Virgin Media’s strategy of using postcode-based mass door-drops to lure new customers appears to have backfired after the ad watchdog made the company pull the plug on two separate mailshots for being misleading.
The company makes extensive use of door-drops through its agency Rapp, which due to the low cost are even delivered to many existing customers.
But two recipients complained to the Advertising Standards Authority when they received separate mailings, one stated “over 80% of your neighbourhood is connected”, while the other said “we’re in your neighbourhood and didn’t want you to miss out”.
In response, Virgin claimed their door-drops were delivered based on postcode sectors and the serviceability of an area. It said postcode sectors did not match directly with its network area and so it could not guarantee that addresses that were unable to obtain their services would not receive a mailing.
Virgin said it ensured marketing messages were clear not to imply that an address was definitely able to receive their services, but made sure the small print covered this.
For the first mailer, Virgin said the complainant’s postcode was in its 80‒99% serviceability sector that contained 4,230 households and therefore over 80% of consumers could have received their services.
Meanwhile for the second door-drop Virgin said in the complainant’s postcode sector, 60‒79% of the 3,444 households were in its serviceability area, which supported the claim “We’re in your neighbourhood”.
However, the ASA ruled these claims did not stack up and over-exaggerated the number of connected households in each given area as well as offered a service which was not actually available to the complainants.
Banning both from running again, the regulator told Virgin not to make claims that implied a specific proportion of consumers or area was connected to its services when that was not the case, and not to claim that its services were available in areas they were not.
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