Virgin Media gets into hot water with ASA

Virgin Media has once again found itself in hot water with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The broadcaster had its knuckles rapped after 18 people complained that a TV ad claiming that the company was offering a broadband service without buffering, was misleading. They complained to the ASA after watching the ad, which featured David Tennant walking across the screen  mimicking common on-line technical glitches. 

He said, “Don’t you just hate it when you’re watching som…….”, before destroying the “buffering” symbol.

Virgin finished the ad claiming: “Now from Virgin Media, you could say goodbye to buffering with superfast fibre-optic broadband”.

Not even the Doctor could save the company with the complainants saying that they understood they could still experience buffering.

Virgin Media tried to sugar coat its statement claiming that whilst there was a very technical definition of the word “buffering”, it had a less technical meaning for consumers and had become synonymous with “interruptions” or “delays in streaming content” along with the appearance of the buffering symbol.

It said the intention of the ad was to highlight the frustrations consumers may experience when that symbol appeared, particularly during video playback and that faster broadband removed the frustrations that consumers had when buffering occurred.

It said therefore “the performance of Virgin Media broadband services” substantiated the claim that customers could say bye-bye to buffering.

It also got a technical claiming that download speeds of between 1.5 and 4Mb/s were required to stream video content for services such as those offered by online film rental/streaming services. Virgin claimed that by providing a consistent download speed above that, its services could support video streaming services with a greater likelihood that customers would not experience buffering.

Because customers would achieve these average speeds on their service, they were significantly less likely to experience buffering and it was accurate that consumers could therefore say bye-bye to buffering.

The ASA, however, wasn’t convinced. It said that while there there were a number of factors that could affect buffering that were beyond the control of Virgin, it could not be assumed that the average viewer would be aware of this. It added that without qualification, the claims in the ad could be understood by viewers to mean that buffering in general would be done away with by the fibre-optic broadband service.

Virgin has been ordered to remove the ad and ensure it is not shown again in its current form.