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Comcast and DirecTV are in a fight over those creepy Rob Lowe commercials

🕐 3 min read

Comcast versus DirecTV: A feud that just took another twist. After complaints by Comcast, the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Better Business Bureau has just recommended that DirecTV should get rid of some claims in its infamous Rob Lowe commercials.

You know the ads — where the handsome TV star dresses up as “Creepy Rob Lowe” or “Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe” or “Scrawny Arms Rob Lowe” and explains that his less-attractive alter-ego uses cable. The takeaway: Why not be like real Rob Lowe and use the implied far-superior DirecTV?

Apparently, Comcast is not pleased with its rival’s assertions in the commercials, without any specific evidence to back them up: That DirecTV has better picture quality, signal reliability, more sports programming options and faster customer service, among other things. Going to the NAD is a common tactic with all kinds of companies; and this time, the NAD agreed with Comcast that DirecTV may have crossed a line with certain claims and should back them up with supportive evidence.

DirecTV said in a statement that it will appeal the NAD’s decision, and that “no reasonable consumer would believe that the statements being made by the alter-ego characters are comparative or need to be substantiated.”

The NAD explained its decision in a release: Although “humor can be an effective and creative way for advertisers to highlight the differences between their products and their competitor’s, humor and hyperbole do not relieve an advertiser of the obligation to support messages that their advertisements might reasonably convey,” the group said. “Especially if the advertising disparages a competitor’s product.”

“We’re pleased with NAD’s decision that confirms DirecTV’s advertising campaign contains false claims,” a Comcast rep said.

Although DirecTV doesn’t specifically call out Comcast, you may remember commercials like these:

Handsome Rob Lowe (confidently): “DirecTV is No. 1 in customer satisfaction over all cable TV providers.”

Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe (hiding behind the window curtain): “With cable, you wait forever for them to show up.”

“DirecTV’s been ranked higher than cable for more than 10 years,” handsome Rob Lowe says, then refers to his weird alter-ego: “Don’t be like this me. Get rid of cable and upgrade to DirecTV.”

The other commercials are similar and NAD noted that it’s a case-by-case basis. Some are fine, the NAD said, like when one commercial says DirecTV has “99 percent signal reliability” — that’s substantiated. But for the above “Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe” ad, the NAD recommends that DirecTV clarify that the “ranked higher than cable” claim is “based on customers’ satisfaction with their own providers.”

And for the “Scrawny Arms Rob Lowe” ad, where the actor boasts of DirecTV’s wide variety of sports programming available (unlike that cable, where you can only watch some sports), the NAD says DirecTV should modify the ad to specify the exact pricing of the company’s sports package that appears in the commercial.

DirecTV, on the other hand, feels like there’s no need to clarify when it’s clearly a cartoonish character.

The company “continues to believe that the various Rob Lowe advertisements are so outlandish and exaggerated” that consumers would not take them to heart, DirecTV said.

In coincidental timing, DirecTV actually just ended its ad campaign with Lowe. The company rolled out a new one, starring model Hannah Davis, this past weekend.

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