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BT's 'Adam and Jane' broadband ad banned by ASA
Wednesday 25 August 2010 11:40:28 by John Hunt

A TV advert, three radio adverts and a national press advert for BT Total Broadband have been banned by the ASA following 17 complaints from competitors and the general public. The complaints focused on one of the 'Adam and Jane' series of adverts where Adam is seen with an estate agent looking at a property whilst talking to Jane on the telephone. The estate agent struggles with slow Internet speeds and blames this on the 6 o'clock peak period whilst Jane is able to browse the websites fine on her BT Total Broadband 20Mbps connection.

Complaints about the advert included:

  • challenges to whether BT could substantiate the claim "BT is rolling out up to 20 meg speeds to give you a consistently faster broadband even at peak times"
  • viewers objected to the visual comparison that a website on a 20meg service would not load any faster than with an 8meg service
  • viewers objected to the visual demonstration on Jane's laptop as they believed it was faster than could ordinarily be achieved
  • Sky and TalkTalk complained about the restrictions on the availability of the service and the claims of independently obtained data in reference to the claim "consistently faster broadband speeds compared with the ADSL* industry average"
  • Virgin and TalkTalk complained the same claim was misleading as it was contradicted by a recent Ofcom survey which included more robust data compiled over a longer period of time

BT provided a substantial defence of the adverts including additional data to that used to provide the original comparison from Epitiro. However, the ASA upheld all the complaints on grounds of things being misleading and breaching advertising rules on evidence. The last point by Virgin and TalkTalk was not upheld as the Ofcom data did not specifically take in to account the BT 20meg service so the data was not relevant.

BT pointed out that the visualisation of websites loading used in the advert was not intended to be used as an actual comparison of the faster speeds achievable and that the loading times shown were realistic. The ASA did not however agree as they felt an advert focused on comparing the benefits of a faster service should feature a demonstration that was representative of the benefits.

The ASA also pointed out to BT that they must ensure they have robust documentary evidence to be able to prove all claims which could be objectively substantiated and to ensure that any restrictions on availability are made clear in future advertising.

"We are disappointed by the ASA's adjudication. At the time the ads appeared, BT had just started rolling out a new up-to-20Mb broadband service across the country and we wanted to highlight the higher speeds available in newly enabled exchange areas offering customers consistently faster web browsing in comparison to BT's up-to-8Mb service. There was certainly no intention to mislead."

BT Statement


Posted by WalterWillcox over 7 years ago
It should also be noted that "The service across the country" is by no means universal and I believe does not include a USO even where it is being provided.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
Haven't they sacked the BT advertising team yet? You would have thought they'd be on the way out with their recent ad's. Instant downloads etc :)
Posted by TaRkADaHl over 7 years ago
Well done ASA... banning an advert that I haven't seen it for weeks on the tele...

ASA. Behind the times as always.
Posted by TaRkADaHl over 7 years ago
On a personal note, they really should ditch the adam and jane adverts :/
Posted by herdwick over 7 years ago
The advertising team had pre-clearance for this advert, part of the evidence the ASA used was the supporting material BT put forward during clearance.

Trying to hit a moving goalpost I suspect.
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
lol, so the ASA said, yes that's fine. And then said... no its not.

Who is monitoring in the ASA?
Posted by ribbotson over 7 years ago
I wonder if this judgement could be used to prove that a customer had been miss sold the product and should consequently be released, without penalty, from any fixed term contract that they may have entered into?
Posted by TaRkADaHl over 7 years ago
Not technically, but I'm sure it would be helpful evidence if arguing with complaints about the contract...
Posted by camieabz over 7 years ago
"BT pointed out that the visualisation of websites loading used in the advert was not intended to be used as an actual comparison of the faster speeds achievable"

I believe them.;)

"BT is rolling out up to 20 meg speeds"

Will they take 'up to' £20 per month for them though?
Posted by GMAN99 over 7 years ago
"I wonder if this judgement could be used to prove that a customer had been miss sold the product and should consequently be released, without penalty, from any fixed term contract that they may have entered into?" Oh I'd love to see that in court :)

Can you prove sir that you saw the advert in question which the lead to you being mislead? - Sure it was that one with that guy from whatisit and that woman from that other thing, you know the one.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
^^^ Or they could just go watch it on youtube and be prepared for that questioning in court.

Now what was i saying about their estate agent ad not long ago.......

Not that i complained to the ASA about it :D
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
Just a couple more of those lying ads and a future one to get banned now.

Good stuff from the ASA
Posted by colrob over 7 years ago
At least ASA is somewhat more robust than ofcom, which has positioned itself miles away from the average punter.
A good candidate for Cameron's economy measures?
Posted by nadger over 7 years ago
Well done the ASA - I try to watch BBC live and record ITV etc so we can skip through commercials.

