comcast challenged the following DirecTV claims made via Lowe:
- “With DirecTV you get 99% signal reliability”
- “With DirecTV you get 99.9% signal reliability”
- “With DirecTV you get 1080p picture quality and Dolby 5.1. The industry’s best picture quality and sound.”
- “Up to 1080p picture quality”
- Rob Lowe Alter-Ego: “Don’t be like this me. Get rid of cable and upgrade to DirecTV”
- “DirecTV is #1 in customer satisfaction over all cable TV providers”
- “DirecTV is ranked higher than cable for over 10 years.”
- “DirecTV is the undisputed leader in sports which means you can watch all the games you want to”
- “When it comes to sports, with DirecTV, you can have them all.”
The NAD concluded that, while DirecTV’s claims about signal reliability and 1080p picture quality were defensible, its claims about customer satisfaction and quality as well as its ranking were not.
“Humor can be an effective and creative way for advertisers to highlight the differences between their products and their competitor’s,” the NAD said, but “humor and hyperbole do not relieve an advertiser of the obligation to support messages that their advertisements might reasonably convey — especially if the advertising disparages a competitor’s product.”
DirecTV, for its part, “continues to believe 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,” as the NAD reported.
The NAD said DirecTV will appeal the ruling, but retreat from the field.
“We try to retire campaigns at their peak — before they jump the shark,” Jon Gieselman, DirecTV’s senior vice president of marketing, told the Los Angeles Times.
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