Apple sanctioned for misleading advertising … again!

Apple has again run afoul of false advertising rules across the pond. The latest rap from Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority regards its claim that “all of the web” is accessible from the iPhone.

“They made a very general claim that you can see the internet in its entirety, and actually that’s not quite true – so we’ve upheld [a complaint],” the ASA told the BBC, after ordering Apple to not run the ad again. Its rationale was that as the iPhone won’t run Flash and Java, two commonplace web technologies, the ad misled consumers.

Apple’s argument was that the claim referred only to the “availability” of webpages, rather than whether they could actually be displayed properly. Facepalm: almost anything with an internet connection meets this standard. While it has a point about WAP or other junk being served to most other cellphones, the performance of other devices doesn’t bear on whether the iPhone actually does what Apple claims it does.

More convincingly, to me, is Apple’s complaint that Flash and Java are third-party technologies, with which compatibility can never be perfectly ensured. Right as it is, it’s a point that still comes up short when you consider its claim that the iPhone may access all of the web. From the adjudication:

We noted Apple’s argument that the ad was about site availability rather than technical detail, but considered that the claim … “all parts of the internet are on the iPhone” implied users would be able to access all websites and see them in their entirety. We considered that, because the ad had not explained the limitations, viewers were likely to expect to be able to see all the content on a website normally accessible through a PC rather than just having the ability to reach the website. We concluded that the ad gave a misleading impression of the internet capabilities of the iPhone.

The intriguing part, for me, is wondering if Apple was intentionally bullshitting, or if it really doesn’t think that Flash and Java count as part of the web. Has it become too easy to believe the popular caricature that Apple operates on a cult-like mindset, full of doublethink? The truth is that it’s too self-aware, and too well-controlled, to entertain such delusions.

Which leaves the question: why does it keep getting in trouble for false advertising in Britain? Just a few years ago, it was similarly sanctioned for claiming the Power Mac was the world’s fastest personal computer. It’s as if Apple doesn’t expect its claims to be taken seriously.

Adjudication on Apple Complaint [ASA]

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Try your luck at besc...@gmail.com

 

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20 Responses to Apple sanctioned for misleading advertising … again!

  1. Bugs says:

    Ads must be horribly dull in England, much like English food, dentistry and sex.

    If there’s one place I want to have guarunteed boredom, it’s the dentist’s chair. I do not want to be pinned down in a chair by a man with a drill, who suddenly decides that our session needs a little more excitement.

    I’ll disagree with your other points, though, to say that I enjoy both English food and English sex. A lot.

  2. Bugs says:

    Which leaves the question: why does it keep getting in trouble for false advertising in Britain?

    Well, why not? Many, many more people will see and be influenced by an advert than will hear that it has been withdrawn. All Apple cares about is whether the increased impact of its exaggurated adverts is worth more than the occasional small fine. Sure they’ll eventually lose the confidence techy people who pay close attention to the market but there are many, many more people who live outside that bubble.

    #1 – Great link, thanks!
    #10 – True, but in the UK this sort of exagguration is illegal. People generally expect that a reputable company’s claims about its product’s abilities are true and use this as part of their research. By all means look for product reviews and loopholes in the ad copy’s claims, but once adverts start deliberately misleading people the whole hing becomes impossible. Non-techy people wouldn’t think to ask if Flash and Java were included in “all parts of the internet”, so this as counts as being deliberately misleading.

  3. Downpressor says:

    Ads must be horribly dull in England, much like English food, dentistry and sex.

  4. Rob Beschizza says:

    It’s easy to forget that this is about the average consumer’s reasonable perception of a claim, not that of a computer expert who understands exactly what flash and java are relative to the fundaments of the web.

  5. Rodney says:

    How much does Apple spend on advertising per year? I recently found out Microsoft spends $450 million.

  6. Felix Mitchell says:

    “Which leaves the question: why does it keep getting in trouble for false advertising in Britain?”

    Because the majority of marketing is misleading and Apple are big enough that people take notice of their advertising more.

    I’m with the ASA here; this isn’t a technical decision about third party apps and such, it’s about consumers. If most consumers think that Flash is part of the internet, and expect it to be included, then that’s a good reason to rule against Apple; because people will be misled.

    There’s been a lot of misleading ads about handheld technology recently. Agencies seem far too happy to show analogies of what the technology claims to provide, rather than what it actually does.

    If we had the technology that is shown in ads, we’d all be teleporting across the world to see our friends, showing them realtime HD videos while flirting with the waitress.

