How many more customers will DirecTV and Rob Lowe offend?

You must have seen them by now, those DirecTV commercials featuring Rob Lowe – the good Rob Lowe and the other Rob Lowe.

The concept is pretty simple.  The good Rob Lowe is using DirecTV.  The other Rob Lowe is using cable TV.

There are about half-dozen different commercials – each featuring a different “other” Rob Lowe.  There’s the “painfully awkward” guy, the muscle guy, the high school jock, the creepy guy, the hairy guy, the skinny guy, the conspiracy guy.

I may have missed one or two, but you get the idea.

The commercials don’t give us any good reasons to switch from cable to DirecTV. Nothing specific anyway.

Their only sales point is “Don’t be that guy.”

Here’s the problem: 

The ad creators are making the assumption that each targeted group represents a tiny minority of people who are safe to mock.

Personally, I don’t think mocking anyone is a good advertising or marketing strategy – or the right thing to do.

But even if you don’t accept my position, how many of these segments will it take for that tiny group to grow into a much larger group?   At what point, do you start to offend a significant segment of your customer base?

Keep in mind that these commercials may be offending not only the individuals, but also their families (who, in many cases, are more likely to be sensitive to this).

So far, DirecTV has offended about half-dozen different segments of society – all to get a laugh.

I’m sure the agency creating these commercials think they are being funny and creative with these ads – and I’m sure their creative people are working feverishly to find new slices of society to poke fun at for the sake of another laugh – and another commercial.

But who’s next?  When will they cross the line – or have they already?

In one of the commercials, the “painfully awkward” Rob Lowe is unable to use a public restroom because of a shy bladder.  The International Paruresis Association has criticized DirecTV saying the ad mocks a real condition that affects 21 million Americans.

Brand advertisers have for a long time created commercials around lifestyles and people representing those lifestyles.  But these are usually positive representations with the unspoken message “if you want to be like these people, you will drink this beer or drive this car.”

The DirecTV commercials are negative and mean-spirited.

Even if these reasons aren’t compelling enough to pull the commercials, maybe the executives at DirecTV should go back and watch the movie, “The Revenge of the Nerds” where late in the movie one of the nerds says to another, “Hey, there’s a whole lot more of us than there are of them.”

About Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy is a direct response consultant and copywriter with a focus on direct mail, email and digital marketing. Bob works with B2B, B2C and Non-Profit clients. You can download his free ebook, "Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy."

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