Three TV ad banned by ASA after challenge by Vodafone

Ad was created by Wieden & Kennedy London.

Three: fantastical ad featured a woman being beamed up from her sofa
Three: fantastical ad featured a woman being beamed up from her sofa

A TV ad for Three Mobile has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority after its claims over 5G speed and efficacy were challenged by rival Vodafone. 

The spot, seen in March 2020, promoted the company’s 5G service and depicted fantastical scenes set in the future with a voiceover stating “Hold on to your crumpets. Three is building the UK’s fastest 5G network. Next stop, the future”, accompanied by on-screen text which repeated the claim. Small on-screen text stated: “Limited coverage, includes NI from March 2020. 5G compatible phone required. For verification see three.co.uk/fast5G." At the end of the ad, the voiceover said: “Join the future on Three, it’s real 5G.”

In a complaint made to the ASA, Vodafone UK questioned whether the claims “Three is building the UK’s fastest 5G network” and “Three, it’s real 5G” were misleading and could be substantiated. 

In response, Three argued its network would be the fastest based on four key technical factors, which positioned it to provide the fastest speeds in its 5G locations. 

At the time of approving the ad, created by Wieden & Kennedy London, Clearcast said there was evidence that Three was able to claim it was building the UK’s fastest network, because it was in the process of improving it and any limitations to the service were expressed in the legal text, which read: “Limited coverage, includes NI from March 2020.” 

Three also rejected the claim it implied other networks were not 5G, claiming the statement was entirely self-referential.  

However, the complaints were upheld and Three was found to have breached the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code) and that the claims were misleading. 

A statement from the ASA said: “The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told Hutchinson 3G UK Ltd t/a Three to ensure future ads did not mislead, for example, by making claims which suggested that the 5G service offered by competitors would not be as fast as theirs without sufficient evidence or implying that their competitors did not offer ‘real’ 5G.” 

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