The US ad regulator has told digital TV provider DirecTV to stop trashing cable in its ads.
Actor Rob Lowe and a number of his alter-egos have appeared in a series of humorous ads over the past few months, claiming DirecTV is superior to cable in terms of service wait times, signal reliability, picture and sound quality, and that it has better sports programming.
Back in April Comcast complained about the ads to the National Advertising Division, a self-regulatory unit that investigates controversial ads. The NAD recommended the spots be discontinued because DirecTV did not submit substantiation for its “superior” claims in the investigation, and that disclosures in the ads themselves about the company’s customer satisfaction ranking, sports programming charges, and picture quality were “inadequate.”
At the time, DirecTV said it was planning to replace the ads anyway, with spots showing Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition cover model Hannah Davis and a singing, talking horse.
Nevertheless, a five-member panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) — the appellate unit of the US advertising industry’s self-regulatory system — reviewed the NAD’s decision. The verdict was published on Friday.
The panel noted that the Rob Lowe commercials “are very funny,” but added that “depending on the context, even humorous advertisements can convey messages that require substantiation by the advertiser.”
In summary, the NARB decided:
The panel agreed with the NAD that the ad conveyed a message that DirecTV is “superior to cable.”
The panel agreed with the NAD that DirecTV’s claim about “up to 1080” should be modified to include a disclosure that this is limited only to programming where the resolution is available
The panel did not agree with the NAD’s findings that DirecTV’s “Scrawny Arms Rob Lowe” commercial reasonably implied all sports programming was available in the service’s $US19.99/month introductory bundle. The NARB recommended DirecTV make a clearer disclosure.
The panel agreed DirecTV had appropriate substantiation for its “#1 in customer satisfaction over all cable TV providers claim” but recommended it more prominently disclose the source of the information.
DirecTV did not agree with all aspects of the decision, but said in a statement: “DirecTV is a strong believer in the self-regulatory process and will take the NARB’s recommendations into consideration when making these claims in the future.”
However, DirecTV added that it “continues to believe that consumers do not perceive comparative superiority claims in the Rob Lowe advertisements. Whether from news accounts or social media, it is clear that consumers appreciate and understand the central role that humour and exaggeration play in the Rob Lowe advertisements.”
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