DirecTV may have played its Rob Lowe vs pathetic alter-ego Rob Lowe ads for laughs, but the spots designed to frame the satellite service as cooler and better than cable failed to amuse the Council of Better Business Bureaus’ National Advertising Division. Responding to a complaint from Comcast, the group says that DirecTV couldn’t prove its claims of superiority and urged it to yank or change the spots.
The NAD says that although “humor can be an effective and creative way for advertisers to highlight the differences between their products and their competitor’s, 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.”
The decision isn’t legally binding, but companies usually prefer to deal with the NAD than to have a false-advertising charge referred to the Federal Trade Commission. DirecTV will appeal the decision to the organization’s National Advertising Review Board. The spots contrasting normal Lowe with “Creepy Rob Lowe,” “Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe” and “Scrawny Arms Rob Lowe,” among other characters, “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,” DirecTV says.
The oversight group took issue with several specific claims. It said that DirecTV couldn’t prove that it has better signal reliability (“Creepy Rob Lowe”), shorter customer service wait times (“Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe”) or better picture and sound quality (“Far Less Attractive Rob Lowe”) than cable. The company also couldn’t support an implied claim (“Scrawny Arms Rob Lowe”) that its sports programming beats cable.
NAD chided DirecTV for claiming that it’s “rated No. 1.” The satellite provider should stop saying that, or add that it’s based on “customer ratings of their own service provider,” not necessarily DirecTV.
It also wants DirecTV to modify its boast that if supports “up to 1080p” HDTV picture quality to “clearly and conspicuously disclose the limited programming on which resolutions of 1080p is currently available.”
“We’re pleased with NAD’s decision that confirms DirecTV’s advertising campaign contains false claims,” Comcast says.
The NAD decision regarding the Lowe ads comes as DirecTV transitions to new spots featuring model Hannah Davis. “The Rob Lowe campaign was always scheduled to end at the end of Q1; we wanted to launch our new campaign with Hannah Davis in the Final Four,” says Marketing SVP Jon Gieselman. “We always reserve the right to bring back the Rob Lowe campaign, either in its current form or with new spots. It has been extremely successful for the brand.”