The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK has ruled that one of Apple’s iPhone television commercials must not appear again in its present form, because of misleading claims that the iPhone accesses the internet “really fast”.
A TV ad, for the iPhone 3G, stated “So what’s so great about 3G? It’s what helps you get the news, really fast. Find your way, really fast. And download pretty much anything, really fast. The new iPhone 3G. The internet, you guessed it, really fast.”
The ad showed a close-up of the product being used to surf a news webpage, view the Google maps service and download a file. All the actions had waiting times of only a fraction of a second. On-screen text stated “Network performance will vary by location”.
Click on the image below to play the video in YouTube (HD)
PC Pro has put together a video, What the banned iPhone advert should really look like, comparing banned advert with the actual time it takes for the iPhone 3G to carry out the actions, using a Wi-Fi connection, using sites and files similar to those shown by Apple. While the advertisement completes the actions in 29 seconds, the PC Pro video continues right through to 2 minutes and 21 seconds.
Apple (UK) Ltd (Apple) said the claims made in the ad were relative rather than absolute in nature. They pointed out that the opening line of the voice-over stated “So what’s great about 3G?”. They believed that the claim clearly positioned the content of the ad as a comparison of the new 3G iPhone with its 2G predecessor. Apple pointed out that mobile devices using 3G technology operated at substantially faster speeds. They maintained that, as such, the implication that the 3G iPhone allowed downloads and internet access that was ‘really fast’ by comparison to the previous generation was not misleading.
Apple said the claim was a general one highlighting how download speeds and internet access were “really fast”. They considered that any assessment of the complaint should take into account the overall impression conveyed by the ad to the average viewer. Apple maintained that the average viewer was a mobile phone user and would have understood that a device’s performance varied due to several factors. They also maintained that the average viewer would understand that a 30-second TV ad could not address every single experience and was merely simplified to allow an illustration of the device. Furthermore, Apple believed that the combination of the voice-over and visuals highlighted how the demonstration sequence was intended to show the range of functions of the device. They said the on-screen text “network performance will vary by location” underlined the potential for performance variations.
The ASA noted Apple maintained that the ad was intended as a comparison between the older 2G technology and the newer 3G connectivity upon which the advertised iPhone was based. Although ASA acknowledged that the majority of viewers would be familiar with mobile telephones, they considered that many might not be fully aware of the technical differences between the different types of technology. They also noted the ad did not give an explicit indication of a comparison with the older 2G iPhone.
ASA noted the voice-over claim “really fast” was used in conjunction with each of the functions shown in the visuals. The visuals, in conjunction with the repeated use of the claim “really fast”, were likely to lead viewers to believe that the device actually operated at or near to the speeds shown in the ad. Because ASA understood that it did not, it was concluded that the ad was likely to mislead. The advert is not allowed to be shown again in its current format.