Charlie Ergen: Satellite cowboy, TV viewer, pitchman

August 3, 2010

Charlie Ergen is best known in media business circles as the straight talking homely founder of satellite TV provider Dish Network Corp. He’s often been disarmingly honest on quarterly conference calls with Wall Street analysts by admitting that he had personally taken his eye off the ball when the company was losing customers a few years ago or putting his annual family vacation ahead of being present on the quarterly call.

Well Dish Network’s marketing team is hoping that Ergen’s southern gentleman charm can win over new customers or at least keep old ones in the pay-TV wars versus DirecTV Group and the various US cable operators.

Ergen appears in a new in-house produced campaign below talking about his pride in the company he founded, his “embarrassing” picture from his early days, and its recent success in customer service etc.


Dish Chief Marketing Officer Ira Bahr said that his boss is a “plain-speaking, easy-to-understand American TV viewer” just like the kinds of people the company is trying to win over in a business sector where there is so much “yelling and price competition” between the various players (Dish has been as guilty as anyone in that respect as you can see here and here).

But outside of crisis management does recruiting the boss as your top pitchman really work for a major national brand campaign? The closest most recent example would be mobile phone company Sprint CEO Dan Hesse, who first hit our screens in a black & white stylish campaignsoon after he joined in 2008.  Sprint’s fortunes haven’t exactly improved since the end of 2007 the last quarter before he joined the company. Sprint has lost more than 5 million customers, though the rate of those losses appear to have narrowed in recent quarters.  Bahr argues that a professional CEO as pitchman doesn’t have quite the same marketing resonance as that of a founder CEO like Ergen and Dish is currently on the up having already added 700,000 customers in the last year or so.

But what does branding professional Allen Adamson think of Dish’s ad spot?

Adamson, who is managing director of branding agency Landor Associates and author of BrandDigital, said:  “It’s a fairly tricky thing to do. Personalities of CEOs don’t necessarily always match up with the brand and ultimately may not be persuasive. It really is about how credible and powerful a communicator the CEO is. (Ergen’s) techy personal matches his office with model rocket by the window and lends some credibility but I still feel that he is not the best way to tell the Dish story”

Ergen has proved doubters and experts wrong before, his marketing team will be hoping he does so again.

3 comments

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[...] Charlie Ergen: Satellite cowboy, TV viewer, pitchmanReuters India (blog)Charlie Ergen is best known in media business circles as the straight talking homely founder of satellite TV provider Dish Network Corp. … [...]

If dishnet work is so honest. Why does it not tell customer in its advertizing that they will be charged a one time set up fee of 49.99 When you call you are transfered to some guy in India who some how has an english name. not alone their english is so bad you can barely understand them. Then you are tranfered 3 times with people speaking so bad and so fast buy then end your not sure whats going on. When you call dish they say that charge is from a company the have fill their orders. come on dish be honest tell people up front. These tacits are what you get from 3rd rate tv commerical. Joe P,S I want my money back

Posted by maleslot34 | Report as abusive

If dishnet work is so honest. Why does it not tell customer in its advertizing that they will be charged a one time set up fee of 49.99 When you call you are transfered to some guy in India who some how has an english name. not alone their english is so bad you can barely understand them. Then you are tranfered 3 times with people speaking so bad and so fast buy then end your not sure whats going on. When you call dish they say that charge is from a company the have fill their orders. come on dish be honest tell people up front. These tacits are what you get from 3rd rate tv commerical. Joe P,S I want my money back

Posted by maleslot34 | Report as abusive

This is the Dish of old. Personable attentive customer service. I have been a loyal customer of dish since it’s inception in 1996 and have experienced the change in customer service to the point of disconnection from it’s consumer. They no longer accept telephone calls at the corporate level and in addition only receive written communication by snail mail and PO box. My advice if you want good customer service look elsewhere.

Posted by eclectic1 | Report as abusive