Appeals Panel Hands Second Loss To DirecTV Over Rob Lowe Ads

Comcast's complaint to NAD took exception to several DirecTV commercials featuring Rob Lowe and his alter-ego including "scrawny arms Rob Lowe." A review panel upheld recommendations that the company stop airing the spots.

Comcast’s complaint to NAD took exception to several DirecTV commercials featuring Rob Lowe and his alter-ego including “scrawny arms Rob Lowe.” A review panel upheld recommendations that the company stop airing the spots.

Four months after an ad review board, acting on a complaint from Comcast, recommended DirecTV pull its quirky promotions featuring Rob Lowe and a parade of peculiar alter-egos, a review panel upheld the original findings that some of the spots contain unsubstantiated claims — despite the fact the ads are “very funny.”

A five member review panel for the National Advertising Division (NAD), which is part of the national Council of Better Business Bureaus and a self-regulation body for the advertising industry, reviewed the original recommendations as part of an appeal bid by DirecTV, upholding several of the findings.

Recommendations from NAD aren’t legally binding, but most companies generally follow them. DirecTV announced soon after the original finding that it would appeal the decision.

Now, the appeal process has confirmed the April decision determining that DirecTV’s claims with respect to signal reliability, service wait times, picture/sound quality, and sports programming featured in the “Creepy,” “Painfully Awkward,” “Far Less Attractive,” “Meathead,” and “Scrawny Arms” are not substantiated.

“Because DirecTV did not submit any substantiation for these implied superiority claims, the panel recommended that they be discontinued,” the decision states.

NAD’s original findings came after it investigated Comcast’s complaints regarding the truthfulness of DirecTV’s signal reliability, picture quality, Dolby sound quality, customer satisfaction ranking, ranking in sports broadcasting and even a line uttered by one of Rob Lowe’s alter-egos: “Don’t be like this me. Get rid of cable and upgrade to DirecTV.”

The panel announced on Friday that it agreed with several of NAD’s recommendations, including that the company modify the picture quality claim to clearly disclose the limited programming on which resolutions of 1080p is currently available and that DirecTV discontinue the use of the tagline “Get rid of cable and upgrade to DirecTV.”

While the review resulted in the backing many of the NAD’s findings, the appeal panel did not agree that “Scrawny Arms Rob Lowe” commercial reasonably implied all sports programming was available in the service’s $19.99/month introductory bundle.

As for DirecTV’s ranking claims, the panel upheld NAD’s finding that the company’s assertion that it “rated #1” were appropriately substantiated. However, the group did recommend that it company more prominently disclose the source information.

Although the outcome of the review continues to call for the discontinuation of the Rob Lowe commercials, the panel admits the ads were funny.

“The challenged Rob Lowe commercials are very funny,” the panel says in its decision. “However, depending on context, even humorous advertisements can convey messages that require substantiation by the advertiser.”

In a statement to NAD, DirecTV says that while it appreciates the “thoughtful consideration” of the ads, 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 humor and exaggeration play in the Rob Lowe advertisements.”

“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,” the company says.

Still, it doesn’t appear DirecTV – which stopped airing the Rob Lowe ads in the spring – is willing to ditch the alter-ego concept all together.

Just last month the company began releasing a new round of similar ads featuring New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and his troupe of alter-egos.

Manning is accompanied in his spot with “Bad Comedian Eli Manning,” while Romo showcases “Arts & Craftsy Tony Romo.”