That Giant Sucking Sound is Dish DBS Ads Going Bye-bye

Dish (opens in new tab), the runner-up in satellite TV subs in the United States, got a lot of attention recently with its "cable sucks" ad campaign. Most of the attention seemed to be negative, although PR folks will tell you there's no such animal as bad publicity. But Dish said when they told consumers in its ads that HD and larger screens won't be any good if their cable service still "sucks," it seemed to register with part of the public, while being a big turn-off to another (apparently bigger) part.

Dish execs tell USA Today that the perceived bad taste of the ads is overcome by the visual display in the commercials of cable TV sets literally sucking in all sorts of objects, including dinner guests and small children. The campaign's thrust is that cable is less reliable and more expensive than DBS, so why not go for the logical alternative?

In 2005, more than a quarter (27 percent) of U.S. households were using DBS services from Dish or satellite leader DirecTV, according to Gannett's national newspaper -- which was more than double the 12 percent penetration of 2000. But about 60 percent of households had cable TV service in 2005, down from 66 percent in 2000. Presumably, that 6 percent of households dropping cable decided to rent dishes.

Dish said with help from its cable sucks ads; it added 1 million subs in 2005 (which was its total sub base nine years ago) -- to finish the Q4 with more than 12 million customers. Yet while the ads might have worked, they were not well liked by consumers surveyed by Ad Track (opens in new tab) (a weekly poll at USA Today). Of those surveyed and familiar with the giant sucking sound, a mere 12 percent said they like the ads "a lot." Go figure.