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Verizon Advertising: Do As We Say, Not As We Do
Telco sues cable company for ads, while own ads aren't much better...
by Karl Bode 10:46AM Thursday Apr 10 2008
Verizon yesterday filed suit against Time Warner Cable for this and other ads the cable company has been running in FiOS territories. According to Verizon, the ads make several "false assertions" about Time Warner's Cable network being superior, and the telco being late in deploying fiber. "These blatantly false assertions could not be more devastating to Verizon’s $23 billion investment to compete with Time Warner and other cable companies on the provision of the triple-play service to consumers," says the company.
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It's interesting that Verizon should get so bent out of shape by misrepresentation in advertising. As I was reading news of Verizon's new suit, this bit over at CNET caught my eye. In this ad currently being run by Verizon, the company suggests CNET called their FIOS service "near flawless" in a review. The only problem? CNET never did. From the actual CNET comment Verizon pulled the quote from:
quote:
This fierce competition reinforces how important it is for Verizon to offer a near-flawless TV experience. Verizon's executives knew that getting that experience right would be key, and that getting it right meant making sure there was enough bandwidth on the network to deliver several streams of high-definition video at once. It also meant ensuring the service was reliable and met customers' expectations.
In Verizon's defense, they did get the ok to use the quote from CNET's permissions department, who either failed to catch or didn't care about the misrepresentation. Still, it doesn't make the ad in question any more true, or Verizon's decision to sue over accuracy in advertising any less ironic.

They need to prove not only that the claim was false but then have to provide survey data (an expensive proposition) showing that consumers were actually confused and that it affected their buying decisions
Attorney Stewart Weltman
Verizon e-mails us to note they've posted a response to their policy blog. While the telco doesn't admit their use of the CNET quote is a distortion and taken out of context (it is), they do say they'll stop use of the "near-flawless" language once these ads stop running in mid-May. They also note that Time Warner cable's full ad (most runs of the ad feature the truncated version above) does falsely suggest that you need a satellite dish to get FiOSTV.

In short, you've got Time Warner Cable lying about the fact that FiOS uses a dish and distorting the difference between last mile and core fiber. Technically their claim that Verizon was late to deploying fiber was both misleading and true at the same time, if you're familiar with Verizon's promises to Pennsylvania from the 1990's. You've meanwhile got Verizon taking a CNET statement out of context for marketing effect.

In short, it's just another day in marketing. With nobody (particularly not consumers) on the winning side of the equation.

One lawyer tells us the burden is very heavy on false advertising claimants, and that Verizon's push is less serious lawsuit and more "public relations gambit."

"They need to prove not only that the claim was false but then have to provide survey data (an expensive proposition) showing that consumers were actually confused and that it affected their buying decisions," says attorney Stewart Weltman. "Unless the advertising is clearly false and highly damaging to Verizon's business such that it would not be able to obtain satisfactory money damages the prospects of a preliminary injunction or TRO are unlikely," he says.


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