Tuesday, March 30

Fighting Words: Dish Network vs. DirecTV

If anybody is wondering whether the Dish Network or DirecTV will win their respective legal fights, the answer seems obvious. Only cable stands to win as the two satellite companies tie each other up in court.

The allegations erupted last month when DirecTV sued Dish Network for claiming it was cheaper. The Dish Network filed suit last week alleging DirecTV is misleading consumers by claiming it offers more HD channels than it actually carries.

This fight seems a little bit meaner than the tug of war between AT&T and Verizon. But ironically, neither of these companies have too much to gain, given that most cable networks have accused satellite of misleading customers for as long as I can remember.

DirecTV has gone as far as devoting an entire section of its Web site to the kertuffle, asking "Who do you believe?" before dashing off a paragraph with more footnotes than copy points. Meanwhile, Dish is sticking with its commercial that DiretTV costs a much as cable whereas Dish Network offers virtually the same package for approximately $20 less (although newer commercials have changed up the price point comparison). None of it is as ugly as the comparisons outlined on a Web site run by a Dish Network authorized retailer.

The weakest part of the new Dish Network argument is that it overreaches. One of its complaints is that the new DirecTV advertisements "mimic look and feel of certain ads in Dish Network's Why Would You Ever Pay More For TV campaign." They do not. Not by a long shot.

Two years ago, Campbell's and General Mills taught each other a similar lesson after launching a battle over which soup line contained more MSG. No one won, except the agencies asked to produce the ads.

I'm fond of reminding advertisers that the first rule in advertising is that there are no rules. However, there are some general principles that have have stood the test of time — never overreach in your advertising. In order to develop an effective contrast, it's always smarter to stick with a competitive comparison you can accurately win. Case study on Thursday, with an emphasis on how to develop a better product contrast.

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