DirecTV ‘Rethinking TV’

Feb 7, 2005  •  Post A Comment

DirecTV Group is launching a marketing campaign built around the concept of “rethinking TV” in a quest to raise its brand profile just as the competition between satellite and cable operators-and soon telephone companies-is heating up.

As part of the initiative, called “Rethink TV,” the El Segundo, Calif.-based company expected to introduce two spots Sunday during Fox’s broadcast of the Super Bowl pregame show and plans to roll out others in the coming months as DirecTV moves toward building its brand around a single concept.

One 60-second spot that was to debut Sunday depicts the role that television has played in a man’s life as he ages from young boy to grandfather, showcasing television series that were popular along the way, including “I Love Lucy,” “The Lone Ranger” and “All in the Family” as well as important milestones captured on television, including Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon in 1969, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and Mark McGwire’s record-breaking home run in the 1998 baseball season.

The other commercial, a 30-second spot, features television sets in storefront windows, a kitchen and a health club all looking to the sky in anticipation of a series of satellite launches planned later this year by DirecTV. The message: Your televisions are ready for DirecTV’s new lines of services: Are you?

The campaign, created by BBDO New York, marks the first time DirecTV has embarked on an initiative to create a single image for itself, said Neil Tiles, DirecTV’s executive VP of marketing. He added that DirecTV is aiming to create the same kind of brand recognition for itself as an innovator of television that Nike has achieved with its “Just Do It” campaign.

“We wanted to introduce the notion that DirecTV is rethinking the way that TV can and should be,” he said. “We are the television innovators and we want to educate and remind consumers that satellite really was the pioneer. It’s a legacy we want to hold on to.”

In addition to TV spots, DirecTV will launch radio and print ads. Mr. Tiles declined to say how much DirecTV spent on the new campaign. He said it was “a significant amount of spending, more than last year.” According to TNS Media Intelligence/CMS, DirecTV spent $160.1 million in the first 11 months of 2004, compared with $141.7 million in the same period in 2003.

The new campaign represents a switch from DirecTV’s previous campaign, which featured celebrities reading letters from DirecTV customers. Mr. Tiles said that while those spots raised the profile of the service, the celebrity appearances ran the risk of overshadowing the message the company was trying to convey.

DirecTV’s new initiative comes at a time of heightened competition. After a decade of DirecTV and rival satellite operator EchoStar Communications’ having a leading edge over cable operators, analysts said that the companies are losing their advantage to cable operators deploying advanced services such as digital simultrans and video-on-demand. And the competition will only get fiercer as telephone companies SBC Communications and Verizon Communications later this year deploy fiber technology that will enable consumers to receive video content through telephone lines.

“Many of satellite’s traditional advantages versus cable … are being competed away,” said Craig Moffett, a cable and satellite analyst at Bernstein Research. He added that with cable so focused on bundling services together, satellite operators might find it increasingly difficult to lure cable subscribers to satellite.

To be sure, DirecTV is rolling out its own series of new services and features to stay in the race, including plans offering interactive TV services, expanding the service’s high-definition television programming and introducing products that enable interconnectivity among multimedia devices in a home. And the company will certainly be promoting those new services in upcoming spots.

But first an overall message needed to be crafted, Mr. Tiles said. “We have so many touch points to our consumers that we wanted to be able to have something that resonates with them,” Mr. Tiles said. “Satellite television’s birthright is innovation, and we wanted to make that clear to consumers so they don’t forget that.”