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'Misleading' iPhone 3G Ad Pulled

Gordon Kelly


ASA Pulls 'Misleading' iPhone 3G Ad

It's not been the greatest week for the iPhone 3G so far, has it? Firstly the iPod touch 2G has been revealed to have a faster clocked CPU (making it far zippier in general) and now this...

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has today upheld 17 complaints levelled at the handset's original launch ad. You know the one:

So what's so great about 3G? It's what helps you get the news, really fast, find your way, really fast. And download pretty much anything, really fast. The new iPhone 3G. The Internet, you guessed it, really fast.

Which as we all know is arse - as it is with any 3G handset. Faster sure, but not "really fast" - after all even IF 3G connections operated at anywhere near their theoretical maximums consistently the hardware inside the device simply couldn't render web pages, display large attachments, etc quickly enough to keep up let alone match the iPhone ad. For example, I opened a 2MB image file sent to me via email today and my iPhone 3G took about 10 seconds to display it after it was downloaded.

Of course Apple defends itself with the small on-screen text: "Network performance will vary by location" and commented that the ad was "relative rather than absolute in nature".

The ASA wasn't impressed: "Although we acknowledged that the majority of viewers would be familiar with mobile telephones, we considered that many might not be fully aware of the technical differences between the different types of technology. We also noted the ad did not give an explicit indication of a comparison with the older 2G iPhone."

It continued "We noted the voice-over claim "really fast" was used in conjunction with each of the functions shown in the visuals. Although we noted the on-screen text disclaimer, "network performance will vary by location", we considered that the visuals, in conjunction with the repeated use of the claim "really fast", were likely to lead viewers to believe that the device actually operated at or near to the speeds shown in the ad. Because we understood that it did not, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead."

The ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading Advertising), 5.2.1 (Evidence), 5.2.2 (Implications) and 5.4.1 (Visual techniques and special effects).

Of course perhaps the major factor in all this has been missed for despite stating "The ad must not appear again in its current form" the time taken for the ASA to deliver its verdict means the ad has already gone and any attempts to 'mislead' already achieved...


ASA Ruling

Matt G Baish

November 26, 2008, 6:57 pm

"...the ad has already gone and any attempts to 'mislead' already achieved..."

Surely the ASA should be able to fine companies for this sort of blatant `misleading` information (& IMHO = lies)?

I also found that through the repeated `really fast` soundbite the ads were trying to imply that this `really fast` capability was only available on the iPhone. As we know this `really fast` (actually more like `just about bearable`) is down to the technology - i.e. 3G & nothing uniquely to do with Apple at all (other than the fact it wasn;t in the first iPhone iteration). Perhaps if the ad had stated `really fast (compared to our last effort)` I would have been happier :)

On a more personal note I found myself, much to the chagrin and perplexity of my poor suffering missus, shouting "B@LLOCK$!!" with much vitriol at the TV every time this advert was aired. I lead a very exciting life as you can guess. :) Ho hum.


November 26, 2008, 8:24 pm

And yet, Herbal Essence still claim there shampoo gives you orgasms.

To be honest this is the second Add that Apple have had pulled by ASA, I've a gut feeling ASA have an Apple hater working there. There are plenty more Add's on TV that you could construct as been misleading, in fact if you try, tonight check out the Add's and see. Well at least I know were my Tax money is getting wasted.


November 26, 2008, 8:32 pm

its misleading in the adverts i seen for iphone because at the bottom it says "Sequences Shortened, network speed may vary"

sequences shortened!? they speeded it up to make it look fast!


November 26, 2008, 8:52 pm

if anything, they should pull those stupid "hi, i'm a mac" adverts.

Matt G Baish

November 26, 2008, 8:54 pm

@Keith "I've a gut feeling ASA have an Apple hater working there"

Eh? Which implies I am one too since I agree wholeheartedly with the ASA?

There are plenty of ads pulled for being misleading we just don`t get to hear about them here since this is a tech site: remember those loan ads for Picture that had a happy go lucky guy chatting to his missus whilst arranging a &#16325K loan that would take him 15 years to repay @ &#16343K - they got banned for obvious reasons - i.e. a loan should be a serious financial decision taken with a clear head & not an off the cuff happy-go-lucky event in between mowing the loan & watching X-Factor.

Yes I agree that you could (to a degree) charge any ad with being misleading (i.e. the iPhone WILL NOT be a life changing experience now that you can play games on it - unless you are *REALLY sad, nor will the New Xbox Experience for that matter - though it is cool) since they are trying to get you to buy something you don`t necessarily need. The ASA are there when companies overstep the mark and make totally false claims WHOEVER they may be.


November 26, 2008, 9:29 pm

Have you ever actually tried Herbal Essences Keith?! Great stuff ;) I actually thought they were on thin ground with this the first time I saw it. Doesn't surprise me at all they were pulled.

Reminds me of that email circular that went round called "If adverts told the truth". The one for Apple was:

"Apple - because you're insufferably smug"


November 26, 2008, 10:30 pm

Oh!!, I-Phone hater's jumping in. Am I surprised. Nah!!!.

@Mat, check out BBC's website, it's on there too, and how long was it before those picture loans got pulled?, mmm, let me think.. A long time..

