ASA Adjudication on Virgin Media Ltd
Virgin Media Ltd
Bartley Wood Business Park
19 October 2011
National press, Regional press
Number of complaints:
Two ads, in a PC Gaming magazine, for an internet service provider, viewed in June 2011:
a. The first ad was headed “Harder, better, Faster, Stronger". Further text stated "Uninterrupted online game play with Virgin 50mb Broadband”. The ad described how the advertiser’s broadband service was the best for online gaming.
b. The second ad was headed "Got the need for speed?”. Further text stated "Get ahead with 7x faster broadband. Game on ... Outmanoeuvre with lower lag times”.
The complainant challenged whether the claims that the advertiser’s broadband service was the best for online gaming were misleading and could be substantiated, because he believed that the advertiser’s broadband service suffered from significant jitter.
CAP Code (Edition 12)
Virgin Media (Virgin) explained that ad (a) had been created by the magazine’s editorial team and was not cleared under their usual procedure. They said that had the ad been through their usual procedure, the “best for online gaming” claim would have been removed. They said that the claim would not be repeated in future ads.
Virgin pointed out that ad (b) contained imagery from a car racing game and that the language used in the ad was associated with car racing. They believed that in that context, reference to “outmanoeuvre” was not a superiority claim, but puffery. They believed the ad contained no explicit or implicit claim that Virgin Media was the "best for online gaming", or that the service was jitter-free, and stated that reference to lower lag times did not amount to a claim that their product was superior to other broadband services for gaming in general. They said that the ad focused on the superior download speeds of their 50 Mb broadband service. They said that Ofcom research had substantiated that claim and that Ofcom had recognised that “[d]ownload speed is typically the most important single metric in determining broadband performance". They said that the ad also mentioned other benefits of the 50 Mb service, those being lower lag times and concurrent usage. They stated that those claims were substantiated within the Ofcom report, “UK Fixed Broadband Speeds”, November/December 2010 and that that had been referenced within the footnote.
The ASA noted Virgin’s comments that the “best for online gaming” claims had been included in ad (a) in error and would not be included in future ads. However, we considered that in the context of an ad which included claims such as “So what would it be like to have the UK’s best gaming broadband? A magical connection that solved all those problems of lag, unfair deaths and connections slowed by family members using the same line?”, the overall impression given by ad (a) was that Virgin’s 50 Mbit/s broadband service was superior to other broadband services for gaming.
We considered that consumers were likely to understand the claim “Outmanoeuvre with lower lag times”, made in ad (b), to mean that Virgin’s 50 Mbit/s broadband services was superior to other broadband services for gaming.
We understood from the complainant that Virgin’s 50 Mbit/s broadband services suffered from significant jitter. We also understood that jitter was a significant factor which affected gaming performance. We noted that in a comparison with other broadband services which offered ‘up to’ 20 Mbit/s and above, the Ofcom report, “UK Fixed Broadband Speeds”, identified that on average across the whole day and during peak times, Virgin’s 50 Mbit/s service had higher upstream jitter than all other services, aside from their own 20 Mbit/s service.
We noted that Virgin referred the ASA to the Ofcom report “UK Fixed Broadband Speeds” and stated that the claims made in the ad were substantiated within that report. However, they did not provide an explanation of how the report substantiated the lower lag time claim. Furthermore, we noted that, as stated above, the Ofcom report identified that Virgin’s 50 Mbit/s service had higher upstream jitter than all other services, aside from their own 20 Mbit/s service.
Since we understood that Virgin’s 50 Mbit/s service suffered from high upstream jitter, and because we understood that jitter was a significant factor which affected gaming performance, we concluded that the overall impression given by the ads was misleading.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.11 (Exaggeration) and 3.33 (Comparisons)
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Virgin to ensure that they held adequate substantiation to support all claims in future.