NAD Recommends Comcast Discontinue Certain Claims Challenged by DirecTV

New York, NY – Sept. 22, 2016 –  The National Advertising Division has recommended that Comcast Cable Communications, LLC, discontinue the unsupported claims made in two separate television advertisements, including the claim made in one commercial that Comcast subscribers have access to four times more unique TV show and movie titles on demand than DirecTV subscribers.

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

DirecTV LLC challenged the express and implied claims that appeared the television spots “Get Faster,” and “Reruns.” Claims at issue included:

  • DIRECTV is built on tech that’s old.
  • DIRECTV customers must watch reruns.
  • Comcast has four times more TV shows and movies on demand than DIRECTV.
  • Comcast has newer technology overall than DIRECTV.
  • DIRECTV does not offer voice-controlled search features.

The advertiser, by way of background, explained that its “Get Faster” commercial is a play on the 1980s Jefferson Starship hit, “We Built This City on Rock and Roll.”

The commercial features dancers with satellite dishes, singing “we built this thingy on tech that’s old.” At the cutaway, an actress states:  “Yeah, XFINITY built this newer thingy that lets me search with my voice.”  The commercial ends with this voiceover: “Don’t fall for DirecTV.  Find shows faster with the X1 Voice Remote.”

The advertiser’s “Reruns” commercial reprises the 1980s Wang Chung song, “Everybody Have Fun Tonight,” changing the lyrics to “Everybody is bored tonight.  They’re watching reruns tonight.”

At the cutaway, an actor states: “Yeah, not us … We have X1 from XFINITY.”  At the close, a voiceover states that consumers can “get four times more TV shows and movies on demand with XFINITY.”

NAD determined that the “Get Faster” spot conveyed the message that DirecTV is built on old technology and doesn’t have a voice search feature comparable to Comcast’s. NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its claim that DirecTV is built on “tech that’s old” and, in future advertising, avoid conveying the unsupported message that DirecTV does not offer voice-controlled search capability.

NAD noted, however, that the advertiser is free to promote the meaningful features associated with its X1 Voice Remote so long as its claims are truthful and not misleading.

Following its review of the “Reruns” commercial, NAD determined that one reasonable takeaway of the “four times” claim is that a Comcast subscriber would have access to four times more unique TV show and movie titles on demand than a DirecTV subscriber, and that such access is available through the set top box, where the evidence showed that when unique titles on the set top box alone are considered, Comcast offers 44,072 TV shows and movies on demand, while DIRECTV offers 13,869.

NAD was not persuaded by the advertiser’s argument that a reasonable consumer would view the commercial and understand the claim to include identical programming each time it is available on multiple platforms – the set top box, on-line, and mobile app – and recommended the advertiser discontinue the claim.

NAD noted that Comcast may advertise in a future claim the comparable number of unique titles so long as the claim is truthful and not misleading.

Finally, NAD determined that the claim that DirecTV subscribers are “watching reruns tonight” is puffery and need not be substantiated.

Comcast, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “accepts NAD’s decision … and will take NAD’s recommendations into account in developing future advertisements.”

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.