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Ryan Reynolds BT ad banned by advertising watchdog

Wednesday, June 14th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

A TV ad in which BT claimed its router had the “UK’s most powerful wi-fi signal” has been banned by the advertising watchdog.

The ad, which featured Ryan Reynolds dangling from the bottom of a helicopter, suggested that BT’s Smart Hub provided a stronger signal than routers from any other broadband provider.

Online and radio versions of the ad made similar claims.

The ads attracted 61 complaints – including from BT’s rivals Virgin Media, Sky and TalkTalk – challenging whether the claims made in them could be substantiated.

After an investigation, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said BT did not have enough evidence to support all of their claims and the ads were therefore misleading.

BT said the claims that “our hub gives you better wi-fi coverage” and “it can give you faster wi-fi connections in more rooms” were based on comparisons with other major broadband providers.

But the ASA said this was not made sufficiently clear, saying the headline claims were “very broad” and would have been understood as whole-of-market comparisons.

“While the qualifications in each ad did outline the basis of the comparisons, we considered that they were insufficiently prominent to counter the overall impression that the comparison was against the whole market.”

The ASA said the claims “UK’s most powerful wi-fi signal” and “our hub gives you better wi-fi coverage” were misleading.

But the watchdog did not uphold complaints about the distance a signal from the BT Smart Hub could reach.

'The length of 12 London buses'

The TV ad saw Reynolds obtaining a wi-fi signal 200 metres above the router while hanging from a helicopter, while the radio ad said the Smart Hub could transmit a signal “the length of 12 London buses” (about 180 metres).

The ASA said tests by BT showed it was possible to achieve a signal 200 metres from the hub, even when the signal has to pass through a wall.

This isn't the first time an ad featuring Reynolds has got BT into trouble with the ASA.

In October last year, an ad claiming that BT Infinity 1 offered “the fastest fibre speeds as standard” was banned following a complaint from Virgin Media.

The watchdog said the maximum speed of BT’s product, at 52Mbps, was faster than the entry-level offerings of Sky, TalkTalk and Plusnet at up to 38Mbps and Virgin at up to 50Mbps.

But, the ASA pointed out, there are other providers whose cheapest – or only – service options offer faster maximum speeds than BT.

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