REMEMBER THOSE VODAFONE BROADBAND adverts guaranteeing a certain quality of experience? Hopefully (and in all likelihood) the answer is "no", because the firm has received a sharp slap on the wrist from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for its troubles.
Before digging into the full nature of the complaint, let's revisit the fine pièce du cinéma that Vodafone treated us to.
INT. Living room - night. Actor Martin Freeman - him off Sherlock and The Office - is sat wearing a gaming headset and playing an online game with a friend. At the crucial moment of rescue, his broadband cuts out, leaving a big ‘connecting' sign on screen.
"I don't believe this. Every time!" Freeman laments, giving the kind of subtle nuance to a performance that most actors could only dream of, and to no degree phoning it in. "Just get Vodafone!" his friend says over the headset - which weirdly seems to still be working despite his apparent disconnection.
A voiceover then says "Vodafone guarantees your home broadband speeds or money off until it's fixed." Fin.
It's the promise at the end that nine complainants - including BT - took issue with. The ASA upheld a complaint that the advert implied a guaranteed experience where the user wouldn't experience common problems like buffering. Given Vodafone wouldn't necessarily give money off bills for a bit of buffering, the ASA ruled that the complaint was correct.
Vodafone promises a discount if sync speed - the speed received by the customer's router - is below 25Mbps for its Superfast 1 package (up to 38Mbps) or under 55Mbps on its Superfast 2 (up to 76Mbps) offering. The trouble with sync speeds, the ASA reasoned, is that it's not necessarily an accurate measure of the performance customers experience: in other words, they may be getting really slow speeds, but it wouldn't be covered by the guarantee.
The ASA argued that throughput speed (which also covers traffic and other mitigating factors) would be a better measure, but Vodafone countered that sync speed is more within its control.
"We told Vodafone to ensure their future advertising did not mislead by stating or implying that their broadband ensured minimum speeds that were fast enough that customers did not experience common issues such as buffering when using their devices in the home to perform typical online activities, or that customers who experienced such issues would qualify for a reduction to their bill," the ASA report said, in a sentence that could really have benefited from a full stop. The advert cannot be shown again in its current form.
Vodafone, for its part, said it was "disappointed" by the ruling, and believes that the ASA had "misunderstood" the offer. Which is kind of the point - if the body that regulates adverts doesn't get the point of the ad, then what chance the viewers? µ
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