What to Do When Everyone Hates Your Advertising (Hello, TWC)

It’s been more than three months since I posted a Smart Marketing Strategy blog assessing a TV commercial for Time Warner Cable Internet service featuring former NFL coach Bill Cowher as a spokesman.

If you haven’t seen this campaign, Cowher shows up uninvited in odd places and inserts comments about TWC’s Internet service into conversations that have nothing to do with the Internet.

I think it may be the worst ad campaign on television. It turns out I’m not alone.

More than 6,500 people have read this post to date and dozens have submitted comments. Nearly all commenters share my view that this is a poorly conceived creative approach and that Cowher’s role as spokesperson is strange and inappropriate.

What are people saying? It’s not pretty for Time Warner Cable:

  • Viewers either don’t know or like Cowher or think he’s the wrong spokesperson.

“You mention Coach Cowher and his celebrity status and TWC not knowing how to use him. Funny, because I had to Google his name to find out who he is.”

“I live in Cincinnati and we basically hate the Steelers down here and by extension, former coach Bill Cowher. Whoever thought he would be an appealing pitchman for [Time] Warner Cable must have rocks in his/her head. In addition to being stiff and awkward, he is seriously disliked by thousands of people in this city.”

“I think ALL of the Time Warner commercials done by Bill Cowher are irritating and frankly beneath his stature as a (former) professional NFL football coach and commentator. It’s uncomfortable to watch.”

“As much as I admired Bill Cowher as an NFL head coach, I have lost all respect for him, because surely he has enough money that he doesn’t have to stoop to such unmitigated crap ‘to turn a buck.’ I despise the complete TWC ad campaign — does TWC think ANYONE is going to fall for this bunch of malarkey?”

  • Many people find his appearances startling and creepy.

“All of the TWC ads creep me out. The unshaven creepy guy who pops in from nowhere in peoples’ private moments offends me so much that I have to either mute the TV or change channels.”

“The whole campaign is advertising at its worst. I’ve seen spots where this spokes-coach suddenly appears in a woman’s home early in the morning as she’s waking the kids. I don’t know why they picked this guy and why they think it’s…what, clever? to have him just appear in the homes of strangers. In a recent ad, I saw him enter the home of a young couple with kids and ask: ‘What’s going on?’ Really? I would call the police.”

“If Bill Cowher walks into my house unannounced, he’s going to find himself in a scenario that Time Warner would never approve of, I’ll tell you that.”

  • TWC customers find the message highly ironic in relation to their experience with the brand.

“I love the irony in the new ad in which Cowher says ‘you shouldn’t have to pay for things you don’t need’ while TWC is forcing cable/satellite providers in the L.A. area to pay for a Dodgers channel and pass the cost along to customers – whether they need it or not.”

“[The] ad where the guy buys more furniture than they need? HUH? Coach Creepy appears out of the blue and then announces that Time Warner customers shouldn’t pay for things they don’t need. Then why do I have to pay for a dozen or more Home Shopping Channels on our Time Warner plan?”

Ouch.

Of course, it’s possible the comments don’t represent what the market thinks, but I doubt it.  Take a look at some of the Google search terms people are using that direct them to my blog:

  • “Annoying Time Warner Cable commercial”
  • “Who is the obnoxious pitchman for TWC?”
  • “TWC coach commercials are so stupid”
  • “Time Warner Cable guy annoying!”

Clearly, this campaign is a bust. So what should Time Warner do?  Even more important, what should you do if you discover your advertising has laid an egg?

Here are three recommendations for your smart marketing strategy:

1. Put your listening ears on. Track conversations on Twitter and Facebook to see if your campaign is a conversation topic and what people are saying about it. Google the campaign yourself to search for commentaries by bloggers or the media.

2. Give it time. Don’t rush to judgment if you initially hear negative comments about an ad. The tide can turn, especially if your ad has a somewhat controversial message. Reaction to the Cheerios interracial family ad campaign is a perfect example. Supporters drowned out haters and the resulting discussion and expansion of the campaign reflected very positively on the company and brand.

3. Face it: Your creative might really stink. Sometimes an ad campaign just flops. If the creative approach truly is terrible, have a heart-to-heart discussion with your ad agency and get them started on a new approach.

Is it Too Late for Time Warner Cable?

TWC appears to be doubling down on the Cowher campaign with new ads that feature a hapless husband who buys too much furniture, above, and two attorneys who are surprised to see Cowher show up to give a deposition in their case. (At least this ad acknowledges the weirdness of his sudden appearance.)

If Time Warner Cable has seen my blog post, they haven’t commented. And if they haven’t seen it, they’re not tracking their brand very well online because everyone else who’s Googling “Time Warner Cable commercial” finds my post.

The key takeaway for smart marketers is the point I made originally: If you’re going to hire a celebrity spokesperson to represent your brand in advertising, select someone who’s a natural fit for the brand and use that spokesperson in ways that make sense to the audience.

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Comments

  1. Bob Nemens says:

    Spot on. And more, using a sports character you would think that the character portrayed would have something to do with his role in real life? Cower is a coach, but the script does not have any sports language or portrays him as he is seen in the sports world either—that of a tough, emotional (but successful) football coach. Showing is “softer” and “helpful” side is totally out of character with the common perception of the spokesperson in real life. But true….. not so unbelievable when you think about the overall customer service sensitivity of a cable company. Bizarre.

  2. jeangianfagna says:

    Thanks, Bob. This is exactly what’s wrong with this entire concept–there’s no sports tie whatsoever and no reason for Cowher to be in any of these scenarios. They sort of tried with the bride commercial by having him bring a wedding gift, but even that doesn’t work, since he’s dressed like a football coach and wearing a headset. I can’t imagine what Time Warner Cable was thinking when they came up with this concept and hired Cowher as the spokesperson. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. I despise commercials with this creepy man –looks like his false teeth don’t fit –or at any rate, seems all you see is teeth when he’s talking. . And Time Warner plays these commercials over and over and over and over and over on ALL channels. Have to keep the remote handy so I can change channel quickly when one of the stinkers comes on. And now……. there is a NEW one..sigh. A company that abuses its customers with repeatedly advertising ITSELF over and over and over with commercials that are just sickening is bound to lose customers, which Time Warner has.

  4. I absolutely can’t stand the commercials. I immediately hit mute, unless it’s DVR’d and then I fast forward. His ill fitting teeth are a total turn off, and, creepy too. Why are they just plopping him into scenes where it makes no sense, and why, aren’t they showing what they want to project about the product? To top it off, since when does Time Warner try to save anyone money?

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  1. […] the blog by searching Google on terms like “creepy guy in TWC commercial.” Read this follow-up blog post about the reaction to my assessment of Time Warner’s ad […]

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