BT forced to scrap ‘wi-fi in every room’ ad campaign

BT wifiBT might be confident in its network’s ability to handle the burden of millions working from home, but in its advertising, at least, it has been found guilty of over-exaggerating the robustness of its wi-fi offering.

The campaign launched in January and featured two TV ads, which were supported by press, and online activity on the BT website. Saatchi & Saatchi and Wunderman Thompson work on the BT business.

The first TV ad featured housemates using their laptops and tablet devices while an animated scene from a war film occurred within the home. The housemates were seen placing wi-fi discs around the home and using their devices in the living room and in the bathroom.

On-screen text stated “Only BT guarantee wi-fi in every room”. The voiceover repeated that claim. On-screen text at the bottom of the ad stated “New Superfast Fibre customers or existing customers taking BT Plus with Complete Wi-Fi. 91% UK coverage. Up-to 3 discs to guarantee wi-fi or £20 off your next bill”.

The second TV ad showed animated purple pixels spread throughout multiple rooms of a home. The voiceover stated: “With new complete wi-fi from BT, we’re the only provider to guarantee you a wi-fi signal in every room. With wi-fi discs to boost your hub signal”.

Meanwhile, the press ad featured an image of a woman in the bath watching a video stream on her tablet device alongside the headline claim “Only we guarantee wi-fi in every room. Clever new wi-fi discs extend your signal to every part of your home”, a claim which was repeated in ads on the brand’s website.

Rival companies and actual people were not impressed, however, with the Advertising Standards Authority receiving complaints from Virgin Media, Vodafone and fourteen members of the public.

Most challenged whether the claims “only we guarantee wi-fi in every room” and “we guarantee a strong signal in every room” in ads were misleading and could be substantiated. Three challenged whether first TV ad was misleading by not making clear that the wi-fi discs needed to be plugged in.

In response to the ASA investigation, BT reckoned everything was fully explained in the small print and on-screen text in each of the ads.

It said it carried out extensive coverage testing prior to launch on a trial base of over 1,000 homes of different construction types including detached, semi-detached, mid-terrace, flat/apartments and bungalows. In 96% of cases, the customers could achieve full coverage in their home with one extra disc, while in the remaining 4% of cases, up to two more discs were needed to achieve coverage in every room.

In addition, BT said that consumers generally understood that electrical items such as routers and televisions needed to be plugged in.

The ASA was having none of it. In its ruling, the watchdog said that BT’s evidence did not show what speeds were being achieved on the devices, so it was unable to verify that the signal was strong enough to provide the minimum speed needed to carry out typical online activities. It concluded that the claim “only we guarantee wi-fi in every room” could not be substantiated, and was therefore misleading.

On the second complaint it ruled that the ad had given the impression that the wi-fi discs could be battery powered, and be placed anywhere around the home rather than only in locations that were near a plug socket.

It concluded that consumers were likely to be misled from the ad into thinking that the wi-fi discs could operate without needing to be plugged into a plug socket.

Banning all the ads, the regulator warned BT against running similar ads unless it held adequate evidence to support the claims.

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