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Misleading anti-Sun ad lands HP reseller in hot water

ASA takes issue with Itanium claims

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Lancashire-based HP reseller PSL has earned itself a rap on the knuckles by advertising watchdogs for a direct mailing campaign rubbishing Sun Microsystems' products, strategy and business.

In a mail-shot sent to IT directors, PSL made unfavourable comparisons between HP's existing technology and Itanium roadmap and Sun's flagship UltraSPARC III processor as wall as Sun's overall business. Sun complained.

In an adjudication published today, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld all seven of Sun's complaints about PSL's provocatively titled you can't .com all of the people ... all of the time leaflet.

The leaflet criticised Sun for rejecting Intel's Itanium architecture and described Sun as a "generation behind in processor technology". PSL claimed HP is on the right track in backing Itanic, while Sun can't afford to keep developing UltraSPARC.

But the rest of the industry is not all adopting Itanium, the ASA noted, referencing Dell as a case in point. So PSL's claim that Sun is on its own is therefore misleading, the watchdog ruled.

After taking expert advice, and wading through a number of SPEC benchmark figures, the ASA concluded that PSL had not substantiated its claims that the overall performance of the HP PA-8700 processor was better than the UltraSPARC III.

Meanwhile PSL's claims that Itanium was the natural way forward from HP PA RISC processors backfired rather badly.

In its ruling the ASA comments: "The Authority understood that the UltraSPARC III was one of the first 64-bit processors and both its hardware and operating systems had settled down to the satisfaction of users. It noted the same applied to HP's PA-8000 series and IBM's processors but not to Itanium".

Ouch.

PSL's leaflet alleged "Sun was heavily dependant on the .com market which has collapsed".

Again misleading, the ASA ruled. True the server market is in decline, but PSL "sent no evidence to prove that Sun was suffering solely because of the dotcom collapse".

The ASA ruled PSL's sweeping statement was unfairly derogatory "because it exaggerated the importance of the failure of the dotcom market to Sun and implied Sun might not be able to replace the revenue from the dotcom market" elsewhere.

There were other less serious criticisms by the ASA for comments on PSL's leaflet about HP's overall position in the server market and superior services offering, where complaints by Sun about the wording of claims were upheld.

The ASA ordered PSL not to send the offending mail-shot again, and to seek advice on amending the mailing in light of its ruling from the Committee of Advertising Practice Copy Advice team. ®

External Links

The ASA's full adjudication (required reading for marketing execs in the server market)

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