Earlier this fall, DirecTV launched a new ad campaign starring Rob Lowe in hopes of luring in subscribers from its cable competition.
If you are not yet familiar with the ads (which would be shocking since they seem to run during every commercial break on every network), they feature Rob Lowe as himself, as well as characters of himself, such as Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe. The side-by-side comparisons are meant to illustrate the difference between DirecTV subscribers and cable users, implying the real Rob Lowe, who has DirecTV, is much more sophisticated than his counterpart. Therefore, if people were to switch from cable, they too, would be smart, smooth and savvy.
Although I understand the goal of the commercials, I find them to be irritating. But that’s not the problem. The issue unexpectedly emerged when I first “met” Super Creepy Rob Lowe. In fact, I actually was offended and even a little disappointed after the introduction to the character.
You see, Super Creepy Robe Lowe is a biker, one that likes to touch, smell and watch people in inappropriate ways. (Side note: I get the joke, though I will say that any legitimate biker might also be offended at the connection being drawn here.)
But it’s at mark :21 where things take a turn. SCRL is sitting in a chair on a pool deck using a pair of binoculars and says, “My cable’s out, so I’m down at the Rec Center watching folks swim.”
Am I the only one who thinks this is crossing the line?
Need a visual? Watch the 30-second clip.
Interestingly enough, one group of advocates has stepped up in opposition of the ad campaign. But it wasn’t in the aquatics industry. Nor was it in response to Super Creepy Rob Lowe. On the contrary, the outrage came from a fringe group in response to Painfully Awkward Rob Lowe. And why? Because the International Paruresis Association, which estimates about 7 percent of Americans have some form of 'shy bladder' syndrome, are offended that Awkward Rob Lowe is unable to use the bathroom with other people in the room.
How is it that the IPA is more outraged than aquatics professionals? And for that matter, parents? After all, it seems nearly every day we read about another swim coach being added to the banned list. Or one is caught sending inappropriate text messages to a minor. Or a sex offender is caught prowling poolside. And let’s not forget about USA Swimming and the flurry of sex abuse accusations. The incidents are so prevalent that California even extended its statute of limitations on such cases.
Sure, I write for a publication that covers aquatics and am exposed to this news (sadly) on a regular basis. But swimming is only one sport where we hear about such abuse. None of us will ever forget about the case that rocked Penn State, and seemingly the world, with the news of Jerry Sandusky and his conviction as a serial child molester. Certainly, the people behind the ads must be at least somewhat familiar with the problem, or they never even would have suggested placing SCRL near a pool to begin with. Imagine if he were sitting on a playground? Personally, I don’t see a difference.
Maybe its just the new mom in me, but I think DirecTV missed the mark here. And even if I didn't get free cable because I am married to a man who works for Time Warner, I would not switch services after seeing this commercial. Were you as offended by the ad as I am? Please share your thoughts on this in the comments section below.