Based upon the public response to my blog on the DirecTV Hannah and Her Horse debacle, it looks as though DirecTV is coming around to recognize that everything quirky and absurd from their ad agency (Gray) might not be creative (the fallback position taken by advertising agencies all over the globe). So now we have a choice between Hannah and her horse or Eli Manning. Hannah and her horse is simply stupid (not exactly a great brand position) and your brand needs to reflect the target audience that you hope to influence. No one wants to be ignorant and stupid.
So picture this for a moment. DirecTV had a great and effective campaign starring Rob Lowe that was clever enough to be funny and absurd enough to remain fresh. It was pulled and Gray Advertising, in all of its wondrous creative ability, sold the Hannah and Her Horse campaign to a trusting client. Its failing miserably.
A failed reworking of what worked.
Now they have a tactical need to sell DirecTV’s NFL coverage as a USP (Unique Selling Proposition)—an old and dog-eared idea that has outlived its usefulness by four decades. Both camps recognize that Hannah and her horse is not a path to pursue. So they developed a new campaign. But it really is not new. It is poor rehash and hacked-up version of the one campaign that actually worked. “Don’t be like this Rob Lowe”.
The dialogue between DirecTV and the agency.
So here is my made up guess of the stupid agency/client banter when the decision was made between Hannah and her horse or Eli Manning (or Tony Romo):
DirecTV: We need to highlight our NFL coverage to take advantage of the rabid NFL fans in the fall and their insatiable appetite for anything NFLish.
Gray: We can get Hannah’s Horse to introduce the package.
DirectTV: Don’t even go there. The campaign sucks.
Gray:Well, how about a reworking of the Rob Lowe campaign that everyone sparked to. We could use that GREAT format with NFL Quarterbacks? Let’s use Tony Romo and Eli Manning!
Direct TV: Brilliant. Let’s make it happen.
A lack of understanding as to what worked.
Hannah and Her Horse and Eli Manning are both failures. The problem with this new campaign is that both camps believe that things are fungible. They never really understood why the Rob Lowe campaign worked and so they have substituted football stars for Rob Lowe and the results are simply dumb. They confused the campaign set-up with the very thing that made the Rob Lowe campaign work. Rob Lowe.
We were all used to seeing an actor play characters and we understood the difference between them. We also remembered that Rob Lowe had a past history of creepiness and that added to the memorability of the campaign. Rob was able to play both characters with a sense of self and a self-deprecating attitude that placed the brand directly into importance. It worked because it worked on many levels.
The new campaign is almost as stupid as Hannah and Her Horse. It doesn’t work because there is no brand there. It is a superfluous exercise in futility. DirecTV could use some brand help because someone does not recognize the essence of that brand in what worked and what doesn’t. The advertising agency, like all of their comrades in crime, should never be left to define a brand because it has no idea what that means. For the agency, it all comes down to what it calls creativity. Too bad it doesn’t understand effectiveness too.