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TalkTalk Fails in Bid to Have UK Advertising Watchdog Pull BT Infinity Ad

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 (9:01 am) - Score 853

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has rejected an attempt by TalkTalk to have a rival TV advert for the BTInfinity (FTTC) superfast broadband service pulled. The ISP accused BT’s promotion of “misleadingly” implying that fibre optic broadband services were only available from BT.

The advert is probably quite familiar to most people and depicts two students, one male and one female, going to view rooms at a flat share. Towards the end of this advert one of the students, leaning towards the BTInfinity home hub, says, “Thanks fibre optic technology.” Immediately afterwards a voice-over stated, “Four times faster than average broadband: Infinity, only from BT.”

However BT countered that the only reference to fibre optic broadband technology was as part of a light-hearted dialogue between the characters and claimed that it did not form part of the Infinity campaign taglines. Clearcast, the advertising company, endorsed BT’s response and “did not believe that the ad was misleading“.

ASA Ruling

We considered that viewers would understand that “Infinity” was the name of the BT broadband product and that the claim “Only from BT” related to this product, not to fibre optic technology generally. Because we did not consider that viewers would infer from the ad that fibre optic technology was only available from BT we concluded that the ad was not misleading.

The situation could perhaps represent another example of just how trivial the battle for customers has become, with the ASA frequently being used as a weapon of limited effectiveness by almost all of the major ISPs. On the other hand it’s good to see that ISPs are keeping such a close eye on their competitors and raising concerns where necessary.

Meanwhile BT has been told that its advert can continue unabated.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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17 Responses
  1. Avatar wirelesspacman says:

    That is just a ridiculous judgement from the ASA. It is blatantly obvious that BT intends to infer that fibre optic broadband is only available from BT. Why else would they include the word “only” in the strap line?

    Having said that, I suppose we should expect little else from those ASA muppets given that they consider fibre optic broadband not to need a fibre connection to the building!

    1. Avatar Tony says:

      When I first saw this acvertisement, I was amazed that BT got away with it, it seemed to me they were suggesting fibre optic BB was only available from them.
      I was surprised no one chalenged it.

      They can advertise all they like I would never deal with them. I used them as my ISP once. When I had problems it took 15 calls to their tech support before they even attempted to solve the problem. I’ve heard their Fibre optic service is not much good.

    2. Avatar New_Londoner says:

      Odd to criticise any company for doing this – someone on TBB rightly cited Kellogg as a non-tech example of using the same basic message in some of its adverts. Rather than complaining, perhaps TalkTalk should invest in developing a brand name for its own offering and putting some money into promoting it.

    3. Avatar Edith says:

      Talktalk may be cheap but there customer seivcre is abysmal believe me. I had 6 very stressful months of phoning virtually every night to resolve a line fault between the exchange and our village, we have gladly opted for the a370 early termination charge just to be rid of them!

  2. Mark Jackson Mark Jackson says:

    I’m in too minds about it. On the one hand you could argue that the impression TalkTalk complained about does exist. But on the other I’d be worried that if the ASA had clamped down then its impact could potentially have been quite a lot broader than necessary.

    It reaches a point where you run the risk of the rules becoming so complex and bureaucratic that advertising anything would require a team of legal advisors to comb over every single word against a mass of rules in order to get even a fairly simple promo out.

    Not that the advert itself couldn’t lead to confusion, I can see how it would, just that ‘case rules’ can easily become cumbersome if you become too picky. But then this is all a moot point as the ASA has no teeth beyond a quick slap on the wrists.

  3. I have to agree with TalkTalk. Every single day we get people asking if we also do Infinity or they would like to move to Infinity for faster speeds with BT cause they have Infinity and no one else does.

    We literally are having to educate almost everyone that it’s not just BT and only when explained that lots of ISPs do it, does the situation change.

    This ASA ruling is without question, wrong, however, the problem is there is nothing stopping them using the word “Infinity”. Customers have tied that word to mean faster speeds, rather where if it was “Fibre, only from BT”, then the ASA may have more teeth.

    We used the word “Infinity from Aquiss” and got a legal letter from BT telling us to stop…even though our view is that a trademark was issued without merit, because it was BT.

  4. Avatar Telecom Engineer says:

    I do often get customers asking how easy it would be to move to BT so they can get fibre, then I have to explain that whilst switching is possible there are many suppliers using the Openreach FTTC and they should contact their ISP in the first instance to check if they offer such services.
    It is a bigger problem than it needs to be because other operators are not advertising. Once OLOs start promoting then people will realise its not only BT.
    As for BT making out they are the only ones – I have been sent roughly 100 fliers to post in my road / neighbour hood (in my own time as a volunteer NGA champion) with full Openreach branding (no mention of infinity), telling people NGA is available and to speak to their CP (isp) – about getting service – adds the http://www.superfast-openreach.co.uk website too. Is this is the act of an evil monopoly and its acolytes trying to usurp competition?
    Does make me wonder if I am doing more to promote talk talk etc services more than they are….
    There is also the stickers now on most NGA cabs with similar info.
    I think this is just another distraction from their 5000 subs disaster…. A good sales man could sign up that many people on his todd if he spent every day of a month in a city with a clipboard. For TT to turn this around they need to stop moaning to ASA and sell NGA as a service rather than an expensive “boost” option on its packages – imo it puts it in the same realm as caller display etc in the customers eyes whereas the infinity ads (and different industry but the SKY HD ads) do a lot to sell this as a huge upgrade and new service.

