Another Virgin Media ad starring Usain Bolt banned over 'misleading' broadband claim

A Virgin Media TV ad featuring Usain Bolt, the Olympic champion sprinter, has been banned for making "misleading claims" about broadband speeds compared to Sky and BT.

Created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the Virgin Media ads featured the Jamaican sprinter and a host of animal characters known as the Broadbandits. 

The ads, launched in February 2015, showed Bolt trying to watch Netflix and play online gaming, while a voiceover explains that Virgin Media broadband stays superfast even when everyone is connected at home. 

But BT and Sky complained to the Advertising Standards Authority that claims made in the TV ad, as well as claims made in press ads and on Virgin Media’s website, could not be substantiated.

It is not the first time a Virgin Media ad starring Bolt has been banned by the ASA. In September 2014 the watchdog banned a similar ad which said the company's internet service could "download five times faster than Sky and regular broadband".

Last year's TV ad said Virgin Media had "the UK’s best widely available broadband for streaming"; the website said "Virgin Media’s up to 152Mb service is the best for streaming, when compared to BT, Plusnet and Sky"; and the press ad said Faster wireless hub than Sky and BT". 

When contacted by the ASA, Virgin Media said the claims were based on tests and a report by Ofcom which said Virgin had the highest download speed compared to its rivals. 

But the ASA said the Ofcom reports were applicable to fixed-line broadband and "therefore we did not consider they were relevant to substantiate claims for wireless (Wi-Fi) capabilities." 

The ASA ruled the ads breached BCAP rules on misleading advertising and said the ads must not appear again in their current form.

The watchdog said: "Because we considered that consumers would understand the claims to relate to an internet connection from the telephone network to an internet enabled device, including when the device was connected to the router via Wi-Fi.

"As Virgin Media had not provided sufficient evidence to substantiate these claims, including that their service was superior to BT, Plusnet and Sky, we concluded the ads were misleading."

A spokesman for Virgin Media said: "We will continue to advertise how our superior Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification network allows Virgin Media customers to get more and do more from their internet connection. We take on board the ASA’s findings."

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