NAD Asks Comcast To Drop 'Unsupported' Ad Claims

The National Advertising Division (NAD), the Better Business Bureau's self-regulatory body, has asked Comcast to stop making claims -- in two TV ads -- that its subs have access to four times more unique TV shows and movies on demand than DirecTV.

The satellite operator had complained to NAD, the ad industry's self-investigative unit, about the claims in the "Get Faster" and "Rerun" ads, which in addition to the content claim included that DirecTV "is built on old tech," that "customers must watch reruns," and "does not offer voice-controlled search features,"  and that Comcast "has newer technology overall."

NAD said Comcast should drop the "old tech" knock on DirecTV as well as the suggestion that DirecTV does not offer voice-controlled search. Though Comcast is free to promote its own X1 voice remote, so long as the claims are truthful.

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As to the "four times more" claim, "NAD was not persuaded by the advertiser’s argument that a reasonable consumer would view the commercial and understand the claim to include identical programming each time it is available on multiple platforms – the set top box, on-line, and mobile app – and recommended the advertiser discontinue the claim."

NAD said the claim about watching re-runs was "puffery" and did not need to be substantiated. Puffery is an exaggerated promotional statement whose truth or falsity can't be proved and which is not considered deceptive.

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“Comcast is pleased that NAD recognizes that our X1 Voice Remote is technologically more advanced and that our On Demand library exceeds DirecTV’s offerings, across platforms," said a Comcast spokesperson. When asked if Comcast will follow the NAD recommendation and "discontinue the unsupported claims, the spokesperson would only say that the company will "take NAD’s recommendations into account in developing future advertisements.”

NAD can make recommendations, but advertisers are not obligated to follow them. In addition, NAD points out: "A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser's voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety," though it adds that a finding that a claim has been substantiated is not an endorsement of the product either.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.