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Virgin Media Ad Banned After Usain Bolt Fails to Double All Broadband Speeds

Wednesday, Jun 27th, 2012 (7:40 am) - Score 1,115

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned two online adverts for Virgin Media’s broadband service after Sky Broadband (BSkyB) complained that VM “misleadingly” used sporting icon Usain Bolt to promise that the ISP would be “doubling everyone’s broadband speeds” when in reality some customers did not benefit.

One of the adverts (a) in particular, which appeared on Virgin Media’s own website, was found to be particularly contradictory for mentioning that the promotion was for “Cabled areas only” before later saying that “100Mb customers will see price-cut instead of speed doubling” in the small print (the 100Mbps service is also a cable product).

Virgin Media countered by saying that all of its existing 100Mbps customers were notified that they would not be receiving the upgrade and added that they had sought CAP Copy Advice (i.e. guidance from the advertising authority) before running the adverts. Clearly that wasn’t enough to convince the ASA.

ASA Assessment (REF: A12-189463)

We understood that CAP Copy Advice had advised Virgin that the claim “I’m doubling everyone’s broadband speeds” would be problematic if there were any exclusions and that the claim could have made clear that it was intended to refer to Virgin customers only.

We noted the headline claim in ad (a) stated “I’m doubling everyone’s broadband speeds” and that it was used in conjunction with the reference in the body copy to “my customers”, which we considered gave the overall impression that the ad was aimed at existing Virgin customers. We therefore considered consumers would interpret the ad to mean that all existing Virgin customers would have their broadband speed doubled. We understood that 100 Mb and non-cable broadband customers would not have their broadband speeds doubled and we therefore considered the text “cabled areas only” and “100Mb customers will see price-cut instead of speed doubling” directly contradicted the headline claim. Because the exclusions contradicted the main headline claim and because not all Virgin customers would have their broadband speeds doubled, we concluded that ad (a) was misleading.

We considered consumers would interpret ad (b) to mean that all consumers who have or could get the Virgin service would have their broadband speed doubled. Because we understood that not all non-Virgin customers and Virgin 100 Mb and non-cable broadband customers would have their broadband speed doubled, we concluded that ad (b) was misleading and that the exclusions contradicted the main claim.

As usual the ASA warned Virgin Media that the adverts must not appear again in their current form. This marks the third time that Virgin has been in trouble with the authority since the end of April (here and here).

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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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