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BT’s Ryan Reynolds Broadband TV Adverts Banned for Misleading WiFi Claims

Wednesday, June 14th, 2017 (7:41 am) - Score 1,956
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ISPs Sky Broadband, Virgin Media and TalkTalk have succeeded in getting the Advertising Standards Agency to ban several adverts for BT’s Infinity SmartHub broadband router, which made “misleading” claims to offer the “UK’s most powerful wi-fi signal” and “better wi-fi coverage“.

The TV advert itself, which featured film actor Ryan Reynolds extolling the virtues of BT’s new SmartHub broadband router before later hanging on to the bottom of a helicopter as it took off (see video below), made several claims about how the device offered exceptional wi-fi coverage and signal strength. The claims were later repeated in a YouTube, radio and web-page advert.

Overall more than 60 people and three rival ISPs questioned whether BT’s Wi-Fi claims could be substantiated. In response BT highlighted some of the testing that had been conducted (example) as support for their promotion, which compared the device with routers from several major rivals, and they added that the claims “related only to the capabilities of the router, rather than to the overall broadband speed.”

However, in a lengthy response, the ASA ruled that the adverts were still “misleading” and banned them because BT had only compared their SmartHub against routers from major rivals and not the market as a whole.

ASA Ruling (REF: A16-347421)

BT had not tested hubs from all the major broadband providers in the ‘real homes’ tests. However, because the tests performed in laboratory conditions were suitably robust, we considered that it was sufficient for BT to test only the three top-performing hubs in order to demonstrate that the same results could be achieved in a representative real home setting. We therefore considered the evidence was sufficient to demonstrate that the BT Smart Hub had the UK’s most powerful wi-fi signal compared to major broadband providers. However, it was not sufficient to substantiate the claim as it would be understood by consumers, as a comparison with the whole market.

In conclusion, consumers would understand the ads to mean that the BT Smart Hub provided a stronger signal – that is, one that could reach a greater distance within users’ homes – than routers from any other broadband provider. We acknowledged that the evidence substantiated that the Smart Hub’s signal reached a greater distance than routers from other major broadband providers. However, we did not consider the qualifications that the claims only related to a comparison to major broadband providers was sufficiently prominent, and BT had not provided evidence in relation to the whole market. For those reasons we concluded that the claims “UK’s most powerful wi-fi signal” and “Our hub gives you better wi-fi coverage” were misleading.

As usual the ASA gave BT a slap on the wrist and told them not to repeat the claims again in their current form, at least not without first making “the basis of comparative claims clear in order to avoid giving a misleading impression to consumers.” Typically the advert has by now already run most of its course and so the ban will have little tangible impact.

We should point out that a third complaint was also lodged against some of the specific coverage distances that had been referenced in the adverts and this was NOT upheld (e.g. the actors in the helicopter asked Reynolds if he had wi-fi at 150 meters, then at 200 meters, and he stated that he had). On this point the ASA ruled that BT’s testing had fairly “substantiated that it was possible to obtain a wi-fi signal at 200 meters from the hub.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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8 Responses
  1. fastest-wifi-in-the-west

    being fairly certain that the antenna in these AP’s will not be 100% omni-directional it seems likely that they will focus more Tx power on the horizontal plane, thus unless they have actually tested a client located however many meters *above* their AP then surely their lab testing is far from sufficient to prove that a user could expect to receive wifi signal while hovering over their house in a helicopter, as depicted in their advert?

  2. I was called BT as my Wi-Fi signal is awful and asked if the router they were advertising would be better for me and there was once was that the BT Home Hub 5 was the same as a BT Home Hub 3 to which I responded in the advert the signal goes for over 30 feet to which the adviser replied about what direction is he going?

    Baffled by this question I replied seriously your advertising a better router if you’re going upwards by that logic I can just turn the router onto its side and pointed into the direction of my front room

    Not only is he advert ridiculously stupid it would appear so are the so called advisors

  3. Chris P

    they ban this on the basis that only 3 major BB providers routers where tested and not the whole market, yet they are perfectly happy with VM telling the world that their copper coax is fibre optic.

    the ASA are totally unbelievable, and are more stupid than the consumers who believed BT where referring to the whole market and not just the top few ISP’s.

  4. Karl

    Oh snap…
    “BT highlighted some of the testing that had been conducted (example) as support for their promotion…”
    http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2016/08/uk-isp-bt-publish-speedtests-smart-hub-wifi-router-vs-rivals.html

    “…the ASA ruled that the adverts were still “misleading” and banned them because BT had only compared their SmartHub against routers from major rivals and not the market as a whole.”

    Drops mic LOL

    • Chris P

      @Karl,

      “we considered that it was sufficient for BT to test only the three top-performing hubs in order to demonstrate that the same results could be achieved in a representative real home setting. We therefore considered the evidence was sufficient to demonstrate that the BT Smart Hub had the UK’s most powerful wi-fi signal compared to major broadband providers.”

      The ASA where happy with the testing methodology and the claim BT’s router was better than other ISP’s offerings.
      You claimed the router wasn’t capable of the speeds claimed, yet the ASA are happy the speeds and claims where accurate.

      Looks like you have egg on your face.

    • Karl

      BT advert banned = WINNING.

  5. Ben Richardson

    So why are they still showing the advert where he’s walking around a mansion, which repeats the same claim of UK’s most powerful wifi?

    • Karl

      The new adverts claim at the end of it is slightly different.

      The old advert which is banned with the helicopter made the claim
      “The UK’s most powerful wi-fi signal” at the beginning and end of the advert (see video in news item).

      This was an obvious lie and something BT could not prove even with their tests as they only tested a handful of routers.

      The new advert with the mansion here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=koo8XG8P1Vc makes the claim…
      “The UK’s most powerful wi-fi signal vs. major broadband providers” at the end of the advert. Which while they could indeed argue is now accurate it still is not as the testing they pointed to the did not test the Virgin Superhub 3 or the Sky Q Hub in 2 of the locations in their tests.

      He does also state at the 18 second mark in the video the same banned comment of “The UK’s most powerful wi-fi signal” with only small print on screen to clarify, previously the ASA has ruled on other adverts small print is not clear enough. At the end the voice over also does not match the newer more accurate onscreen claim.

      Overall id say it is perhaps worth another complaint to them about it.

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