Posted by New_Londoner over 7 years ago
Are the ASA going to reconsider the ads of a well known larger brand next on the basis, for example, that the pub football team was fictional? What will happen at Christmas - disclaimers on all ads saying "The Father Christmas feastured in this advertisment is fictional"?

At what point does the consumer take any responsibility for what they are purchasing? Whatever happened to caveat emptor? Whatever next, no claim no fee legal arrangements to encourage a compensation culture?
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
All that is looked at by the ASA if you dont like their decisions tough basically LOL
Posted by nredwood over 7 years ago
I was going to complain to the ASA about this one and that would be a first

Example of BT's faster broadband here

Well done ASA

There is a Sky advert I've seen on the Tube that I've been considering making a complaint about as well
Posted by Craig4646 over 7 years ago
I'm pleased with the ASA decision - as soon as i saw that advert I thought it was misleading. my argument would be just because BT are rolling out 'up to 20 meg' doesn't mean they are going to have the back haul capacity at peak times as the advert inclines. I just wish the ASA acted sooner.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
@nredwood LMAO at that video, oh my god traffic managed adobe flash download, when the guy says "What are they doing" i cracked up.
Posted by Legolash2o over 7 years ago
I love sky (sarcasm), they have an advert everyone on bus stops, etc.. in my town for TV, Phone, Broadband £19 a month.

Went to get it online and i couldn't get that offer in our town (Bridlington) and would have to pay around £30 extra for broadband. WTF?!? They adverts in the very same town all over the place showing that offer, is it me or is something wrong with that?!?!
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
^^^ Nope thats wrong also, though i bet they get away with that because theres some silly small print on the bus stop posters thats too small for anyone to read that says something like "Subject to location, taking x service or blah blah blah blah blah"
Posted by john (Favicon staff member) over 7 years ago
@nredwood He's assuming that it is traffic management causing that. The Adobe download content is served from Akamai so it could be something with the BT to Akamai path they use. Akamai are pretty good at not being a bottleneck though so it could be BT traffic management..
Posted by Essex over 7 years ago
Well the actual statement is misleading and a lie in fact.As BT 'is not'( quote:BT had just started rolling out a new up-to-20Mb broadband service across the country..end quote)

Especialy as the 'up to' part has also been deemed to be misleading by Ofcom.?
Posted by loadbang over 7 years ago
What a load of rubbish. BT's network is on the most part unusable for some services between 5PM and 9PM, 6PM has to be their worst hour. Web pages take seconds longer just to connect before loading, and don't bother going to sites such as Youtube or BBC's iPlayer, they have to re-buffer every five to ten seconds.
Posted by doughnut77 over 7 years ago
Hilarious! They try to demonstrate the benefit of their 20Meg service by comparing it with their 8Meg service. Their 8Meg service is appalling, with BT being among the harshest of peak-time throttlers!

What's the point in comparing crap with more crap ??! BT really are woeful.
Posted by dragon1945 over 7 years ago
BT can still only supply me with 512 kb while I get 1.6 MB from Talktalk on the same line. I check every couple of months just for a laugh. Talktalk isn't perfect but I prefer the speed and the fact I get line rental, inclusive calls 24/7 as well as free calls to relatives in the USA and Oz, and free BB as well. I used to pay £60 a month to BT for less service. 20 MB? 8 MB? Even 2 MB or 1 MB? Dream on.
Posted by RAConnell over 7 years ago
BT is providing one of the poorest broadband service with slow speeds well below thyeir up to 8Mb. One wonders how slow up to 20Mb will be.
Posted by _fallen_angel_ over 7 years ago
Exactly why I wouldn't touch any of the 'big guys' with a barge pole. I'm with one of the little fish, and pay nearly £25. IMHO tho its worth it. Mines around 3.5Meg, which isn't the best in the world, but its reliable, customer service is good, theres no noticeable speed drop at any time of day, and they don't try and cram as many people as they can onto finite bandwidth then throttle everyone to keep all connected, and barely manage that! My ISP offers 'up to' 20Meg, but point out you can only get it on a 20Meg enabled exchange, and at peak times you're unlikely to get more than 2/3Meg!
Posted by demon_n3 over 7 years ago
You know I kept thinking whilst seeing these ads... The Estate Agent says 'All the worlds on line'. Now is it me or is it a fact that at 6pm in the UK it's NOT in all the rest of the world? The whole ad is flawed to put over some false and misguided message. I think the quicker BT (and their staff especially) realise they are NOT nationalised anymore the better!
Posted by TGVrecord over 7 years ago
One thing that really bugs me with this BT ad is it is not made clear what internet the estate agent is using. If he is in a house he is selling he would probably be using mobile internet. It is doubtful he would be using the house owner's internet?

Anyway if you wanted high and consistent speeds why not select Be!
Posted by otester over 7 years ago
Problem is with protecting consumers it encourages them to be ignorant.
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