NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Dish Network is launching a major national TV push today to promote a new "Free HD for Life" service as the satellite provider tries to keep building the edge its gained in recent months over rival DirecTV.
"It's a substantial step forward for our brand," said Ira Bahr, senior VP-chief marketing officer at the Denver-based Dish. "We think, with this campaign, we can be the brand of choice in this category. While almost every company in America charges customers an extra fee for HD service, Dish Network is offering free HD for life." According to DirecTV's website, it charges $10 per month for HD service.
The campaign -- which is made up of a suite of 15- and 30-second spots for network and cable TV, plus a 60-second spot for cinema -- was created by Victors & Spoils, which Dish has been quietly working with for several months. The Boulder, Colo.-based shop launched six months ago and has gained a wealth of buzz for touting itself as "the world's first creative ad agency built on crowdsourcing principles," but there's been little work to show for it until now.
The commercials, which show astronauts in space fiddling with a Dish-branded satellite and ultimately flipping on the "free" switch, were chosen by Mr. Bahr's team from hundreds of different ideas that the agency sourced not from an internal staff of creatives (like at most ad agencies), but from what an "internal crowd" (i.e., a database of some 900 creative types).
Asked how the process actually works, Victors & Spoils Chief Creative Officer Evan Fry said folks are permitted to be in the crowd after their professional experience and work is deemed acceptable. In the case of Dish, the crowd was notified that the agency needed art directors, copywriters and creatives within particular dates to work on a blind assignment, and the ones who said they were available were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements before the Dish network creative brief was shared.
All who submitted work were paid something, Mr. Fry said, though the ones whose TV script ideas were ultimately pitched to Dish were paid more. "We are inventing the process as we go," said Mr. Fry.
Last fall, Ad Age reported that Dish Network was out talking to agencies to find fresh creative ideas. The company worked with some outside shops sporadically in the past, such as Publicis in Seattle and the Woo Agency in Culver City, Calif., but the vast majority of its advertising is created internally.
"For almost all of this company's history, creative has been developed completely in-house," said Mr. Bahr, noting that Dish's in-house agency of 30 staffers will still produce creative work, but for the biggest campaigns, it will rely on Victors & Spoils.
Mr. Bahr, who earlier spent 12 years at BBDO Worldwide, is an example of how marketers are increasingly seeking alternatives to the traditional agency model. "There are clients for whom the traditional agency makes a lot of sense. ... We are fast and a little too frugal, so I know [for Dish Network] the model is not a great fit," he said, adding "I don't believe that quantity means you get to quality, but in many cases, it is helpful."
The ads are the biggest push since Dish's internally created attack campaign against DirecTV, which led to a false advertising lawsuit, which has since been settled.
Dish's messaging seems to be gaining traction among consumers, as the satellite provider added more subscribers -- 237,000 -- than any other TV provider during first quarter 2010, including rival DirecTV, who snagged 100,000 new customers during the same period while cable giants like Comcast and Time Warner Cable took losses.
However, dish's profit margin narrowed as the cost to acquire those subscribers increased by 41% to $412 million vs. the same period last year. Kantar Media pegs U.S.-measured-media spending by Dish at $350 million, but Mr. Bahr has refuted that figure in the past.
~ ~ ~
Contributing: Andrew Hampp