Vodacom's claim to be SA's best network is justified - ad authority

2017-07-21 15:09 - Carin Smith
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Vodacom. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

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Cape Town - The Directorate of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has dismissed a competitor complaint lodged by MTN against advertising in which Vodacom claims to be "SA's Best Network".

It relates to a YouTube commercial telling the "story" of a long-lost love being found thanks to the assistance of a man relying on his Vodacom phone and a Facebook advertisement claiming "Master the art of portrait photography on SA’s Best Network*”.

MTN submitted that in some instances Vodacom complemented its claim by certain disclaimers.
 
MTN argued that recent data by broadband tester OOKLA shows that MTN and Vodacom’s network performance in terms of average mobile download speeds is on par. It further argued that an interim MyBroadband report actually showed that MTN outperformed Vodacom, and that these MyBroadband reports have changed and are contradictory to the data by OOKLA, which is deemed to be a global leader in internet performance testing.

MTN submitted that the general impression created by Vodacom was that its superiority claim is based on OOKLA data, when in reality it was based on MyBroadband research.

Vodacom's case

On behalf of Vodacom the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg, rejected MTN's argument that the ASA has established OOKLA as the only acceptable entity to substantiate network speed claims.

The agency argued that most of the individual cases referred to by MTN in its letter of complaint were irrelevant as they dated back to times when MyBroadband were incapable of testing smartphone performance, or when service providers were incorrectly comparing broadband in general to mobile broadband in particular.

In dealing with the merits, the agency submitted MyBroadband’s Evaluation Report, as well as a report from Catalyst Research & Strategy, which is a SAMRA accredited entity.

The agency refuted the notion that it was creating an expectation that its claims were based on OOKLA data, and added that both MyBroadband and OOKLA use equivalent methodologies, running on the same handsets in an over the top fashion and collect the same network performance metrics.

While it acknowledges that OOKLA was launched several years ago and arguably has a larger base to survey, the MyBroadband version has already attracted more than 10 000 downloads and has run in excess of 100 000 tests during its first two months. This seems to be on par with OOKLA’s typical figures of 100 000 tests per month on SA networks, and it is expected that the two testing platforms will reach parity very soon.

OOKLA

MTN also submitted a graph from OOKLA showing a difference of less than 1Mbps between MTN and Vodacom speeds achieved.

It referred to OOKLA’s specific requirements that stipulate that a tie occurs if there is less than 1% deviation between the first and second place provider as determined by the Speed Score metric in order to ensure that in any market clear winners are based on what would be a noticeable difference in service to the end user.

MTN, therefore, argued that the difference between it and Vodacom falls within the parameters described, meaning that they are tied and that Vodacom, therefore, cannot claim superiority.

In response it was submitted on behalf of Vodacom that the new OOKLA data referred to by MTN reflects "4G LTE” technology only, whereas Vodacom's claim was made in respect of all mobile technologies, not just "4G LTE” technology.

An email from OOKLA was submitted on behalf of Vodacom, stating that Vodacom has been approved to make the "South Africa's Fastest Network" claim based on its analysis of the Q2 Speed Score in SA for both Modern Devices and 4G LTE.

Finding

In its finding, the ASA directorate said that, while OOKLA appears to be a market leader, this does not automatically invalidate other methods of testing.

"The key differentiator is clarity, because consumers need to be in a position to make an informed decision based on the information contained in any advertisement," the directorate said.

"Once the respondent (Vodacom) has submitted satisfactory evidence for its claim (as appears to be the case here), the Directorate has no reason to reject the evidence."

The Directorate found that Vodacom had submitted evidence from MyBroadband as opposed to OOKLA in support of its claim and that, from the perspective of a hypothetical reasonable person, the claim to offer "SA’s Best Network” appears to be justified.

Therefore, it found the Vodacom advertising to have been neither misleading nor exploitative of the credulity of consumers.

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