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Dish Wants to Stop Subscriber Slide With ‘Spokeslistener’ Ad Campaign

Variety logo Variety 2/6/2017 Todd Spangler

Dish Network, after losing hundreds of thousands of satellite TV subscribers in 2016, is trying to reverse the tide by launching a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign to persuade Americans that it really, truly cares about customers.

On Monday, Feb. 6, Dish is launching the first phase of a new marketing campaign, “The Spokeslistener,” featuring an empathetic, salt-and-pepper bearded man who travels across the country and, well, listens to consumers complaints about what they really hate about pay-TV services. The message: that Dish gets it, and is actively taking steps to respond to customer concerns.

Dish’s first two TV spots in the campaign are rolling out on ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox local TV affiliates in more than 150 U.S. markets starting Monday, with ad buys across all dayparts.

“A spokesman talks at you, while [Dish’s] Spokeslistener listens to and communicates with you,” said chief marketing officer Jay Roth. “It’s a demonstration of our commitment to acknowledge common customer frustrations, and then take the appropriate action to provide meaningful solutions.”

The ads carry the tagline “Tuned In To You,” and Dish says that the campaign coincides with renewed efforts to beef up customer service across its nationwide workforce.

The push is the first campaign under Roth, who joined the satcaster last summer as CMO after serving as Chase’s head of marketing for consumer banking.

The “Spokeslistener” ads represent a new marketing tack for Dish, which previously has emphasized low pricing and value (such as recent spots for its “skinny” bundles). The new campaign is for only the satellite TV service: Dish’s Sling TV internet-delivered service, aimed a younger, more urban demo, is marketed separately. Sling TV ads currently feature grindhouse star Danny Trejo on the horrors of traditional pay TV (including high pricing).

Dish considered launching the campaign with an ad in Fox’s 2017 Super Bowl broadcast but ultimately opted out. “We decided we want to spend the budget more efficiently to launch the day after [the Super Bowl],” Roth said.

Roth declined to reveal how much Dish is spending on the new promos, but said it will span TV, radio, online video and social media.

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Dish’s Spokeslistener character was designed to have specific emotional qualities: He’s patient, sophisticated, easygoing, wise, rugged, and confident — but doesn’t take himself seriously, according to Roth.

“With this campaign we want to change the perception America has of the Dish brand,” he said, adding, “I think Dish has not told our story very well. Most people think of Dish as a brand that delivers a very competitive price, and Dish stands for far more than that.” The ads will highlight the company’s technology, like the Hopper DVR with auto ad-skipping and streaming features as well as Netflix integration, customer service, and affordable and flexible TV packages.

But will consumers buy the pitch?

Dish lost a net 949,000 satellite TV customers over the 12 months ended Sept. 30, estimates analyst firm MoffettNathanson, as they either cut the cord, switched to cable, telco TV service or DirecTV, or signed up for over-the-top service like Dish’s own Sling TV. Meanwhile, Dish’s score on the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index has been stuck at 67 out of a 100-point scale for the past three years — higher than many cable TV providers, but below the average for every industry sector the ACSI tracks.

The Englewood, Colo.-based company says it’s taking real steps to change the way it serves customers. In October, it launched Base Camp, an immersive training program in which corporate employees work in the field for one month to gain front-line experience in dealing with subscribers. Dish said it expects 700 employees, including senior execs, to participate in the Base Camp program by the end of 2017.

Another change: Dish will prominently feature feedback forms on every page on its website, to proactively solicit input from consumers about ways the company can improve. “Tuned In To You” is “more than a marketing slogan,” president and COO Erik Carlson said in a statement provided by Dish. “It’s a company-wide rallying cry and a long-term business philosophy.”

“The Spokeslistener” ads are produced by Havas Worldwide’s creative agency Camp + King, based in San Francisco.

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