Rob Lowe is wearing pants up to his belly button. His hair is parted in the middle, and he has a fanny pack fastened around his waist. He’s standing at a urinal and looks at the camera with a shy smile: “I can’t pee with other people in the room,” he admits. This is the nerdy version of Rob Lowe featured in a new DirecTV commercial, and this is the scene that upset an advocacy group for shy bladder syndrome.
“Shy bladder syndrome” affects, by the International Paruresis Association‘s estimates, 7 percent of the U.S. population. People with the syndrome have a hard time urinating if other people are nearby, and the CEO of that association, Steve Soifer, thinks the DirecTV ad is making light of that struggle.
“We don’t mind if people have a little fun with it,” Soifer told the Associated Press. “It’s a situation that a lot of people don’t understand. In this particular case, the portrayal is making it look ridiculous, that this guy is a loser for having a problem.”
Although the association wants DirecTV to pull the ad, DirecTV spokesman Darris Gringeri told the Associated Press that’s not going to happen. “The ads will continue to run for the vast majority of viewers who have told us they enjoy the spots and understand that, like all of our commercials, they take place in a fantasy world and are not based in reality.”