NARB Recommends DirecTV Discontinue ‘Worry-Free’ Reliability Claim

New York, NY – Sept.  13, 2018 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has recommended that DirecTV, LLC, discontinue the advertising claim that its service provides “worry-free” signal reliability.
The panel also determined that the advertising at issue did not reasonably convey a message that a DirecTV “signal will never go out.”

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

The advertising at issue was initially challenged by Charter Communications, Inc., before the National Advertising Division (NAD), an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation.

NAD found that DirecTV did not show that its signal reliability met consumer expectations for a “worry-free” level of service or demonstrate that its customers do not worry about the reliability of their service. NAD recommended that DirecTV discontinue claims that its signal reliability was “worry-free.”

NAD also found that one of the messages reasonably conveyed by DirecTV’s advertising claims was that DirecTV’s signal will never go out. NAD recommended that DirecTV discontinue the claims.

DirecTV appealed the NAD’s recommendations to NARB.

The panel noted that a previous NAD case found that DirecTV provided a reasonable basis to substantiate its claim that DirecTV provides 99% signal reliability. The panel agreed with the NAD that addition of “worry-free” to the 99% signal reliability claim changed the message. The panel found that, in the context of the challenged advertising, the claim that DirecTV’s 99% signal reliability is “worry-free” reasonably conveys a message that DirecTV consumers generally do not worry about loss of signal.

The panel, in its decision, said that it “disagreed with DirecTV’s argument that the claim is an objective one; while ‘99% signal reliability’ is an objective claim, a claim that this level of reliability is ‘worry-free’ is a claim about consumer experience with the DirecTV service.”

Overall, the panel found that the evidence in the record “does not provide a reasonable basis in support of the reasonably conveyed message that DirecTV customers generally do not worry about loss of signal.”

In two of the challenged claims, the initial advertised responses to the “Will my signal go out?” question (“No!”) and the “My signal will go out” myth (“Wrong”) are categorical denials that the DirecTV signal will go out. However, the panel noted that these categorical denials are immediately followed by a statement that DirecTV has 99% signal reliability. The panel found that the message reasonably conveyed by the challenged advertising with the “worry-free” modifier removed – that the DirecTV signal is 99% reliable – is the same message NAD found to be substantiated in a previous NAD case. The panel agreed with the NAD’s finding that DirecTV may continue to advertise its 99% signal reliability, noting that in this case DirecTV provided the NAD with updated data in support of this claim.

While the panel found that a “signal will never go out” message is not reasonably conveyed by the challenged advertising, the panel noted that it was troubled by categorical denials that DirecTV’s signal would go out. The panel recommended that DirecTV consider modifications to the challenged advertising to avoid such denials.

DirecTV, in its advertiser’s statement, said it would comply with the panel’s recommendations. The company noted, however, that it “respectfully disagrees with the Panel’s conclusion that its claim of ‘99% worry-free signal reliability’ reasonably communicates that ‘DirecTV customers generally do not worry about loss of signal.’”

“This finding as applied to other contexts may incentivize advertisers to use solely puffery and provide less specific information to consumers,” the company said.

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.