Summary:

When is “bye-bye buffering” not “bye-bye buffering”? When Virgin Media acknowledges its own ad starring Olympic athlete Usain Bolt was mere “puffery”, landing it in regulatory hot water.

Usain Bolt
photo: Virgin Media

Recent Virgin Media TV ads starring athlete Usain Bolt claiming an end to buffering irk me because, in truth, I often experience exactly that.

Rival BT complained to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), claiming the ad “misleadingly implied that Virgin Media broadband customers would not experience buffering, because they understood that was not the case”.

Virgin, in its defence, gave the ASA a tepid excuse: “Virgin said they considered the claim ‘I want everyone to say bye-bye to buffering’ to be puffery…  statement of intent.”

But the ASA has upheld the complaint, ruling that Virgin exaggerated the ad: “Because we understood that users of the service might still experience buffering, we concluded that the claim was misleading.”

It has been ordered to stop running the ad, but a similar version starring David Tennant is still airing, making stronger claims about “bye-bye buffering”…

In a second adjudication released by the ASA on Wednesday, Virgin Media was also found to have misled its website visitors by claiming average download times for a range of media content without substantiation or explicit reference to peak-time throttling.

The UK’s telcos routinely trade ASA complaints against each other’s marketing claims.

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