  7. Skeptobot says:

    As a geeky sciencey type then lots of shampoo and other silly adverts often get my back up. But it’s really easy to get them banned as the ASA are actually relatively competent. They just need a member of the public to complan first.

    So If you ever fancy it then just use this link. Only takes about 10 minutes.

    The publised adjuications are always worth reading.

  8. Downpressor says:

    This seems rather petty to me, but I actually prefer my ads with a spoonful of hyperbole.

  9. strider_mt2k says:

    They don’t sell Hyperbole anymore.

    They found it contained lead and cocaine in the 1920’s.

  10. Rob Beschizza says:

    Skeptobot, hear hear!

    Forget creationism, timecube and Deepak Chopra. “Cosmetics ads” are the universe’s true and inexhaustible wellspring of misused scientific terminology.

    When you treat yourself with Neutralgia’s Blossom Forest age-defying exfoliating health balm with aloe vera, refreshing hydroxy alpha lipid antioxidants quantum teleport into your face and turn you into Jesus meat.

  11. BCJ says:

    @ROB

    When you treat yourself with Neutralgia’s Blossom Forest age-defying exfoliating health balm with aloe vera, refreshing hydroxy alpha lipid antioxidants quantum teleport into your face and turn you into Jesus meat.< \i>

    I think the worst part of that is that it took me until quantum teleport to work out that you hadn’t actually taken that from an ad.

  12. zuzu says:

    The intriguing part, for me, is wondering if Apple was intentionally bullshitting, or if it really doesn’t think that Flash and Java count as part of the web.

    Hell, I’m still skeptical of Javascript, AJAX and “web applications”. I use Flash for… Homestar Runner, and YouTube (which is dumb since MPEG-4 works just fine).

    The World Wide Web is fundamentally about hypermedia (i.e. HTTP, and the anchor tag of HTML), not these proprietary blobs of “applications”.

    If it’s not something I can read with lynx / links / w3m, it’s not really part of the Web. So I’m fine with Safari sans-Flash on the iPhone.

  13. zuzu says:

    The World Wide Web is fundamentally about hypermedia (i.e. HTTP, and the anchor tag of HTML), not these proprietary blobs of “applications”.

    To elaborate with examples: wikis, such as Wikipedia, and also the WebDAV extensions to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP).

    Flash, Java, and Silverlight are aberrations.

  14. DeWynken says:

    Cletus Magee don’t need no Java or no Flash.

  15. Zarniwoop says:

    “So I’m fine with Safari sans-Flash on the iPhone.”

    I’m not. I have an iphone, and it annoys the hell out of me that I can’t play videos which aren’t on youtube or the odd game of Dice Wars.

  16. pewma says:

    HARUMPH HARUMPH HARUMPH!!!

    I guess there’s no requirement for customers having to research an expensive product before you buy it…

    or maybe it’s just another sue-hungry group waiting for any opportunity.

  17. mixolydian says:

    Too fucking right @ ASA

    Apple’s PR people get away with murder! UK are one of the few countries left with a sane degree of advertising regulation (in High School I was taught superlatives are banned in UK advertising – happy to be corrected).

    Apple should be taken to task more often – I thought it was hilarious when they adopted intel processors and immediately performed a perfect 180 on their constant comparisons between ppc and intel.

    Speaking here as a (god help me) confirmed mac addict who definitely doesn’t believe the hype. My rejoinder to the whole ‘apple is a hardware vs software provider’ debate has always been apple is first and foremost a marketing company.

  18. Matt J says:

    I completely agree with Apple on this. First of all, no one uses Java for regular websites. I doubt 1% of sites have Java applets in them, and maybe the ASA got it confused with Javascript. With Flash, they may have a valid point, but it is still a proprietary extension. I get along fine without Flash, video is the only thing I miss it for, very few sites these days have Flash for navigation or anything like that, and if they do, they shouldn’t.

  19. chef says:

    #1: thanks for the link! A lot of good stuff on there; I wish this kind of thing was more prevalent, particularly in the US where it’s *expected* that you’re going to be misled. I gotta say it’s good to see people calling shenanigans on BS marketing and having people actually able do something about it.

  20. Enochrewt says:

    I’m all for a “say what you mean, mean what you say” approach to advertising. I appreciate staight shooters, and if you leave this type of stuff unchecked, these companys will(are) get out of control as far as advertising and lying to customers about products.

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