CTAM: Cable Is Better Than Puppies

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Looking to sell customers new products such as video-on-demand and to curb subscribers from dropping cable for satellite, top operators began running commercials last week that suggest cable is better than water, chocolate, gravity and even puppies.

The spots, created by agency Shepardson, Stern & Kaminsky for the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing’s Only Cable Can effort, began running Aug. 23 on 13 national cable networks, including ESPN, E! Entertainment Television, Food Network and Home & Garden Television Network.

The campaign is part of a broader effort to market cable services nationally. Sources said CTAM is close to reaching an agreement with a major consumer-electronics company on an HDTV promotion that would be tied to the fall National Football League season. That promotion, which is similar to deals CTAM cut this year with Panasonic Consumer Electronics and Samsung Corp. of America, may be announced as early as this week.

CTAM kicked off the Only Cable Can campaign last fall with spots that touted cable as the best way to get HDTV programming, high-speed data and on-demand programming services. Initially backed financially by eight major MSOs, the Only Cable Can initiative is now supported by 14 cable operators, including new participants BendBroadband, Bresnan Communications, Buckeye CableSystem and Cebridge Connections.

The latest creative still emphasizes cable’s HDTV, cable modem and on-demand programming offerings, but in a more humorous way. In the first :30, a cable viewer sitting at his kitchen table suggests that cable is better than puppies: “Can puppies bring you movies on demand or pro football in high-def? Can puppies let you surf the Web way faster than DSL?”

New versions of the ad will compare cable to gravity, water and chocolate. CTAM CEO Char Beales said the campaign is designed to both sell new products such as video-on-demand and high-speed data, and retain existing customers.

The marketing effort also includes a new OnlyCableCan.com Web site (www.onlycablecan.com), which directs consumers looking for HDTV and other services to their local operator.

While some top operators, such as Time Warner Cable and Cablevision Systems Corp., are offering digital-telephone services to subscribers, the new Only Cable Can spots don’t mention cable’s ability to provide telephone service — something the industry’s satellite rivals can’t offer. But Beales said the national campaign would expand to include telephone services next year, when more operators begin to market telephone products.

The campaign kicked off about one week after cable rival DirecTV Inc. launched a big marketing push for its “NFL Sunday Ticket” package. Unlike the DirecTV campaign, which includes local broadcast spot-media buys in major markets, CTAM is only running ads on national cable networks.

Some operators emphasized that the Only Cable Can spots are only a part of their broader marketing efforts.

“This isn’t the be-all, end-all,” said Comcast senior vice president of marketing and new products Andy Addis. “This is part of an integrated communications strategy that starts at the highest level and then goes down from there, as each and every MSO communicates to their customers and non-customers.”