Virgin Media ad starring Usain Bolt blocked by BT

Virgin Media and BT's battle over broadband speeds has escalated after the ad watchdog banned a Virgin Media television ad starring Usain Bolt pretending to be Richard Branson.

BT complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that the ad with Bolt claiming "I want everyone to say bye-bye to buffering" was misleading because it implied Virgin Media customers would not experience buffering.

Virgin Media defended itself by claiming there were numerous causes of buffering, some of which they had no control over, and added that the script in the ad was "puffery".

However, the ASA banned the ad because it believed the creative, by DDB, would be interpreted as an objective claim that Virgin's 30Mb broadband service would give customers a buffering-free service.

The ad had already stopped running before this week's ruling was made. Virgin Media has hit out at the ruling because of the whimsical nature of the advert.

A Virgin Media spokesperson said: "When one of the world's leading athletes dresses up as a world famous entrepreneur, complete with stuck-on blond beard and space helmet, and says he wants everyone to wave bye-bye to buffering this should not be taken as a definitive claim that no Virgin Media customer will ever experience buffering ever again."

Also this week the ASA has banned an ad on Virgin Media's website over a claim about the time it took to download a movie and an album via its 60Mb service.

The ASA banned the ad because the download times given did not take into account peak hours, when the speed of the service is halved.