NAD Recommends AT&T Discontinue Implied Reliability Claims for its Services; AT&T to Appeal

New York, NY – March 14, 2019 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that AT&T Services, Inc. modify or discontinue claims that its DirecTV and U-Verse Internet services are more reliable than cable television and internet services, that cable offers unreliable entertainment, and that cable viewers frequently lose service, following a challenge by Comcast Cable Communications, LLC.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Comcast challenged implied claims that appeared in television advertising for AT&T. The claims included:

  • DirecTV’s signal is more reliable than Comcast’s.
  • AT&T’s U-Verse Internet service is more reliable than Comcast’s.
  • Comcast viewers frequently lose service.
  • Comcast provides “unreliable entertainment.”

AT&T argued that the challenged claims are monadic, and merely touted that AT&T’s U-Verse Internet and DirecTV have greater than 99% reliability. While the challenged commercial did not expressly name a competitive service provider or use expressly comparative language, NAD determined that it still conveyed several comparative messages.

NAD noted that Americans have limited choice when it comes to television and internet service providers and the fact that cable is AT&T’s predominant competitor where AT&T markets its internet and television services.  Consequently, NAD determined that at least one message reasonably conveyed by AT&T’s portrayal of an unnamed, generic service provider experiencing a simultaneous internet and television outage, juxtaposed with the statement, “Life is too short for unreliable entertainment,” is that the unreliable, generic service provider is cable.

Further, NAD determined that by stating, “Life is too short for unreliable entertainment. Get AT&T Internet and DirecTV with over 99% reliability…” the advertiser draws a distinction between the generic competitor’s poor reliability and its own superior reliability, which, given the overall context of the commercial, conveys the comparative performance message that DirecTV’s television and AT&T’s U-Verse Internet are more reliable than cable.

Lastly, after the depicted service outage during the generic competitor’s “Historic Launch” commercial, the host states, “Sorry guys, it went out again.” NAD has previously found that using the word “again” in the context of an advertisement depicting a service outage conveys the message that such an outage is a regular or common occurrence. Here, NAD found that AT&T’s use of the term “again” similarly conveys the unsupported message that cable customers experience regular service interruptions and reinforces the impression that cable is unreliable.

AT&T, in its advertiser’s statement, said it would appeal NAD’s decision because, it contended, its claims are monadic, not comparative. In so arguing, AT&T noted that the challenged commercial “does not expressly or impliedly refer to any competitor or competing technology.”

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.