BBB National Programs Archive
NAD Finds Two Verizon Commercials Featuring Consumer Testimonials Not Misleading; Recommends that Two Others be Discontinued or Modified
New York, NY – Sept. 4, 2019 – The National Advertising Division has found no unsubstantiated challenged claims in two Verizon Wireless commercials featuring a “paid real customer story,” in which a customer describes an aspect of their Verizon Wireless service, following a challenge by AT&T Services, Inc. However, NAD determined that two other Verizon commercials contain unsubstantiated claims and recommended that they be discontinued or modified.
NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is a division of the BBB NP’s self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs.
AT&T challenged implied claims in four commercials:
- Verizon has superior capacity at concert venues compared to all other major networks, and other networks cannot provide connections in such venues.
- Verizon has coverage in every single concert venue across the United States.
- Verizon offers superior performance compared to all other wireless carriers on moving subway cars.
- Verizon customers can always stream video on moving subway cars across America no matter where they are.
- Verizon has coverage in all remote areas, including the “middle of the woods,” and could therefore be “counted on” to save your life in an emergency.
- Verizon offers superior service compared to all other United States-based wireless carriers for completing video calls from the United States to Mexico.
AT&T argued that the challenged commercials convey unsupported messages of comparative superiority. Whereas, Verizon contended that the commercials do not convey any message about the competition, but are part of a campaign that invokes feelings of gratitude for Verizon service.
After reviewing the “paid real customer story” that were at the center of each challenged commercial, NAD determined that the “Maria” and “Kellene” commercials are not misleading. With regard to the “Maria” commercial, NAD concluded that the endorsement in the commercial communicates a message of acceptable performance rather than perfect performance and that consumers of Verizon can stay in contact with their family members who reside in Mexico, both truthful messages. NAD noted that no phone call or video call between the United States is depicted on screen – or even heard – to communicate a performance message. Further, NAD found that the testimonial in the “Kellene” commercial does not convey a comparative message, but is a substantiated claim of sporadic or acceptable service in the subway. There are no images of other carriers, or statements that Kellene could not otherwise get service on another network.
NAD reached a different conclusion with respect to the “Ned” and “Jarrett” commercials.
In the “Ned” commercial, Ned explains that he fell “22 feet” when he was “in the middle of the woods, with his voice echoing into the emptiness as he states those words. NAD determined that this reasonably conveys the message that he fell in a very remote area, particularly when he underscores the extreme circumstances of his fall and asserts that his phone saved his life. In the absence of evidence that Verizon has coverage in all remote areas, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the “Ned” commercial or modify it to more closely reflect the actual experience of Ned, for example, to better describe Ned’s fall from his tree stand on his property near Atlanta, and avoid conveying the unintended message that Verizon has coverage in all remote areas.
The “Jarrett” commercial begins with Jarrett explaining, “It’s really cool to be able to take a photo, take a video and be immediately able to post it on my social media” followed by, “I just love being the friend with service.” NAD concluded that this statement reasonably conveys the message that Jarrett’s friends do not have service and that Verizon has superior capacity at concert venues compared to all other major networks. This comparative performance claim was not substantiated, nor did Verizon submit data concerning its performance at music events. Therefore, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the “Jarrett” commercial or modify it to avoid conveying an unsupported performance message and an unsupported comparative message related to Verizon’s network performance at concert venues.
Finally, NAD determined that the claim featured briefly at the end of each commercial – that Verizon has the best network or the most reliable network – does not convey a comparative message about the specific claimed benefits of Verizon’s service made in each of the testimonials. NAD noted that each person’s story is the focus of the commercial, with the “best network” or “most reliable network” claim appearing fleetingly at the end of a commercial broadly touting Verizon’s service. Each concluding message is not prominent and it is not a call to action for specific services.
In its advertiser’s statement, Verizon stated that it “agrees to comply with NAD’s decision.” However, “Verizon disagrees that reasonable consumers would misunderstand Ned’s truthful account of falling from a tree [in the middle of the woods suggests] that Verizon provides coverage in ‘all remote areas.’ Verizon also disagrees that reasonable consumers misunderstand Jarrett’s statement about service at concert venues to be comparative.”