    1. I suspect your flyers say “BT Openreach” with the BT globe symbol on? If so, people see the same globe and presume its the same company.

      IMHO Wholesale and Openreach should have had different branding/names to ensure the differences were more easily understood.

    2. Avatar Tom says:

      Entirely agree with you there Martin. The stickers put on our cabinets recently have the “BT” branding (along with the superfast-openreach site). Most people will see it and think “BT” just because of the colours and then associate the Infinity product rather than thinking.. “I should speak to my current provider”.

  5. Avatar Phil says:

    sack the whole lots at ASA

  6. Avatar Telecom Engineer says:

    The BT globe is about a tenth the size of the Openreach logo (which will be there as it is a BT group business). IMO Wholesale doesnt matter as the public do not deal with them, and Openreach are getting good recognition from the public with regards to our role.
    The flier explains people should speak to their ISP and the website has a rotating list of ISP logos in the bottom right of the website.
    The BT logo is (although an ever decreasing) necessity to comfort end users that Openreach are the right people to be working on their phone lines, getting access was sometimes difficult when we first launched – of course doesnt help again when some ISPs tell EUs “we will send BT round to fix your line”…..
    I can assure you that Openreach do attempt to differentiate themselves from BT Retail, for example if dealing with one of your customers I would never ring up “hi, BT here got a problem?”, have to say “Hi I am xxx an Openreach Engineer working on Behalf of Aquiss, we have received a report that you are receiving issues with your broadband”.
    Anyway, point I was making is that Openreach are spending money (and its people our own free time) promoting the fact that these services are available and from a multitude of providers.
    At the end of the day what people wish to assume is up to them, but (perhaps not so much the niche specialists) large ISPs have a duty to promote their own products – simply badgering from the sidelines wont do themselves, end users or the industry any good (and BT are not exactly sin free with regards to ASA complaints either). Also dont forget Infinity is just one fibre product BT offer – there is the Total Broadband with fibre, ethernet services, ISDN 30s etc…. I wouldnt assume watching these ads that Infinity is now the only fibre product available or that BT are the only ones who could supply it. No more than Ford saying that their new car has ABS would lead me to believe that only that car comes with ABS and therefore I need to buy a Ford to get it.

  7. Avatar Darren says:

    “We considered that viewers would understand that “Infinity” was the name of the BT broadband product and that the claim “Only from BT” related to this product, not to fibre optic technology generally”
    That’s a very specific distinction the ASA are expecting people to make. Most people aren’t clued up and will just presume BT is BT and “Only from BT” means just that.

    I’ve been supprised they have been getting away with this, even more supprised they have now been given the green light to carry on. What a joke.

  8. Avatar Jing says:

    Silly ASA. Magnum do an infinity product too.

  9. Avatar dragoneast says:

    I’m not sure what some people want BT to do . . . oh yes, advertise everyone else’s product but their own, provide an ISP service that is more expensive than everybody else’s, and stop rolling out FTTC/P and bidding for BDUK contracts. And what a fine state we’d be in, in that wonderful world. Unfortunately for them, most people are more sensible than that, and either out of their own money or taxpayers funds, do not want to pay any more than is necessary and might just find BT, in that objective, more of a help than a hindrance.

  10. Avatar Deduction says:

    Looking at the comments and the complaint it seems to me people dont have an issue with BT advertising their product, they have an issue when BT try to mislead and state a type of service is “ONLY” available from them. Prior adverts for BT infinity have been banned, so they have a habit already for breaking ASA rules.

  11. Avatar Stoatwblr says:

    In New Zealand the equivalent to the Openreach split was not only forced to change its name, it’s not allowed to refer to its parent company’s logos AT ALL.

    This was specifically done to prevent continued association of the line company with the incumbent retail outfit, given the lines company external plant vans are the ones seen on the roads and their cabinets on the roadside. Such an association was deemed to provide an unfair advantage to the incumbent.

    IE, call it OpenReach and remove all the “BT” logos. A lot of people would be happier.

    1. Avatar DTMark says:

      In terms of the original privatisation and the way in which BT is seen now by many if not still most, is basically the same as if Directory Enquiries had been privatised but BT had been allowed to keep the “192” number instead of being forced to give it up.

      It’s the same reason many still have line rental with BT – “BT does the phones”. It’s the same reason most of my business clients have BT for their broadband. “BT does all the broadband, no point mucking around with the silly little boys just reselling their services”

      And, in the main, on various levels, they’re mostly right. It’s a faux market, there’s choice and competition at a price level, but not a lot else.

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