ASA UK Ban David Tennant and Virgin 'Buffering' TV Ad

David Tennant and Virgin Media appear to have got their mojo on with a range of TV and Internet ads about their Superfast fiber optic broadband service.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) isn't too happy though, specifically with the "Buffering" TV ad (which can be viewed below) featuring departed Dr Who actor David Tennant, misleadingly implying for a second time that customers who sign up to their super-fast broadband ISP could “say goodbye to buffering” on internet video streams.

The buffering complaint used to be closely associated with Real Media's RealPlayer.

In a slightly amusing twist Virgin Media and Clearcast, the advert producers, agree and stated that Clearcast suggested that its latest promotion made no promise that buffering would no longer be experienced because of the inclusion of the word “could” in the line “You could say bye-bye to buffering with superfast fibre-optic broadband“. This also follows a July 2012 complaint of the same nature that was upheld by the ASA.

The ASA banned the advert in its current form for breaching BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation) and 3.12 (Exaggeration). ISPreview also notes that Virgin Media has become a daily feature for the ASA for breaches of code, but without any real way to penalise repeat offenders, we can probably (see what I did there?) expect more of the same to come.

The meat of the complaint by the ASA is as follows:

ASA Assessment (REF: A12-201412)

We considered that the claim “Now from Virgin Media, you could say goodbye to buffering with superfast fibre-optic broadband” could be understood in the intended way but, because it was unclear to which element of the statement the conditional “could” applied, it could equally be understood by viewers to mean that consumers would eliminate buffering if they signed up to the Virgin Media broadband service.

We considered this was exacerbated by the images in the ad of David Tennant destroying the “buffering” symbol, which would be understood by viewers as a visual representation of the complete removal of buffering. Because of the ambiguity of the way in which the claim was presented, we concluded that the ad was misleading.

At the end of the day, any sane person knows by now that every company exaggerates their service, wherever and however they can; think cheap flights: "fly for a quid" only to be hit with taxes, baggage and more.

Luckily we still have the ASA who are protecting our interests, long after the ad has run its course. /sarcasm

Source: ISPreview

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21 Comments

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Oh look, it's nothing.

If they're going to moan about this, what about all of the ISPs who offer up to 10 Mbps and you only get, say 7.

KSib said,
Oh look, it's nothing.

If they're going to moan about this, what about all of the ISPs who offer up to 10 Mbps and you only get, say 7.

"up to" starts at 0

And BT Infinity's ad showing light coming from the sky into your home at night should be banned as fiber only comes to the street, not the home.

Funny this is the one with Usain Bolt got banned too (from a complaint via BT) but for some illegal reason, it was still being shown on TV...
And anyway you can't say 'bye bye' to buffering when VM caps you to a measly 1/10th or whatever it is of your internet connection, you can say hello to it again!

The ASA are toothless. They don't issue proper punishments for misleading ads, and simply issue an "ad must not be run in its current form again" ruling, usually months after the company had stopped doing so anyway.

The ASA are a minor inconvenience for companies, and that is all.

bod said,
The ASA are toothless. They don't issue proper punishments for misleading ads, and simply issue an "ad must not be run in its current form again" ruling, usually months after the company had stopped doing so anyway.

The ASA are a minor inconvenience for companies, and that is all.

The ASA is a self regulated body, and their only job is to deal with complaints, review their validity and Advise the people who are responsible for the advert on the best course of action. One complaint can get an ad banned, as long that the ad falls out of their guidelines, but they try to review it on a common sense basis.

The only time a penalty is given is if they brake any Offcom rules. In which case, the ASA hands the case over to Offcom and a full investigation takes place. if you have broken Offcom's code of conduct, then there are heavy fines.

I believe it is, it's virgins "acceptable use" policy.

Personally I'd rather them throttle it during the day adn unleash the full potential at nights.

"Yer, let's slow it down when people actually need it, that'll annoy them"

I'm o the 20MB one but do get some buffering ad drop i streaming quality at around 8:30pm each day usually without fail.

I guess that's when their limits kick in, but still love VM

Is broadband (cable) still shared in segments? Like whole streets using the same data. I remember when I was sick at home years ago I could get amazing speeds during the day and then it dropped in the evening hours to the buffering hell (talking about ten years ago here) I think I had Broadband 1 or 2 meg at the time.

Neobond said,
Is broadband (cable) still shared in segments? Like whole streets using the same data. I remember when I was sick at home years ago I could get amazing speeds during the day and then it dropped in the evening hours to the buffering hell (talking about ten years ago here) I think I had Broadband 1 or 2 meg at the time.

It depends on area. When I lived in london I had my cable split off from a single street run. When I lived in Birmingham and Salisbury I had a dedicated run from the street cab.

The problem Virgin have though is that, during peak times, they run out of peering capacity and have to throttle everyone, whereas during the day most people are at work and thus there is plenty of offload capacity at their peering points. As a result, the service is pretty great unless there are local area issues (such as Salisbury which they still hadn't fixed by the time I moved to Maidenhead in September after 12 months of poking).

So while Virgin can be very fast, poor maintenance and poor capacity planning lead to some incredibly frustrating times.

LordOfLA said,

It depends on area. When I lived in london I had my cable split off from a single street run. When I lived in Birmingham and Salisbury I had a dedicated run from the street cab.

The problem Virgin have though is that, during peak times, they run out of peering capacity and have to throttle everyone, whereas during the day most people are at work and thus there is plenty of offload capacity at their peering points. As a result, the service is pretty great unless there are local area issues (such as Salisbury which they still hadn't fixed by the time I moved to Maidenhead in September after 12 months of poking).

So while Virgin can be very fast, poor maintenance and poor capacity planning lead to some incredibly frustrating times.

