Cox Recruits 'Digital Max' for TV Ads

GEICO has a talking gecko, AFLAC has an ornery duck, and now Cox Communications Inc. is banking on an animated character named “Digital Max” to stave off an onslaught from satellite and telephone companies.

Describing him as a “brand icon,” Cox unveiled Digital Max, modeled after a white male with brown hair, last week. The computer-generated, self-deprecating Max is beginning to appear in Cox TV spots, on its Web site and may eventually walk subscribers through Cox's interactive program guide, executives said.

Companies such as AFLAC have used their brand icons to help stand out in a cluttered ad market, and that's what Cox hopes to achieve off with Digital Max, created by ad agency Doner. The firm also created talking sheep for mattress company Serta Inc.'s ad campaign.

“In our environment, it's a little more cluttered than it's ever been, and it's probably on the verge of getting even more cluttered as the RBOCs [regional Bell operating companies] change their position from trusted telco to entertainment provider,” Cox senior vice president of marketing Joe Rooney said.

“Today, if you look in our category, it's a little hard to tell what anyone stands for, with the exception of DirecTV,” added Rooney, pointing to the DBS company's “rethink TV” ad campaign, created by BBDO.

Rooney said Digital Max extends the “your friend in the digital age” marketing tagline, which Cox began using in 2002.

Max has become that “friend,” guiding subscribers through Cox's offerings of digital cable, high-speed Internet and phone products.

In the first Digital Max spot, which Cox began running last week, Max enters the home of a family that just moved to the neighborhood, and tells them they need Cox products.

“Movers are critical, so it's no mistake that moving day is our first spot,” Rooney said.

In another spot, a Cox subscriber asks Max if he wants to go to the video store. His response: “Louis, we've got to talk. With on-demand from Cox, you can go beyond the video store, beyond TV.”

Max then magically enters the TV with the subscriber, Louis, as dozens of content offerings fly by their heads.

Rooney said Cox spent several million dollars to produce the spots — not including the media buy and the value of the cross-channel inventory Cox will use to run the ads.

It's up to local systems to decide whether or not to purchase spots on local broadcast stations to run the Digital Max ads, Rooney added.

Cox tested Max spots with customers and noncustomers of different ethnicities “to ensure a character who seems to be a white male would be accepted by multicultural segments,” Rooney said.

Max performed best in tests with Hispanics and African-Americans, and people liked the self-deprecating style, Rooney said. “He's not perfect. He stumbles once in a while. He's more like us in terms of not being perfect,” he said.

Next up for Max: possible appearances on the side of Cox field trucks.