BBB National Programs Archive
NARB Recommends Discontinuance or Modification of Two Verizon Commercials Featuring Consumer Testimonials
New York, NY – January 06, 2020 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has recommended that Verizon Wireless, Inc. discontinue or modify two commercials featuring a “paid real customer story,” in which a customer describes an aspect of his or her Verizon Wireless service. NARB is the appellate unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. The advertising at issue had been challenged by AT&T Services, Inc. before the National Advertising Division (NAD). NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. Following NAD’s decision, AT&T appealed NAD’s finding that the claims communicated by Verizon’s “Kellene” commercial (15-second version) were supported. Verizon then exercised its right under the applicable rules of procedure to file a cross-appeal with regard to NAD’s recommendations to discontinue or modify the “Ned” commercial.
In the “Kellene” commercial a dancer describes her experience with the Verizon service on a “subway,” and demonstrates how she rehearsed a dance routine while “streaming” a video on the way to an audition. In the underlying decision, NAD determined that the “Kellene” commercial was not misleading. However, the NARB panel upheld AT&T’s appeal, concluding that one message communicated to reasonable consumers is that the Verizon service provides effective streaming in underground mass transit systems across the country. Further, the panel concluded that such a message is not supported because Verizon did not offer any evidence regarding its service’s ability to provide streaming in underground mass transit systems, in New York City or anywhere else.
In the “Ned” commercial, Ned reports that he suffered a fall (22 feet) in a remote area (“the middle of the woods”), shattered his pelvis, and was only saved because he was able to use his Verizon service to reach his wife by phone. Agreeing with the challenger, the NARB panel determined that the commercial conveys the distinct message that Ned was in a remote area when he suffered an injury (although he was actually in a suburb of Atlanta). The panel also concluded that this commercial conveys an unsupported message of coverage in remote locations that is superior to at least some, if not all, of Verizon’s competitors.
For these reasons, the NARB panel recommended that Verizon discontinue the “Kellene” (15-second version) and “Ned” commercials, or modify them to avoid the claims that are not substantiated.
Verizon stated that it “will comply with the NARB recommendation, given that the advertising at issue has not aired for some time and despite Verizon’s strong disagreement with the decision in this case.” Verizon stated that it objected to what it considered the Panel’s consideration of “implied claims that were not identified in the NAD’s opening letter, the challenger’s complaint, or the NAD decision,” and further asserted that it “should not be faulted for failing to provide evidence in support of claims that were not properly before NAD, particularly given that NARB rules expressly prohibit the submission of any new evidence.”
Note: A recommendation by NAD or NARB 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 and NARB not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.
About the National Advertising Review Board (NARB): NARB is the appellate body for advertising industry self-regulation. NARB’s membership is composed of 87 professionals from three different categories: national advertisers (49 members), advertising agencies (26 members), and public members (12) made up of academics and former members of the public sector.
About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs (BBB NP) fosters trust, innovation, and competition in the marketplace through the development and delivery of cost-effective, third-party self-regulation, dispute resolution and other programs. The programs were formerly administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus. BBB NP is the home of industry self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs that include the National Advertising Division (NAD), National Advertising Review Board (NARB), BBB EU Privacy Shield, BBB AUTO LINE, Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), Children’s Confection Advertising Initiative (CCAI), Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC), Digital Advertising Accountability Program (Accountability Program), and the Coalition for Better Advertising Dispute Resolution Program (CBA DRM). The programs are designed to resolve business issues and advance shared objectives by responding to marketplace concerns to create a better customer experience. To learn more about industry self-regulation, please visit: BBBNP.org.