DirecTV's series of commercials featuring actor Rob Lowe and a variety of underperforming alter egos is under attack by the advertising industry's watchdog group, which has asked the satellite broadcaster to discontinue the ads.
The Advertising Self-Regulatory Council's National Advertising Division, administered by the Better Business Bureau, says the "humorous, outlandish and buffoonish" commercials "might not by themselves communicate a factual message about cable," which the ads depict as an inferior technology.
The NAD said in its findings that "a reasonable take-away from the 'Creepy Rob Lowe' commercial was that DirecTV has better signal reliability than cable, that the 'Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe' commercial conveyed the message that DirecTV has shorter customer service wait times than cable and that the 'Far Less Attractive Rob Lowe' commercial made an implied claim that DirecTV has better picture and sound quality than cable."
The investigation, which followed a complaint by the media conglomerate Comcast, also found that while DirecTV's claim of "up to 1080p picture quality" was technically correct, the NAD "recommended that the advertiser modify the claim to clearly and conspicuously disclose the limited programming on which resolutions of 1080p is currently available."
The NAD also asked DirecTV to discontinue or more accurately state the price claim of one commercial "to reflect the price of a package that included the sports programming featured in the commercial."
DirecTV agreed to stop the ads, but said the spots were always scheduled to end during the first quarter of the year. "Even though we have a direct competitor trying to restrict our advertising, we definitely 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."
The satellite broadcaster said it would appeal the findings to the National Advertising Review Board.Although the NAD's directive has no legal or enforcement weight, the organization can refer the matter to government agencies if an advertiser does not comply.