Advertising regulator agrees with Apple: Windows is virus-stricken and insecure


Britain's strict ad-standards regulators offered a Christmas gift to Apple yesterday: it ruled that ads claiming Windows is less stable than OSX--and more vulnerable to infection-- were truthful.

Despite a history of correcting Apple's hyperbolic marketing, it did not uphold a round of complaints filed against the "I'm a Mac" campaign.

We considered that people would understand [the ad] to mean viruses that infected Windows based PCs would not infect Macs and that Macs were less likely to be infected by viruses than those PCs; not that Macs would never be infected by viruses and did not require virus protection. ... We concluded therefore that the ad was not irresponsible or likely to mislead.

The Brits' version of the familiar TV and web slots feature comedy duo Mitchell and Webb. Complaints were directed against an ad that had the "PC" character declare that he always crashes and was riddled with viruses; another where he sneezed due to said infections; and another where he would stop talking in mid-sentence to "reboot."

Some of the complaints asserted this gave a misleading impression that all PCs were unstable, while other claimed that computers running Apple's operating system were also vulnerable to virus infection. Another of the complainants said that PCs running Linux were just as unlikely to be infected with malware as Macs

The Advertising Standards Authority, in not upholding the complaints, took the view that consumers were generally aware of the distinction between operating system and hardware.

We considered that those people, who were aware of other PC operating systems, would also understand that viruses attacked software and operating systems, not hardware, and would therefore understand that the ad referred to PCs that ran Microsoft Windows rather than another platform, for example, Linux. We concluded that, because people who saw them would understand they referred to PCs that ran on Microsoft Windows and any operational difficulties that might be associated with them, the ads did not misleadingly imply all PCs, regardless of software or system, were vulnerable to crashing and viruses.

The authority also ruled that Macs were less likely to be infected:

the claim did not imply Macs would never be infected by viruses and did not require virus protection. We understood that the type of viruses that infected PCs with Microsoft Windows, could not infect Macs that did not run Microsoft Windows. We also understood that Macs, which did not operate on Microsoft Windows, were less likely to be infected by viruses than PCs. We concluded therefore that the claim was not irresponsible or likely to mislead.

Finally, it determined that OSX is more generally stable than Windows, due to the latter's likelihood of malware infection:

Macs that did not run Microsoft Windows were less likely to crash than PCs that ran Microsoft Windows

Published by Rob Beschizza

Follow Rob @beschizza on Twitter.

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  1. Windows ostensibly requires installing Kaspersky, and is typically recommended to be installed as a VM client to make backups and reinstallation (as Windows naturally degrades over the course of more or less a year) less of a hassle.

    I don’t say this as an OSX / Ubuntu Linux fanboy; I’m a fan of other operating systems because of this.

  2. The British whine and complain about everything. It’s what we do. Still, much better than not complaining about things, I think.

    I think this is fair. The accusations made by hyperbolic mac fans about Windows are completely out of proportion, but nevertheless, Mac PCs are fractionally more stable than windows ones.

  3. Actually, the British don’t like to complain. We’re usually willing to sit and bear it. I always think of Eric Idle getting hit by the car of Chevy Chase and family…

    I think you’ll find that (on the whole) Americans are the ones who like to assert their rights, only in this case it’s the Brits who have the right not to be lied to on TV.

    And just to confuse my comment further, I don’t think they (we) are lied to at all in this case, how I wish my parents had a Mac so I didn’t have to clear out their bug ridden PC every time I come home.

  4. This ASA adjudication applies to non-broadcast appearances of the ad, not TV showings. From the ASA writeup: “A national press ad, a regional press ad, a poster, two Internet and two cinema ads for the Apple Mac computer.”

    As far as Brits complaining is concerned, I note that there was a total of 14 complaints on this matter. That’s nothing out of a population of 56 million or so. I suspect that only people on the PC side of the industry thought to lodge a complaint.

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