NAD Recommends Charter Discontinue One Version of ‘Monsters’ Commercial Following DirecTV Challenge and Modify Another; Company to Appeal

New York, NY – Jan. 29, 2018 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Charter Communications discontinue the claim “TV that cuts out in the rain is evil. Spectrum is reliable. Satellite TV Bad. Spectrum Good,” in the context of a commercial in which the Grim Reaper complains about his family’s satellite dish “went out in the rain.”

NAD also recommended that the advertiser discontinue an earlier version of the commercial in which the Grim Reaper states that his family’s satellite dish “went out in the rain, again,” a determination that Charter, which provides Spectrum cable service, has said it will appeal to the National Advertising Review Board.

Meanwhile, DirecTV, which challenged Charter’s advertising before NAD, has said it will file a cross-appeal of NAD’s determination that messages conveyed by a revised version of the commercial – occasional outages due to rain and other inclement weather are a consumer relevant occurrence – were supported.

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

NAD noted in its decision that the “industry is highly competitive and providers regularly advertise aggressively, often with advertisements featuring sharp humor aimed at other companies.”

In this case, broadcast advertising by Charter utilized the humorous interaction between commuting “monsters” – a mummy, a mad scientist, a werewolf and the Grim Reaper – to criticize satellite television service.

“NAD has long recognized an advertiser’s right to make literally truthful and accurate advertising claims, sometimes at the expense of its competitors. It has also long recognized that humor can be an effective and creative way for advertisers to highlight the differences between products,” the decision states. “However, humor and hyperbole do not relieve an advertiser of its obligation to support messages that their advertisements might reasonably convey – especially when the advertising disparages a competitor’s product.”

NAD reviewed the following express claims

  • Satellite TV “cuts out in the rain”
  • “Satellite dish went out in the rain. Again.”
  • Satellite TV “doesn’t always work in the rain”
  • Satellite TV is “evil” and “bad”

NAD also examined whether the advertising implied that DirecTV users experience signal interruptions during light rain, that DirecTV will stop working during rainy weather or whether DirecTV is unreliable.

To support its claims, the advertiser provided a survey of DIRECTV and Dish Network customers that asked them about their satellite television service and their experience with rain and weather related outages. The advertiser argued that the survey supports the premise that “rain fade” is not a rare occurrence for satellite television subscribers; that rain fade occurs often enough to be a significant and relevant vulnerability of satellite service; and that rain fade is a source of frustration for subscribers if they experience an outage. The challenger levied a number of criticisms of the survey and argued that its flaws render it an unreliable measure of its customers’ opinions.

NAD noted that 62 percent of those surveyed acknowledged experiencing some lost service due to rain in the past year. It also noted that while 42% of those that experienced some lost service due to rain responded that it occurred “frequently” or “almost always,”  and that such responses are unlikely if service interruptions during rain almost never occur, that “it is more difficult for survey respondents to utilize their memory in a more specific way to pinpoint the frequency with which [weather interrupted service.]” NAD determined that the survey responses did not support the premise that satellite television service is “highly unreliable,” or that it generally does not work in inclement weather.

Based on its review of the evidence in the record, NAD determined that the messages conveyed by a revised  version of the commercial – occasional outages due to rain and other inclement weather are a consumer relevant occurrence – were supported.

However, NAD found that the voiceover and text appearing at the end of the commercial – “TV that cuts out in the rain is evil. Spectrum is reliable. Satellite TV Bad. Spectrum Good” – conveys a broader, unsupported message that satellite television service is highly unreliable in inclement weather and/or does not work in the rain. NAD recommended Charter discontinue the claim in the context in which it appeared.

NAD also recommended that the advertiser permanently discontinue the original version of the commercial, which includes the word “again” when describing the service outage at the center of the advertisement. NAD found that the use of the word “again,” in the context of the discussion in the commercial, reasonably conveyed the unsupported message that outages are a frequent and regular occurrence and that satellite television is “highly unreliable.”

Charter, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company will appeal NAD’s decision.

“Charter appreciates NAD’s conclusion that its nationwide survey of over 800 satellite customers about their experience with lost service due to rain supports the message communicated by its commercial that service outages due to rain are a consumer relevant occurrence for satellite television customers. Charter, however, strongly disagrees with NAD’s recommendation that it permanently discontinue an alternate version of the commercial that depicts a satellite television customer saying that his family lost service in the rain ‘again’ … .”

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.