Nice Legs, DirecTV – but a little hairy.

(Part 2 in a 2-part series examining a current campaign.)

In my post from last week, I wrote about DirecTV’s most recent campaign featuring Rob Lowe in a series of very entertaining commercials. And while I lauded the campaign for having “great legs,” I also alluded to some parts of it that might not be so appealing.

Each spot starts out with the line “Hi, I’m Rob Lowe. And I have DirecTV.” It’s then followed by another “version” of Mr. Lowe – we’ve seen “overly paranoid” Rob Lowe, “meathead” Rob Lowe, “super creepy” Rob Lowe, “scrawny arms” Rob Lowe and others, all of whom complete their introduction with the sadmission “and I have cable.”

So the joke, of course, is that this is Rob Lowe playing other characters to highlight the DIFFERENCES between DirecTV as a television delivery service and cable carriers (sort of all lumped together.) In some spots, the focus is on sports programming. In others, its uptime. So features and differentiation points abound.

And as I mentioned, these spots are FUNNY. They’re well-written, with a rhythm and a meter that you don’t often see in many spots today. Kudos to the writers over at Grey for developing this campaign (word on the street is that five new executions will appear this year,) with a wit and a style that’s very clean.

So what could possibly be WRONG with these spots?

DirecTV is using these spots to say that they’re decidedly a better brand, based on features and the benefits they deliver. Which is fine. Brands in the same category have been beating the snot out of each other for the better part of a century. No big woop.

But the underlying tonality of these spots is a mocking one. These spots imply that if you have cable, then YOU are some sort of creepy/scrawny/awkward goon. So, for one, that’s just not nice. Two, it’s not really funny when you mock someone for who they are. (But they get away with this – deftly, I might add – by making it a “version” of Rob Lowe…so there’s always that reminder that you’re suspending your disbelief for 30 seconds.)   Three – and this is the doozy – who in the world does DirecTV think are their best targets? Yeah. It’s cable customers. The very people they hope to acquire as DirecTV subscribers.

So, basically, DirecTV is making this statement to cable customers: “Hi, I’m going to make fun of you, and lump you into a loser category of some sort, and make you look foolish, and then I hope that you’re super enthused to buy my product.” See how the logic there is a little goofy?

An interesting side point here: unlike most tete-a-tetes between brands (think Coke v. Pepsi, McDonald’s v Burger King, etc.) this campaign isn’t against a key competitor. It’s against a whole category. Single brand (DirecTV) takes a broad swipe at an entire category (cable companies.) It’s brilliant, strategically…because it’s hard for cable companies to organize a counter-strike.  [Sidebar: it’s a lot like the Mac vs PC spots (TBWA/Chiat Day) that launched (yikes!) nine years ago. In that campaign, it was a single product against a whole category, too.]

Overall, I’m splitting hairs here. These ARE funny, well-thought, well-executed television commercials that have all the important ingredients: a good strategy, strong production, great performances, and a simple and strong call to action (every spot ends with the decisive “get rid of cable.”)

There’s a very fine line between caricaturing and name-calling. And that line gets even thinner in advertising. I think the coming executions will be even more outlandish and more comical than the ones we’ve seen. But I’d LOVE to see the results data on this one, and see if any of the name-calling backfires. After all, a lot of meatheads DO subscribe to cable.

 

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Nice legs, DirecTV.

(First in a 2-part series examining a current campaign.)

If you’re an ad, you want to be a campaign when you grow up. And that’s true of all kinds of ads: print, television, radio, out-of-home, digital, heck – even cinema pre-rolls! Because the campaign is the cool big brother in advertising.

There are lots of one-offs running around the agency: that newspaper insertion for the little client who can’t afford to sustain an effort for more than a day or two. The radio promo offer from the company who still thinks “they don’t need a brand, just more sales.” That lonely billboard out on route 139.

But campaigns are different. Campaigns are cool. Campaigns keep going and getting cooler and smarter, and testing well and trying new things, and introducing new angles. They’re fun at parties. And they’re great at keeping a brand front and center with an audience.

But only if they have legs.

Not sure what legs are? Here’s an example. Check out the current campaign for DirecTV featuring Rob Lowe.

By my count, there are about a half dozen executions thus far and the simple setup has allowed for countless new executions. “Hi, I’m Rob Lowe” kicks off every spot, and then it’s followed by “and I’m [some other] Rob Lowe.” We’ve seen “super creepy” Rob Lowe, “tiny arms” Rob Lowe, “meathead” Rob Lowe, “overly paranoid” Rob Lowe, and I suspect we’ll see others in the near future.

The legs in this campaign come straight out of the simple messaging which is delivered through the creative, and are helped along greatly by the really good, really offbeat Lowe performances, not to mention a little CGI magic. In each situation, DirecTV takes a direct shot (see what I did there?) at cable (and in some way, cable customers.) The jokes are funny enough to keep you interested, and the narratives bounce along at such a nice rhythm, they’re hard not to watch and enjoy.

This campaign comes off WAY better than their former campaign where the brand urged you to “get rid of cable” before you suffer some awful fate, like “stranded man.”

The executions were just weird, and not very good in terms of giving consumers a simple selling message they could remember. (From the looks of it, it was also likely targeted at a fairly narrow audience that may not have represented the greatest conversion potential.)

Of course the real juice is that in each execution of the current campaign, DirecTV comes off as a suave hero. Or maybe not even a hero, but just a really cool, really mature alternative to cable. The features are relayed clearly by the smooth and handsome Lowe, and the benefits are punctuated by taking direct shots at cable’s less-than-ours features. Thanks to an actor that doesn’t take himself too seriously, it’s likely there are more fun executions on the way from this campaign. And yes, there will be more on the way…this one’s got great legs.

But wait…there’s more. Is it possible that this is NOT a good campaign? Is it possible these are NOT great ads? We’ll look at that in a follow-up post in a day or two.

Feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section.

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