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Cablevision Gets Wrist Slap For Misleading Ads
Verizon wins latest round of cable/fiber marketing dispute...
by Karl Bode 03:19PM Friday Mar 27 2009
As cable companies have been trying to compete with FiOS, one of their favorite tactics has been a series of ads that intentionally distort the difference between core and last-mile fiber. Cable marketing folk assume that since the public is probably too stupid to understand the difference, they can take some of the shine off of the FiOS bloom by pretending that fiber is fiber. Time Warner Cable has taken the lead on this front; ironic considering they've yet to launch faster DOCSIS 3.0 speeds in a single market.

Time Warner Cable isn't the only one using misleading marketing comparisons to downplay the competitive impact of FiOS. Comcast is running ads in some papers claiming "we already have a fiber-optic network serving ALL our homes," while Charter runs an ad one spokesman says aims to "reassure current Charter customers that they too have fiber optic technology bringing their homes to life." Cox and Cablevision are running similar ads.

Apparently Cablevision's ads on this front went too far for some. The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureau this week urged Cablevision to change a number of their ads claiming that Optimum Online is "America’s fastest home Internet access." The NAD also took issue with Cablevision's claim they own "America’s most advanced fiber optic network" that is "state-of-the- art" and "second to none."
NAD recommended that the claim "most advanced fiber optic network" be discontinued, but noted that the advertiser can characterize itself as an "advanced hybrid fiber optic network" and is free to tout the benefits of its network and offerings.
Interestingly, NAD hasn't come out against the other cable industry ads of this type. Not that it really matters -- NAD is largely a voluntary process with no teeth, where by the time dubious advertisements come up for review by the CBBB, they've already run for the intended amount of time. Still, Verizon is applauding the ruling.

"Consumers have been misled too long by Cablevision’s false and misleading ads," Verizon spokesperson Bobbi Henson tells us. "It’s finally time for Cablevision to stop claiming that their hybrid network is the same as Verizon’s advanced, all-fiber network," she says. Verizon goes on to play the sour-economy card, proclaiming that "in these tough times when consumers are making critical purchasing decisions, it’s important for them to know the truth about who is really offering the most advanced network."

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Of course Verizon is no saint on this front, either. The carrier faced a similar sanction by NAD just last fall for for making inaccurate claims about their FiOSTV service. Verizon also has a history of occasionally taking press review snippets out of context. All's fair in love and marketing, apparently.

Still, there's plenty of flaws in competing services without having to make things up. For instance, if cable-industry marketing departments really wanted to hit Verizon where it hurts (truthfully), they could just focus on Verizon's awful billing issues, which remain the service's Achilles' heel.

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