Once-'Timid' Cable Operator Bags Product-Oriented Messaging

Time Warner Attempts to Curb Cord-Cutting With $80M 'Enjoy Better' Campaign and Store Revamps That Emphasize Customer Experience

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Time Warner is converting 400 stores from payment centers to customer-centric hubs.
Time Warner is converting 400 stores from payment centers to customer-centric hubs.
The next six months will be crucial for Time Warner Cable CMO Jeff Hirsch. With the second installment of the "Enjoy Better" campaign premiering this week, Mr. Hirsch must maintain the momentum created earlier this year to ensure that his rebranding efforts hit the mark.

The inaugural ad in "Enjoy Better" -- a splashy 60-second spot with Ricky Gervais aired during the Super Bowl across Time Warner Cable's footprint -- delivered the message: "We make Facebook friendlier than ever. And take "Call of Duty' to new heights. We let ESPN go anywhere. ... Whatever you're passionate about, we invent better ways to share it, get lost in it and love it even more."

Since replacing Sam Howe last July, Mr. Hirsch, responsible for marketing to residential customers, has been intent on repositioning to focus on the customer experience rather than products.

Jeff Hirsch
The revamped approach comes as Time Warner Cable, along with the rest of the industry, is trying to find ways to stymie "cord cutting" as consumers re-evaluate their cable package or switch to satellite service. The company added 189,000 high-speed data subscribers and 84,000 digital-phone subscribers in its most recent quarter but lost 65,000 video subscribers.

"We still have a long way to go and a lot to do," Mr. Hirsch said. "One spot doesn't make a brand. You need to load up the marketplace. ... The minute you launch a campaign, the next six months are really tough. You get consumers to pay attention, but if you can't convince them over that six-month point that it's believable and real, you fall back to "It was just a good ad.' We need to convince them this is really what we do."

Mr. Hirsch has worked on both sides -- at agencies developing ad products and at businesses like telephone company Nynex. He joined Time Warner Cable in 1999, holding several executive posts and spearheading the introduction of its iPad app.

"We spent the better part of the last six years under my predecessor trying to go after a brand positioning that was so aspirational it wasn't believable, not only for our customers but for our employees," Mr. Hirsch told Ad Age . "We needed to reposition the company to talk about what we could really do for customers."

Under Mr. Howe, the dominant message concerned how the company could help subscribers get organized.

"To think that a cable company can actually help you control your life is really not believable to anybody," Mr. Hirsch said. "If you look at our products and services, they don't help you control your life, they help you consume content conveniently. All the stuff you love to experience -- whether it's HBO, Showtime, surfing online -- it is a better experience with us."

The No. 2 cable provider, behind Comcast, Time Warner Cable continues that theme in its second commercial, which features Robert De Niro and promotes Tribeca Films on Demand [see below].

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The company has to be prouder of its DNA, Mr. Hirsch said.

"Our positioning, our advertising, were kind of timid for a long time, especially when you look at DirecTV, which is very high quality, very aggressive," he said. "DirecTV went out and said, "With a multiroom DVR you can start a program in one room and finish it in another.' Our historic ad would say: multiroom DVR, 400 hours of storage, 17 remote controls, $19.99. We would never talk about what makes our product better."

"When our services don't work, we get all the negative baggage," Mr. Hirsch continued. "But on the positive side, when they do work, HBO, Showtime, "Mad Men' get all the positive reinforcement, and people don't remember it was us that got them there. So what the brand has to do is remind consumers of the wonderful things that we do to get them the things that they love."

Time Warner Cable will run about 16 "Enjoy Better" spots this year, with a budget of about $80 million for the campaign. Though this year's marketing budget is on par with last year's, Mr. Hirsch said the company is being more cost-conscious. Each one-minute commercial is shot in a way that allows it to be broken into 15-second spots, so it's actually getting four for the price of one.

"I'm a big fan of the 15-second spot," Mr. Hirsch said. "I think they are really effective. They're quick and fun, and it is easier to absorb messages in 15 seconds."

The CMO is also making sure that all other forms of media -- outdoor, mail, taxis -- reflect the new branding. Time Warner Cable is working with Fame , a retail-branding shop, to convert its nearly 400 stores from payment centers to experiential hubs. Modeled after Apple's flagships, the locations will include tutorial centers, sales areas and space devoted to the high-end Signature Home product.

Mr. Hirsch's vision of "Enjoy Better" is "consumer-centric and clear from an agency perspective," said Fame President Lynn Robertson. "Time Warner Cable was previously more focused on products and features, but didn't show how they were superior to the competition."

The "Enjoy Better" slogan does have one disconnect. Google the phrase and the first link returned is for Dish Network, which is associated with the domain EnjoyBetterTV.com.

"We knew about it, but since it didn't impact what we wanted to do, we decided to go with it," a Time Warner Cable spokeswoman said. "We are looking at "Enjoy Better' from a much broader perspective than just TV, so we didn't view it as a big problem."

Ogilvy & Mather, weathering the CMO change, has been the lead agency in Time Warner Cable's repositioning. Typically, when a new CMO takes over, he or she fires the agency, Mr. Hirsch acknowledged.

"To be honest, I find that to be such a lengthy process and so disruptive to the business that I was like, "They have AmEx. They have IBM. They do good work. Let's keep them,' " Mr. Hirsch said.

Ogilvy has worked on the brand since 2004. Castells & Asociados handles Hispanic marketing, and OMD has media-buying duties.

"Jeff is one of the most unique CMOs I've worked with," said Chris Apostle, who leads the Time Warner Cable account at Ogilvy. "He has allowed us to challenge typical conventions followed in telecom and move away from the speeds-and-feeds messaging to take a more emotional approach."

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