DIRECTV CAPITALIZES ON CABLE COMPLAINTS IN $100 MIL EFFORT: SATELLITE SERVICE ADOPTS VALUE PITCH IN NEW ADS

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DirecTV today begins a massive TV campaign that aims to tap into viewers' frustrations with their cable companies.

The leading direct-broadcast satellite service is expected to double spending this year to more than $100 million as part of its $150 million marketing commitment. Campbell-Ewald, Los Angeles, is the agency.

SHARE SLIPPED WHEN ADS STOPPED

the company went back on the offensive with a $25 million ad blitz in the fourth quarter.

DirecTV, with 3.3 million subscribers, now for the first time is pushing a price/value story and making a bid to win over more of the nation's 68.6 million cable households. More than half of DirecTV subscribers switched from cable, said Thomas Bracken, VP-advertising and creative services.

Prices are working to DirecTV's advantage. Three years ago, subscribers paid $700 for a dish and $30 a month for 50 channels. Today, they can pay $200 for the dish and $20 a month for 40 channels.

NEWSPAPER, TV ADS

DirecTV launched a price-oriented newspaper ad early this month in 18 markets where cable rates had just increased, Mr. Bracken said.

But the big push is on TV, where ads introduce a new tagline: "What are you looking at?"

Two 30-second spots, featuring the tune "Release Me," humorously play off viewers' annoyance with cable. In "Cable Pull," the camera follows a cable wire as it's snapped off a telephone pole, pulled across the country, down a street and through the wall of a house by a former cable subscriber who has yanked the wire and switched to DirecTV.

NOT `BASHING CABLE'

"Mummy" finds a cable subscriber wrapped head to toe in cable. As a voice-over explains the variety of programming on DirecTV, the cable user is freed. Two more emotional spots use the song "Just One Look" and tell stories of cable subscribers who switched.

Mr. Bracken insists the tone of the ads is meant to be fun, not nasty: "We're not in our spots bashing cable or demeaning [it] in any way."

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