Media Reaction Sinks Cable Industry’s Latest Ad Campaign

When the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's newest viral marketing effort drew attention for all the wrong reasons, the group decided to pull the plug. Here's why.

Sometimes the ad campaign simply doesn’t connect.

That’s the lesson today from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, whose newest viral marketing campaign is going the way of the dodo after a strongly negative press response, according to The Washington Post. The campaign intended to convince cord-cutting cable customers to stay put went the opposite way, leading to the campaign’s impending shutdown this week, says the Post. Before it goes down for good, a little info on what you missed:

What is it? A mix of Wes Anderson and Tim & Eric with a little Dragon’s Lair-style choose-your-own-adventure thrown in for good measure, the four-chapter Hole Saga documents the stories of four people who are risking their lives by not having a cable subscription. In one chapter, a man who clearly has never seen a Shark Week in his life learns the hard way why you shouldn’t step into shark-infested waters. In another, a man running in the desert missed the CNN report about the mutant rabbit that escaped the lab. The video vignettes, to the tune of a cutesy cover of Extreme’s 1991 hair-metal hit “Hole Hearted,” were first released to the public earlier this month.

The reaction: While some media outlets aimed for balance in their coverage of the association’s effort—Bloomberg Businessweek, while calling the campaign “campy, but not in a funny way,” noted that the cable industry is working to fend off a declining subscriber base—others were more savage in their assessments. “The short films are intentionally ridiculous of course, but their intentional ridiculousness is so ridiculous that it’s almost unbearable,” Boy Genius Report‘s Zach Epstein wrote. And the Post article notes that the campaign has obvious, uh, holes in execution. (For one thing, why don’t these people have smartphones?) Perhaps the most gracious reaction, however, was that of Time‘s Harry McCracken, who notes that the campaign also seems to throw cable internet users into the mix, and says he understands the industry’s motivation for creating such a campaign. “It doesn’t seem unduly harsh to generalize that the industry doesn’t have a reputation for being lovable and consumer-friendly,” he wrote, “But I still find it fascinating that the organization was moved to produce something this ambitious—the videos’ production values are downright lavish—to tell the world that cable is good.”

Every creative project comes with a risk, and sometimes that risk doesn’t necessarily pan out. Have you faced a situation similar to NCTA’s with one of your projects? Let us know what you ended up doing in the comments.

The four-part Hole Saga will go away after this week, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association says. (Screenshot)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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