NAD Examines Advertising for Verizon’s Fios Following Cablevision Challenge

New York, NY – Nov.  25, 2008 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Verizon Services Corporation modify or discontinue certain advertising claims made for the company’s FiOS service, following a challenge by CSC Holdings, Inc., the parent company of Cablevision. NAD did find that certain superior sound and picture quality claims made by Verizon were substantiated.

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined broadcast advertising for FiOS. Claims at issue in the NAD inquiry included:

Speed Claims:

  • “Up to 20x Faster than Cable.”
  • Introducing upload speeds up to 20 times faster than cable.”

TV Picture Claims:

  • “A near flawless TV experience. CNET”
  • “Blows cable away.”
  • “you ran really see the difference between cable and FiOS”
  • “Picture was clearer. Channels came on quicker.”
  • The best TV picture, period!”
  • “The colors were more vivid,”
  • “No pixelation.”
  • ‘So much more bright.”
  • “It’s the best picture and sound you’re ever gonna get. It’s insane.”

At the outset, the advertiser represented that it had permanently discontinued certain claims prior to the commencement of the NAD inquiry, including the claims, “Up to 20x Faster than Cable”, “Introducing upload speeds up to 20 times faster than cable’’ and “A near flawless TV experience–CNET.”

The remaining challenged commercials consisted of series of third-party/magazine quotes and testimonials by Verizon FiOS customers attesting to the superior picture quality of FiOS service in comparison to cable services.

In support of its superior picture quality claims, the advertiser submitted several consumer sensory studies purportedly demonstrating that consumers perceive that FiOS provides superior picture quality to that of various cable providers including the challenger.

NAD determined that the results from these studies were not sufficiently reliable to support the advertiser’s overall superior picture quality claims.

NAD also examined the results of the advertiser’s head-to-head testing that compared the parties’ respective standard definition television services to support its superior picture quality claim as well as a July 2007 survey, asking subscribers of FiOS, digital cable and satellite services to evaluate their present experiences regarding various picture quality characteristics including, but not limited to, pixelation issues (i.e., picture freezing) and picture and sound distortion.

NAD determined that head-to-head testing provided a reasonable basis for some, but not all, of the advertiser’s superior picture quality claims as contained in its two “customer testimonial” commercials.

NAD found that the advertiser’s head-to-head testing provided a reasonable basis for its claims, “you can really see the difference between cable and FiOS” picture quality, and “the picture was clearer.”  NAD observed that the advertiser’s testing specifically asked the participants which television offered a clearer picture.

NAD noted that the advertiser’s head-to-head test asked the participants which television had the “best picture quality” and which offered the “better sound quality.  In both instances, the majority preferred the advertiser’s service.

Consequently; NAD determined that this study provided a reasonable basis for the advertiser’s claim that it offered the “the best TV picture, period” as well as the testimonial/claim, “[i]t’s the best picture and sound you’re ever gonna get. It’s insane.”

However, NAD found that the evidence was insufficient to support the advertiser’s claim, “so much more bright” and recommended that this claim be discontinued. 

NAD further determined that, while insufficient to provide a reasonable basis for the advertiser’s “no pixelation” claim, the totality of the evidence presented was sufficient to provide a reasonable basis for a more limited claim of “less pixelation” and recommended that the advertiser modify this claim accordingly.

NAD found that the claims “Channels came on quicker,” or “the colors were more vivid” (with FiOS) were unsupported by the evidence in the record and recommended the claims be discontinued.

Further, NAD found that the advertiser’s head-to-head testing was insufficient to support the claim of superior HDTV picture quality conveyed by the testimonial “People think High Definition is High Definition, but it’s not.” NAD recommended that the claim be discontinued.

However, NAD determined that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for its “Pure Uncompressed High Definition” claim.

Finally, in the context presented, NAD determined that the claim, “I was blown away”, constituted puffery, not an objectively provable claim.

In its advertiser’s statement, Verizon said that while it was pleased NAD had determined that the company provided reasonable support for certain superior sound and picture-quality claims, the company “respectfully disagrees” with certain of NAD’s findings.

“However, in the interest of the self-regulatory process, Verizon will take the NAD’s recommendations into consideration in future advertising,” the company said.