'Misleading' Virgin Media Usain Bolt 'Broadbandits' ad banned by ASA

Complaints from Sky and BT Broadband have led to a Virgin Media ad featuring Usain Bolt being banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Created by BBH London, the TV clip (which can be seen in full above) showed Bolt sitting in a lounge with the marketer's three animated raccoon mascots, the "broadbandits".

Each time the athlete picked up a mobile device his attempts to stream were thwarted by the characters with the aim of showing how the broadband "enables customers to enjoy the things they love online seamlessly."

The spot was dubbed "misleading" by the watchdog because the brand claimed it was as "the UK’s best widely available broadband for streaming".

Rivals BT and Sky took issue with the "unsubstantiated" claim, and with text on Virgin Media's website which read: "This means that Virgin Media’s up to 152Mb service is the best for streaming, when compared to BT, Plusnet and Sky."

They also raised concerns over a press ad which featured the line: "Get the UK's best widely available broadband for streaming… Faster wireless hub than Sky and BT”.

Virgin Media's defense was that it had included on-screen text referencing Ofcom and Farncombe reports in the TV ad and that the website claims "clearly set out the metrics that Virgin Media had taken into account when it considered what would constitute a superior level of streaming performance, that is, download speed, latency and packet loss."

With regards to the press campaign, it said the strapline was based on "independent research which benchmarked their Super Hub against competitor hubs including Sky and BT."

The ASA disagreed, and upheld the complaints on all accounts, asserting that the Ofcom data used in the TV ad was not "relevant to substantiate claims for wireless (Wi-Fi) capabilities," and that promotional material on the website had breached rules around misleading advertising, substantiation, exaggeration and comparisons with identifiable competitors.

It added the third-party data highlighted in the press push wasn't adequate to support Virgin's claim against its competitors especially in relation to its comparison with Sky’s and BT’s services.

Virgin has been told not to show the ads again in their current form.

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