No sorry, the ASA are jumping on Apple as fast as you can say "I hate I-Phones".. There you go, my conspiracy theory is out.

It's so pathetic really, ASA are really starting to think the public are dumb. Or was you really mislead?

m memmory

November 27, 2008, 1:34 am

@Keith "ASA are jumping on Apple as fast as you can say 'I hate I-Phones'"

Erm...the ASA have only just released their verdict on this ad. Which finished being shown on the TV how many months ago? I wouldn't say that there's anything particularly fast about the ASA dealing with Apple here.

And before it comes in that I'm sticking up with the ASA I never really believed the advert anyway (but then again I never really believe any advert)

Geoff Richards

November 27, 2008, 2:46 am

tbh, the first time I saw that ad (months ago) my reaction was "wtf - it isn't THAT fast" so I certainly agree with this verdict ie it is misleading. I didn't bother complaining about it but it sure doesn't surprise me that people did. Such a shame it always takes forever to get a ruling on such matters :(


November 27, 2008, 1:19 pm

I've just lodged a complaint against that herbal essences ad. I'd had a bottle saved for xmas but will now be returning it. How could the make such outrageous claims?!!


November 27, 2008, 1:35 pm

Err Keith... I have an iphone - and I like it for many reasons, but download speed is not one of them. That advert made it look like it's faster than my home broadband, and it was rightly pulled up because of that.

You don't have to defend the dubious actions of Apple just because you happen to own their (excellent) product. They tread close to the boundries just like every other company - and it just looks petulent to cry unfair when they get noticed stepping over a little.


November 27, 2008, 2:40 pm

Adverts are only on for a few seconds, of course they need to speed things up (and they even mention it on the advert for crying out loud). I remember before buying the I-Phone and seeing these adverts, and later after owning one, I didn't start thinking, "Oh, how they deceived me!!". And like I've said already they is plenty of add's out there that could easily be construed as been misleading.

What really narks me about this, it's OK for O2 to have basically a monopoly on selling these devices, how come that never got sorted. Well I suppose the ASA looking tough banning Add's, is much easer than preventing a monopoly. And by doing this, it fools the public into believing the government bodies are there protecting our interests. Think outside the box people, it's just a deception, so that real issues the general public face never get sorted. And if your true to yourself, did Apple's advert really bother you that much?, I bet they would be a lot of people who would have prefared O2 not having a monopoly on them.

Oh!!, and by the way, I don't remember seeing this advert months ago, I remember the other advert that also got banned, but not this one. The other advert were they said, "you never know when you will need the internet, etc." Even banning that advert because is didn't have Java & Flash was totally wrong, Java & Flash are plugins, even IE/Firefox without installing extra plugins would not render the page. And even the "World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)" don't see Flash & Java as a standard.

But if people really want to spend there time moaning & groaning about petty things like this, instead as like I pointed out preventing gadget monopolization then the worse of for the consumer in the long run, shame really..


November 27, 2008, 3:39 pm


I'm fairly sure that O2 being the only network provider is down to Apple. I can't see what's stopping them selling the iPhone through other providers other than presumably having sold the exclusivity rights to O2 for a tidy sum. Any you can hardly blame O2 for ponying up. The iPhone is an amazing device and they must have got a load of new customers because of it. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

Apple seem to regularly find a way of limiting choice IMHO. Buy an iPod and you can only use iTunes. You can only purchase songs in their DRM. If you want OSX you have to buy a mac. Getting an iPhone means switching to O2.

Most of the time the quality of the gear makes it worthwhile but its stopped me from buying some Apple products.


November 27, 2008, 4:12 pm

@ravmani, It doesn't matter who is causing the monopoly, the point is one exists, and the government bodies could have either gone for O2 or Apple, whoever implemented this restriction. But of course banning an advert that really wasn't causing anybody any harm is much more important. I've even tried ringing up about this monopolization, but give up in the end as each department claimed it wasn't there remit etc.

"Buy an iPod and you can only use iTunes", not sure what version of ITunes you use, but I can certainly put any music from anywhere I've bought onto my I-Phone (not sure if DRM purchased though), I never buy DRM protected music.


November 27, 2008, 5:41 pm


I totally agree with you about the issue of there being a "choice" of one network. I just thought you were blaming O2 for it which I can now see you weren't.

Re iPods I meant that Apple try to restrict you to using iTunes to manage your music and sync your iPod. I know there are some alternatives like Media Monkey but Apple does its best to lock out other software (and force you to upgrade to the latest version). You can obviously source your music from various places.

Keep up the good fight though. Openness is definitely the way to go!


November 27, 2008, 6:18 pm

@ravmania, I just thought you were blaming O2..

Hehe, yeah, I think people are taking what I'm saying as an Apple defender, I'm not, there is plenty I could complain about Apple. I tend to think it's always best to attack the real issues, and not petty ones like the advert, in the past us Brits have been blamed for not complaining enough, I'm not sure that's the problem, we tend to complain about the wrong things, as such the more important issues just get missed.

eg. More people will complain about what Jeremy Clarkson said on TopGear than they would about the fact our drains are never cleared nowadays, causing massive floods. Government agencies must love the general public for being distracted with useless intervention.

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