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Virgin Media superfast broadband ad banned in UK by ASA

Following complaints after it claimed users will not be affected by buffering
Wed Oct 03 2012, 16:52
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UK INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER (ISP) Virgin Media has been told off by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) yet again for misleading customers regarding broadband speeds.

Following 18 complaints about an ad that claimed users of the firm's fibre-optic broadband service will not be affected by buffering when watching videos online, the regulator ruled today that it was misleading and that it violated three sections of the BCAP code.

Those who live in the UK will be familiar with the ad, which featured former Doctor Who star David Tennant walking across a screen that mimicked common on-line technical glitches.

In the ad, Tennant said, "Don't you just hate it when you're watching something online and it buffers, and this symbol appears?" A buffering symbol then appeared on the screen and David was shown smashing it with a baseball bat and then stamping on it. He added, "Ah. that's better. Now from Virgin Media, you could say bye-bye to buffering with superfast fibre-optic broadband."

Virgin Media responded to the ruling by saying that its broadband services validated the advert's claims.

The ASA said in its adjudication document, "[Virgin Media] said that speeds of between 1.5Mbit/s and 4Mbit/s were required to stream video content for services... and by providing a consistent download speed above that, Virgin Media's services could support video streaming services with a greater likelihood that customers would not experience buffering,"

Virgin Media also argued that the wording in the ad said users "could" say goodbye to buffering. It said, "[The company] believed this would be understood as a claim that buffering would be less likely with fibre-optic broadband but not that it would be entirely absent."

However, the ASA said the "ambiguity" in the way the claim was presented in the ad meant it was misleading. It said that viewers might not be aware of the other factors that could lead to buffering and as a result, ruled it should not appear in its current form on TV again.

This isn't the first time that the ISP has been chided for "misleading" customers with regard to broadband speeds in its commercials. Back in June, Virgin had its wrist slapped for an ad featuring Olympic Gold medallist Usain Bolt that said the firm was "doubling your broadband speed".

The ASA followed up complaints made by rival ISP British Sky Broadcasting that highlighted small print in Virgin Media's ad that said, "Cabled areas only" and "100Mb customers will see [a] price-cut instead of speed doubling", which contradicted the main claim.

The ASA comcluded that the ad was misleading and subsequently banned it because it implied that Virgin Media was doubling broadband speeds across the board, when it was in fact only doubling speeds for some, with 100Mbit/s customers seeing a price cut instead of a speed upgrade. µ


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