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All in the Timing

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DirecTV received some unexpected help last Thursday in its efforts to discredit a major cable TV competitor.

On the same day the satellite TV service pro vider ran an ad in the Los Angeles Times disparaging Adelphia Cable, the latter's founder, John Rigas, was pictured on the newspaper's front page after his arrest in New York the previous morning.

DirecTV's half-page vertical ad in the paper's sports section that day included the large headline: "Satisfied with Adelphia cable? We didn't think so."

Although advertising for Direc TV, based in El Segundo, Calif., is handled by Deutsch/LA in Marina del Rey, Calif., the newspaper ad was created by the client's in-house marketing department, according to company spokesman Robert Mercer.

The ad aimed to persuade cable subscribers to switch to DirecTV and was unrelated to the arrest of Rigas and his sons Timothy and Michael for alleged financial improprieties, said Mercer. He noted that the ad was simply another salvo in an ongoing battle between cable and satellite TV providers.

"It was just happenstance," said Mercer. "We were not trying to capitalize on the arrest of Rigas. It's no secret that we have been pretty aggressive competitors."

That competition has included an ad run by cable TV providers that spoofs the DirecTV campaign from Deutsch that shows a company installer being hugged and treated with affection by customers receiving the service.

In the parody ad, the installer is depicted as a hefty, obnoxious man who laughs heartily at a customer who asks if he can terminate his service at any time.