I get a constant and and solid 50Meg all day every day, might just be less people here but the peering point you make seems to not apply to me - unless they have some direct link to Astraweb or something equally unlikely.

duddit2 said,

I get a constant and and solid 50Meg all day every day, might just be less people here but the peering point you make seems to not apply to me - unless they have some direct link to Astraweb or something equally unlikely.

Same here, haven't picked up on a single throttling scenario... i'm on 60MB and get between 6-7mb/sec any time of the day... infact torrents seem to go faster than anything, which is the type of data you would expect them to throttle.

Love VM, i've never suffered buffering either.

LordOfLA said,

It depends on area. When I lived in london I had my cable split off from a single street run. When I lived in Birmingham and Salisbury I had a dedicated run from the street cab.

The problem Virgin have though is that, during peak times, they run out of peering capacity and have to throttle everyone, whereas during the day most people are at work and thus there is plenty of offload capacity at their peering points. As a result, the service is pretty great unless there are local area issues (such as Salisbury which they still hadn't fixed by the time I moved to Maidenhead in September after 12 months of poking).

So while Virgin can be very fast, poor maintenance and poor capacity planning lead to some incredibly frustrating times.

It very much depends on the original network that was in before the telewest/ntl merger. Even then we have ntl+c&w merger on some networks and I'm sure the telewest/blueyonder network had a merger or two before that as well.

They all use different networks. Unfortunatly, the older original NTL network is the worst of them in the way they were setup. It is being changed as the 100mbit packages are being rolled out and the green cabs are having new cables pulled for most areas as well as docsis 3 hardware installed (please don't laugh at the 'superhub' . I'm pretty sure near all areas have the new UBR hardware now, and original telewest and c&w (or rather nynex!) areas are well setup for easy upgrades.

Still, in the areas that virgin do supply broadband, the chances are you'll be getting a better connection then any DSL service from your local BT exchange, unbundled or not. Glad to see some BT fibre finally too. It's actually quite a nice stable speed you get from it.

sagum said,

It very much depends on the original network that was in before the telewest/ntl merger. Even then we have ntl+c&w merger on some networks and I'm sure the telewest/blueyonder network had a merger or two before that as well.

They all use different networks. Unfortunatly, the older original NTL network is the worst of them in the way they were setup. It is being changed as the 100mbit packages are being rolled out and the green cabs are having new cables pulled for most areas as well as docsis 3 hardware installed (please don't laugh at the 'superhub' . I'm pretty sure near all areas have the new UBR hardware now, and original telewest and c&w (or rather nynex!) areas are well setup for easy upgrades.

Still, in the areas that virgin do supply broadband, the chances are you'll be getting a better connection then any DSL service from your local BT exchange, unbundled or not. Glad to see some BT fibre finally too. It's actually quite a nice stable speed you get from it.

In reply to all who replied to me:

I'm quite happy to believe that the issues I was having in Salisbury were local to either Salisbury, the UBR I was plugged in to, something between me and the UBR or me. Whatever the cause my experience with Virgin in Salisbury was abysmal, but damn near flawless in Birmingham.

The perpetual "we'll fix it next month" every month wasn't much use either.

My point on peering might be better stated as specific peers may get congested (such as youtube and iplayer which always buffered for me) rather then their entire peering setup.

I'm getting BT Infinity 2 installed finally on 10 Oct so I'll see how I fare with that.

Failing that I'm a half hour walk from a "really big internet pipe" so there is also the bandwidth of a hard disk and a short walk to take into account

I recently got 120MB fibre optic broadband from them, and it's jaw-dropping. I was previously stuck on a 3MB copper wire connection. I suspect it is the fault of the content providers in most cases.

I see the point here, Virgin cant guarantee the speeds of the serving parties equipment or route to it, but in terms of their own service I can attest to getting a solid and constant 50Meg download and 10Meg upload speed ALL THE TIME! Its being upgraded to 100Meg soon as well for free - and the whole package (Phone, TV and 50Meg internet) costs £60 a month - I put stress on that as well in the form of NZB downloads from astraweb and must go through about 30GB a month easy, a very solid service.

duddit2 said,
I see the point here, Virgin cant guarantee the speeds of the serving parties equipment or route to it, but in terms of their own service I can attest to getting a solid and constant 50Meg download and 10Meg upload speed ALL THE TIME! Its being upgraded to 100Meg soon as well for free - and the whole package (Phone, TV and 50Meg internet) costs £60 a month - I put stress on that as well in the form of NZB downloads from astraweb and must go through about 30GB a month easy, a very solid service.

Have to agree, I'm on the same package and will be getting my 100mb upgrade next month (hopefully). Still, when I first saw this advert I thought it was a load of ball. I really do like virgin's broadband service, it fast and I really do get the speed they advertise.

However, even with the large media streaming services such as youtube, there are still videos that need to buffer and it won't matter how fast our connection is, the files are hosted somewhere in the world that aren't cached locally that enables use to stream them fast enough.

For most online streaming services, if the provider is able to handle its users and have its content cached at key locations, then a 4mbit connection should beable to handle a 720p stream without a problem.

It's when the providers of the content don't cache or use content delivery systems and we're forced to try and stream/download a file that coming over a congested network that is out of the control of virgin media. In a way, when virgin say "no you can say bye bye to buffering" it is true, you can... but only if the providers allow it. For most people, that difference is nothing and will usually assume its because the local area they live in is overloaded or the virgin media are purposely limiting them (and they do restrict speed at peak hours), but for us with faster connections those rules do not apply as we have no restrictions in place.

For the people who tend to watch streams from dodgy sites, know knows how fast they are, or where they're hosted at.

And then of course we get to the users who simply don't understand that wifi connection is rubbish, even with 5 bars on their 'signal' icon...but that is a whole different story.