Watchdog bans BT's 'misleading' Ryan Reynolds Smart Hub ad
BT ads featuring Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds hanging from a helicopter to test the strength of the "UK's most powerful" Wi-Fi signal have been banned for misleading viewers.
The TV, YouTube and website ads for BT's Smart Hub showed Reynolds clinging to a helicopter and announcing he still had a signal at 200 metres as on-screen text claimed it was the "UK's most powerful Wi-Fi signal versus major broadband providers".
A radio ad said: "Hi, I'm Ryan Reynolds and I'm here to talk to you about the new BT Smart Hub with the UK's most powerful Wi-Fi signal. I'd say outside it could reach the length of at least 12 London buses ... UK's most powerful Wi-Fi signal versus major broadband providers."
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which received 61 complaints that the claims in the ads were misleading and could not be substantiated, found that BT's testing had proven that the hub could provide a signal to 200 metres but not that it was better than any other on the market.
BT said it undertook extensive testing of the hub, in a lab and in 10 real homes of differing construction types.
It said the Smart Hub could reach the distances claimed in the ads when travelling through one wall and connecting to a tablet, and the specific scenarios depicted in the ads were intended to illustrate the type of distance the hub could reach in a humorous way, rather than to provide a literal description of the distances it would reach in all circumstances.
The ASA said consumers would understand the ads to mean that the BT Smart Hub provided a stronger signal - one that could reach a greater distance within users' homes - than routers from any other broadband provider.
It said: "We acknowledged that the evidence substantiated that the Smart Hub's signal reached a greater distance than routers from other major broadband providers.
"However, we did not consider the qualifications that the claims only related to a comparison to major broadband providers was sufficiently prominent, and BT had not provided evidence in relation to the whole market.
"For those reasons we concluded that the claims 'UK's most powerful Wi-Fi signal' and 'Our hub gives you better Wi-Fi coverage' were misleading."
It ruled that all four ads must not appear again in the forms complained about, adding: "We told BT to ensure that they made the basis of comparative claims clear in order to avoid giving a misleading impression to consumers."
BT said: "BT is pleased that the ASA concluded that the BT Smart Hub offers the most powerful Wi-Fi signal in the UK, compared to major broadband providers like Sky, Virgin Media and TalkTalk.
"We're disappointed that these rulings were upheld on a technicality, namely that we didn't make it clear enough that the comparison was against major broadband providers only and didn't include hubs from smaller broadband providers.
"We'll continue to use the claims that we have evidenced for the ASA - that the Smart Hub offers better Wi-Fi coverage and the UK's most powerful Wi-Fi signal - although we will in future give more prominence to the fact that the comparison is against major broadband rivals."