• About Tom Dougherty

    Tom Dougherty CEO, Stealing Share

    Tom Dougherty is the President and CEO of Stealing Share, Inc., and has helped national and global brands such as Lexus, IKEA and Tide steal market share over his 25-year career.

    An often-quoted source on business and brands, he has been featured recently by the New York Times and CNN, discussing topics ranging from television to Apple to airlines.

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The problem of the “bad” Rob Lowe

The DirecTV ads are close to being great, but there is a fundamental problem.

I’m sure most of you have seen the Rob Lowe DirecTV ads in which there is good Rob Lowe (a DirecTV customer) and bad Rob Lowe (a cable TV customer). In the series, the bad Rob Lowe is the actor playing a creep (who likes to watch swimmers and smell people’s hair), a lowlife (with rotting teeth and a comb over) or a nerd (who is afraid of people).

Meanwhile, the ever-cool Rob Lowe is the DirecTV customer who tells us not to be bad Rob Lowe. Be a DirecTV customer.

Is this a true choice?
Is this a true choice?

The ads are related to the great “I’m a PC” and “I’m a Mac” ads that Apple ran some years ago, among the greatest brand ads ever aired. Do the DirecTV spots stand up to that?

Not really. DirecTV took the basic concept of that but it missed the basic ingredient in those Apple ads and, instead, raised the level of absurdity so its argument isn’t very believable.

The genius of the Apple ads, other than the positioning of who you are when you are a Mac user, was that the personalities of the two fit the personalities of the brands. “I’m a Mac” was relaxed, a believer in simplicity with an easy confidence. “I’m a PC” was likable, but over-complicated and a little too eager. That is, they were believable types (as Apple users saw them) and had an unforced rapport. You could even choose to be the PC, but it just wasn’t preferable.

That was part of the campaign’s allure. You liked PC.

In the DirecTV spots, there’s nothing to suggest that the alternative (cable) is an actual choice. Bad Rob Lowe is simply disgusting, which doesn’t tap into any belief systems about cable TV companies (as much as we may despise them). Bad Rob Lowe becomes a cartoon character, so the promise of being Good Rob Lowe isn’t believable. It’s not persuasive enough and positioned against a ghost.

That’s not to say the campaign is a total wash. The idea behind it is right, and the ads are memorable, but the strategy took the concept too far to be truly effective. DirecTV didn’t make it a fair fight.

A nice try, but not good enough to create true preference.

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