Virgin Media “broadband con” campaign banned for discrediting rivals

Virgin Media’s “Stop the broadband con!” website and social media campaign has been slammed by the advertising watchdog for attacking the integrity of rivals BSkyB and BT.

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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has strongly criticised Virgin Media for the campaign and says it must ensure marketing materials must not “discredit or denigrate other marketers”. The website and ad have been banned.

The campaign featured a website with a petition to sign and an encouragement to share the page via social networking sites. It also included a video that parodied a Sky TV ad.

The page was headlined “Stop the broadband con” and went on to say “Support the campaign for broadband honesty. You deserve the truth from all ISPs and we’re urging the Advertising Standards Authority to put a stop to misleading broadband advertising once and for all…”

It went on to say many ISPs advertise superfast broadband speeds they cannot deliver and quoted Sir Richard Branson as saying “I’m challenging all broadband providers to be honest with their customers”.

A banner ad also included a link labelled “Sign the petition” to the website.

Sky and BT said the campaign suggested that they dealt with their customers dishonestly and took issue with a string of claims on the website.

Virgin Media said in its ASA statement that the “stop the broadband con” was a “punchy description of the issue at hand” and not an attack on the integrity of other ISPs.

A company spokesperson adds: “Stop the Broadband Con was not an advertising campaign. The site enabled visitors to run an independent speed test, take a look at Ofcom’s official broadband report, hear views on why ’up to’ advertising needs to change and add their support.”

However, the ASA said that the ad made repeated references to consumers being conned and considered it went beyond highlighting the disparity Virgin believes exists between advertised broadband speeds and real delivery times.

Ofcom recently called for ISPs to advertise their “typical download speeds” rather than their maximum.

The ASA is preparing guidelines for advertising of broadband delivery speeds after a review and expects to issue a statement in late summer.

Virgin Media is currently overhauling its marketing structure and has made a number of senior appointments.

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