ASA Ruling on Apple (UK) Ltd
Apple (UK) Ltd
1 Roundwood Avenue
26 November 2008
Computers and telecommunications
Number of complaints:
A TV ad, for the iPhone 3G, stated "So what's so great about 3G? It's what helps you get the news, really fast. Find your way, really fast. And download pretty much anything, really fast. The new iPhone 3G. The internet, you guessed it, really fast." The ad showed a close-up of the product being used to surf a news webpage, view the Google maps service and download a file; all the actions had waiting times of only a fraction of a second. On-screen text stated "Network performance will vary by location".
Seventeen viewers complained that the ad was misleading, because they believed it exaggerated the speed of the iPhone 3G.
BCAP TV Code
Apple (UK) Ltd (Apple) said the claims made in the ad were relative rather than absolute in nature. They pointed out that the opening line of the voice-over stated "So what's great about 3G?". They believed that the claim clearly positioned the content of the ad as a comparison of the new 3G iPhone with its 2G predecessor. Apple pointed out that mobile devices using 3G technology operated at substantially faster speeds. They maintained that, as such, the implication that the 3G iPhone allowed downloads and internet access that was 'really fast' by comparison to the previous generation was not misleading.
Apple said the claim was a general one highlighting how download speeds and internet access were "really fast". They considered that any assessment of the complaint should take into account the overall impression conveyed by the ad to the average viewer. Apple maintained that the average viewer was a mobile phone user and would have understood that a device's performance varied due to several factors. They also maintained that the average viewer would understand that a 30-second TV ad could not address every single experience and was merely simplified to allow an illustration of the device. Furthermore, Apple believed that the combination of the voice-over and visuals highlighted how the demonstration sequence was intended to show the range of functions of the device. They said the on-screen text "network performance will vary by location" underlined the potential for performance variations.
Clearcast said they did not consider that the claim "really fast" was one of superiority but a comparison with the rest of the market. They said they received supporting evidence for the claim and were satisfied that the 3G iPhone could achieve speeds that, when compared to the rest of the market, were reasonably fast. Clearcast said they were given an assurance by the producer of the ad that the visuals were an accurate demonstration sequence and that the speed illustrated was achievable. They nonetheless pointed out that the ad was qualified by the on-screen text "Network performance will vary by location". Clearcast believed viewers would understand that, although the speed illustrated was achievable, it might not always be the case and that speeds would vary under exceptional circumstances.
The ASA noted Apple maintained that the ad was intended as a comparison between the older 2G technology and the newer 3G connectivity upon which the advertised iPhone was based. Although we acknowledged that the majority of viewers would be familiar with mobile telephones, we considered that many might not be fully aware of the technical differences between the different types of technology. We also noted the ad did not give an explicit indication of a comparison with the older 2G iPhone.
We noted the voice-over claim "really fast" was used in conjunction with each of the functions shown in the visuals. Although we noted the on-screen text disclaimer, "network performance will vary by location", we considered that the visuals, in conjunction with the repeated use of the claim "really fast", were likely to lead viewers to believe that the device actually operated at or near to the speeds shown in the ad. Because we understood that it did not, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead.
The ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading Advertising), 5.2.1 (Evidence), 5.2.2 (Implications) and 5.4.1 (Visual techniques and special effects).
The ad must not appear again in its current form.
Adjudication of the ASA Council (Broadcast)