To be in a DirectTV commercial with a redemption narrative would be a odd choice for Rob Lowe. He seems more like the guy you would stick in a billboard that needed a generic middle-class white guy with a Hollywood smile. However it’s that generic middle-class white guy that is the target audience for a commercial series that Rob Lowe stars in along with various flavours of himself: creepy, scrawny arms, hairy crazy, less attractive, and painfully awkward Robe Lowe.
The purpose of these commercials is to convince cable-users to switch to DirectTV, and by using Rob Lowe playing himself as a comparison of two different people, this ad becomes genius for evoking the narrative of decisions and redemption.
I coulda been a contender
The “I coulda been a contender” line is one of those movie quotes that has transcended it’s movie (if you can guess the name of that movie, then yah for you and have your daily dose of smug self-satisfaction). However the point of that quote is Marlon Brando (yes hint for you, Marlon Brando stars in it) is upset for how his life turned out if it wasn’t for one pivotal night.
In Rob Lowe’s commercials all his comparisons are emulations of what Rob Lowe would have been if he had not exercised enough, succumbed to hiding-in-the-bush-wanking tendencies, had never learned to be confident, been too lazy for personal hygiene. All failures that the target audience fear could happen to them.
Redemption is out there
Everyone loves a good redemption story. In “The World’s End” Simon Pegg’s character sets the plot events in motion in order to relive his glory day and in his own way to start his life over again (spoiler alert: he succeeds in a roundabout way). In real life while it did not happen, the possibility of a Rob Ford redemption narrative when he returned from rehab was frequently raised by the news.
The point of commercial is to get the target audience to switch from cable to DirectTV and while the ad doesn’t do a perfect job of that (that Rob Lowe seems to be a alternate-dimension traveller doesn’t seem to help) that it plays up the possibility that painfully awkward Rob Lowe can be confident Rob Lowe is a redemption narrative that the audience can be invested in.
Rob Lowe is the white middle-classed middle-aged guy who epitomizes the audience. Even the settings portrays various locations of the audience, where Rob Lowe lives in various forms of success, surrounded by friends, in nice hotels or living rooms and the other Rob Lowes all seen screwing up in their lives. It sets up a perfect comparison for the audience to see how they compare to their idealized life (attractive Rob Lowe) or to their insecurities and failures (failure Rob Lowe). For creating a narrative of choices and redemption, not bad for a 30-second TV commercial.