NAD Finds Cox Communications’ Reliability Claims for its Cable Television Service Supported, Following Challenge by AT&T

New York, NY – Sept. 30, 2019 – The National Advertising Division has found that Cox Communications, Inc.’s television commercial comparing its cable television service to DIRECTV service does not reasonably convey the challenged implied claim that “DIRECTV does not work in bad weather and is highly unreliable,” and determined that the express claims therein are supported. Cox’s commercial was challenged by AT&T Services, Inc., provider of the competing DIRECTV satellite television service.

The claims at issue included:

Express claims:

  • “With Cox you can watch all of our movies and shows whatever the weather, with DIRECTV, heavy rain or snow can affect your signal.”
  • “It’s clear that Cox is the better choice . . .”
  • “Unlike DIRECTV, Cox works in any weather.”

Implied claim:

  • DIRECTV does not work in bad weather and is highly unreliable.

The challenged commercial depicts two side-by-side living room sets in a large television studio—one labeled “Cox” and one labeled “DIRECTV.” Each features a family watching television and a cloud hovering above. A spokesperson with unblended makeup stands in front and states, “With Cox you can watch all your movies and shows whatever the weather.” Lightning flashes and thunder rumbles in the background as he continues, “With DIRECTV, heavy rain or snow can affect your signal.” The lightning flashes again, the DIRECTV service cuts out and the family throws up their arms in frustration. The spokesperson continues, “It’s clear that Cox is the better choice, just like it’s clear that the make-up artist is still learning the ropes.” Originally, the end card showed the Cox logo, a service package price and the spoken and visual claim, “Unlike DIRECTV, Cox works in any weather.” However, NAD noted that during the pendency of this challenge, Cox modified the closing visual and spoken claim to state, “Cox is reliable in any weather.”

NAD determined that this commercial, as modified, does not convey the challenged implied message that DIRECTV “does not work in bad weather and is highly unreliable.” NAD noted that the express language in the commercial is appropriately qualified, and that the context of the commercial and its depiction of a service outage did not exaggerate the duration or likelihood of “rain fade.” NAD also stated that the lines, “It’s clear that Cox is a better choice” and “Cox is reliable in any weather,” do not expand the message reasonably conveyed by the advertising, but simply communicate a general message that Cox service is not susceptible to “rain fade” and identifies that difference as a reason to choose Cox’s service.

However, NAD determined that the original closing line of the commercial, “Unlike DIRECTV, Cox works in any weather,” could reasonably convey the message that in contrast to cable, DIRECTV does not work in inclement weather, i.e. that it is “highly unreliable” in rain or snow.

As support for its claims, Cox provided the results of a survey of DIRECTV subscribers. NAD determined that the survey supported the message that DIRECTV customers within the Cox footprint do experience weather-related outages and that such interruptions are consumer relevant. However, the survey does not reliably show that DIRECTV weather-related outages are frequent, that the service does not work in the rain, or that it is “highly unreliable.” Therefore, NAD concluded that the survey does not support the message reasonably conveyed by the original closing statement of the commercial, “Unlike DIRECTV, Cox works in any weather,” and recommended that it be permanently discontinued.

In its advertiser’s statement, Cox stated that it “will comply with NAD’s recommendation with respect to the claim it already discontinued and appreciates NAD’s determination that a single commercial that DIRECTV challenged, as modified, is substantiated.”