You’re hearing it here. I was wrong. For the last month, I’ve been extolling the virtues of the DirecTV Rob Lowe spots and thought its advertising agency, Grey Advertising, finally became an advertising agency that understood strategy. (Read my new blog about the New DirectTV Ads featuring Eli Manning and Tony Romo)
Well, maybe Grey isn’t so great, after all. DirecTV pulled the Rob Lowe spots when cable companies, specifically Comcast, complained that the spots were making unfounded claims. Of course, Comcast made the stink because the ads worked. If they didn’t, Comcast would’ve have cared because those claims have been made in previous DirecTV campaigns. It only cared because the campaign threatened its market share.
So what did DirecTV and Grey Advertising do to replace Rob Lowe? They replaced him with a talking horse.
This Hannah and Her Horse campaign is so awful I don’t even know where to begin. For one, there’s no counterpart to Hannah like there was in the Rob Lowe spots where the two identities gave viewers a (albeit, humorous) choice. There’s no sense whatsoever of viewer identification.
In fact, what happens here is that the talking horse is the story. Not the prospective DirecTV customer. The campaign is similar, in a way, to the non-stop series of GEICO ads in which supposedly funny off-the-wall characters chime in on the insurance company’s virtues with little effect. (GEICO has to keep spending all that money on advertising to protect its market share because it hasn’t gained much in some years.)
But at least GEICO has a strategy (price), as ineffective as it is. The DirecTV Hannah and Her Horse campaign has none. It’s just stupid.
The really disturbing part of Hannah and Her Horse
There is also another aspect to this that deeply disturbs me. I always wondered why DirecTV acted so quickly to Comcast’s complaints by dropping the Rob Lowe spots when it wasn’t required to. Comcast only complained to an industry body, not a regulatory one.
Well, now we know why. DirecTV already had the Hannah and Her Horse campaign ready to replace it. It was in the can, all set to go. This isn’t just one ad. This is a whole campaign with a handful of ads. That means DirecTV (and Grey) were already planning on replacing Rob Lowe.
This is the GEICO strategy where ad campaigns are just funny skits without a strategy or a pay-off of the brand promise. It’s just money and time wasted.
Hannah and Her Horse just makes me think that neither DirecTV nor Grey Advertising even knew what they had with the Rob Lowe spots or even why they worked.
They had it. And now they’ve lost it.