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BT Broadband TV Advert Banned Over Difficult to Read Small Print

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017 (7:54 am) - Score 815

The Advertising Standards Authority has told UK ISP BT not to re-run one of their TV adverts for broadband connectivity, which occurred because some of the on-screen text that accompanied their promotion was found to be “not sufficiently legible.

The advert itself, which appeared during May 2017, promoted a “welcome discount on BT Unlimited Broadband” that was worth “over 30%” and this was accompanied by some small print at the bottom (referencing the contract term, post contract price and other features of the offer). On top of that the ad later offered a “£100 reward card to spend” (alongside the MasterCard logo) and this had its own bit of small print.

However one person challenged whether the text was “sufficiently legible” because they found the small print “difficult to read.” Clearcast disagreed and believed the on-screen text met technical specifications, although the ASA disagreed.

ASA Ruling (REF: A17-390142)

The time the text was on-screen coincided with several visual effects at the same time as the voice-over. In the first case, these included pulsing sound/radio waves; a computer screen, laptop and phone all of which contained text or animated landscapes and all of which took up most of the screen and moved across it. In the second case, the visual effects included pulsing sound/radio waves and a circular effect around the mastercard logo, which again took up most of the screen and moved across it at the same time as the voice-over. The width of the second lot of text had also been compressed, such that the words appeared tall but also narrow, which we considered made it harder to read.

We considered that while the on-screen text was of a height, had a contrast and was held on-screen for a length of time that complied with the BCAP guidance in relation to those aspects, the on-screen text was being used to communicate two different offers in conjunction with other important visual information and voice-over that were likely to take precedence in the minds of viewers.

In addition the width of the second lot of text had been compressed, which we considered made it harder to read. Because of those factors, we considered that the text was not sufficiently legible and that material information was not presented clearly. We therefore concluded that the ad was likely to mislead.

As usual the ASA has given BT a ceremonial slap and told them not to make the same mistake in future promotions, which will have no material impact on the operator because the promotion has long since ended. Mind you BT aren’t the only ISP to fall foul of the text legibility rule, which over the years has also caught out most of the major providers at one time or another.

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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.
Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Graham Long says:

    The ASA seem totally inempt when it comes tp policing broadband advertising, particularly when they allow the likes of BT, Sky and Virgin to advertise broadband delivered via copper wire pairs or copper coaxial cable to be called fibre broadband. This is the same as building the M4 from London to Bristol but only building the 6 lane motorway as far as Swindon and then relying on the A4 to carry all the traffic between Swndon and Bristol but still saying that the M4 runs from London to Bristol. The French ASA made it a requirement in 2015 for French broadband companies to state what medium they use to carry broadband into your home irrespective of how much fibre is used in the connection.

    1. GNewton says:

      As far as I know this is currently being reviewed by ASA so it may eventually correct this error of the misleading “fibre broadband” terminology. Though it’s surprising to see how much time it takes them to do so. Perhaps ASA should be replaced with another organisation which actually does a proper job.

    2. Mark Jackson says:

      I really wouldn’t bank on that outcome.

  2. lyndon says:

    Is ADSL2 not “fibre broadband”

    1. eM says:

      It is, according to the article from 1st April this year 🙂

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