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TalkTalk whips BT with riding crop over sport fibs in telly ad

Watchdog agrees that one-time state monopoly misled viewers

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Budget telco TalkTalk - whose boss Dido Harding probably knows a thing or two about sportsmanship having once competed as a jockey - has successfully challenged a BT advert for misleading television viewers.

The Advertising Standards Authority upheld the company's complaint against an ad for BT Sport that featured presenter Jake Humphries. TalkTalk had contended that the ad had wrongly implied, without adequate qualification, that the channel was available to customers for "free" on TV.

But the regulator noted that this was not the case.

"Because we considered the on-screen qualification did not make clear that BT Sport was only available to view online unless customers also had access to Sky Digital or BT TV with Infinity, and because it was not shown at the time the 'free' offer was referenced in the voice-over, we concluded the ad was misleading," the ASA said.

TalkTalk's gripe was backed up by three other complainants who moaned about the ad to the watchdog.

BT argued that a brief qualifying text accompanying the advert was "sufficient" to explain in which ways its Sport service could be accessed for "free".

The ASA added that it had received a second complaint about the same ad from an individual who challenged whether it was misleading for the BT ad to place Humphries in a business setting – such as in a barber's shop and pub – because its sport channel was not offered free to biz punters.

BT tried to bat that particular gripe away by claiming that the ad was not a "call to action for business customers to take advantage of the offer".

But on that point, the regulator also disagreed with BT. The ASA said:

The ad contained various scenes where BT Sport was shown being watched on TV, and these included two business scenes, a barbers and a pub, to which we understood the "free" offer would not apply.

Although on-screen text shown at one point in the ad stated "UK residential only" we considered this contradicted the impression made by the two business scenes that the ad was also applicable to business customers.

The "free" offer promoted in the ad was not available to BT business customers and we considered that, in this context, it was misleading to feature scenes in businesses. We therefore concluded the ad was misleading.

The telecoms giant was told that the ad must not be broadcast again in its current form.

"We told BT to ensure that ads for BT Sport 'free' offers included a clearly worded qualification that BT Sport was only available to view online unless customers also had access to Sky Digital or BT TV with Infinity and that this was displayed at the time the offer was referenced," the ASA said. "We also told them to take care if featuring scenes of BT Sport being watched in businesses in such ads if the offer did not apply to BT business customers." ®

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