What is it with telcos and the ‘creative’ approach to advertising honesty?

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has once again had to step in to put a stop to telco advertising, this time Three’s efforts, posing a pretty simple question; why do the telcos find it so easy to put misleading adverts into the world?

The latest ruling was surrounding Three’s ‘Go Roam’ claim, which states users are able to ‘Feel at Home’ by using their full data allowance without any extra costs in 71 countries. An investigation from the ASA found postpaid users were limited to 13GB and postpaid to 12GB, before costs were applied. There is text hidden away somewhere on the Three website pointing towards a fair use clause, though the ASA does not believe this is sufficient and Three has been misleading customers.

Three’s response to the claims was relatively simple. Firstly, most of it customers only use 0.75GB per month in a ‘Go Roam’ destination, therefore 12GB was excessive. Secondly, that the claim had been used since 2014 and was strongly associated with their brand, which supposedly makes it alright. It does appear some customers were using it for business purposes, making several trips abroad per month, while the offer had originally been intended for holidays.

This is a perfectly respectable defence from Three, but without informing the customer of these conditions, it doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Unfortunately this is becoming a common trend. Service providers seem to think they can do what they like before pointing to some obscure reference on websites, incredibly small print or a statement made to an irrelevant number of people at a niche event. While Three might have been caught out in this instance, it is not alone.

BT had a complaint upheld regarding its claims on wifi speeds in April. Sky was caught misleading customers in March regarding a price promotion. Vodafone was caught out earlier this month and in September for misleading claims in adverts featuring Martin Freeman. There are other examples, plus the pending investigations with the ASA and also dozens of examples over the last few months of ‘informally resolved’ incidents. Vodafone has ‘informally resolved’ 12 of these complaints so far in 2018, TalkTalk seven and O2 five. Some of these will be down to honest mistakes, but the complaints seem to becoming more common.

Of course the other factor which needs to be taken into account is the ‘up to’ metric which plagued telcos advertisements for years, misleading customers over speeds which can be achieved. Any normal person would have told any of the telco’s marketing team this is not a fair or honest way to communicate with the consumer, but it become commonplace. It seems the telcos are harbouring different standards when it comes to honesty than the rest of us.

AT&T launches online advertising marketplace Xandr

Two multi-billion dollar acquisitions and a funny name later, the AT&T content business vision starts to become a bit clearer.

AT&T has announced the launch of Xandr, its new content business unit which will combine current capabilities (e.g. AT&T AdWork and ATT.net), the Time Warner and AppNexus acquisitions, as well as distribution partnerships with Altice USA and Frontier Communications into a notable advertising entity. While the initial plan is to capture a slice of the digital advertising bonanza which has been fuelling the monstrous growth at Facebook and Google, long-term ambitions are a lot grander.

“Xandr is a name that draws inspiration from AT&T’s rich history, including its founder Alexander Graham Bell, while imagining how to innovate and solve new challenges for the future of advertising,” said CEO Brian Lesser. “Our purpose is to Make Advertising Matter and to connect people with the brands and content they care about. Throughout AT&T’s 142-year history, it has innovated with data and technology, making its customers’ lives better. Xandr will bring that spirit of innovation to the advertising industry.”

In the first instance, Xandr will combine the distribution and data capabilities of AT&T, with content catalogues from Time Warner, Frontier and Altice USA and the technology platform of AppNexus to make a more complete advertising offering. With its 170 million subscriber base of mobile, broadband and OTT products, and the data collected on these customers, AT&T believes it can offer a hyper-targeted advertising solution and more effective ROI, to rival the likes of Facebook and Google.

But this is only the first step of the business. In the long-run, AT&T hopes there will be an opportunity for advertisers to bring their own data, augment this with the AT&T customer insight to provide an even more targeted and efficient proposition. These are the foundations of what the business hopes will eventually become an advertising marketplace, where all distributors, content owners and advertisers can combine. AT&T will enrich these offerings with its own data, and even offer tie-ins to Insight Strategy Group and Advertiser Perceptions in order to understand the dynamics between consumer sentiment and the advertising experience. We might have been waiting a while for this move in the content space, but it certainly is an in-depth one.

The partnerships with Insight Strategy Group and Advertiser Perceptions are certainly interesting ones as well. Understanding the dynamics between sentiment and advertising can aid advertisers in placing the right type of advert, in front of the right consumer, at the right time. Its a science which leans on art, but has the potential to be very useful.

The AppNexus acquisition was only completed in August for $1.6 billion, having announced the intention to buy the business in June. Through AppNexus, AT&T has been able to bolster its capabilities with an advertising marketplace, which provides enterprise products for digital advertising, serving publishers, agencies and advertisers. With AT&T’s first-party data, content and distribution the offering becomes more complete, as the focus turns to creating a platform that makes linear TV buying more automated and data-driven. Of course, part of this deal relies on the successful acquisition of Time Warner, which is proving to be more difficult business.

That said, while this is a good idea from AT&T to provide additional value to the content ecosystem, there will be complications. AT&T will have to convince competitor media companies to put their premium inventory on its network, while regulation could prove to be a hurdle as well. With data privacy a hot topic in the technology world right now, shifting around sensitive information and augmenting in such a marketplace might raise some concerns from privacy advocates.

Some have questioned whether AT&T’s venture into the content world, but this does look like to be a comprehensive strategy, incorporating several promised aspects of the digital economy. There are of course significant hurdles for the business to overcome, but it is a creative idea, perhaps one which would have been more likely to emerge from other segments of the technology world. More importantly, it is an opportunity for AT&T to provide value above connectivity.

The telcos will always have an important place in the digital economy, providing the connectivity cornerstone, though this runs the risk of utilitisation, slipping down the value chain. Using data for the purposes of advertising has always been a sensitive issue, though should AT&T be able to negotiate the red-tape maze, Xandr will enable AT&T to secure ‘UnTelco’ revenue. This is a case of a telco using what it has to add value to a parallel segment, as opposing to disruption and attempting to steal a limited amount of revenue. Its creating additional revenue streams and value.

Aussies telcos given yellow card for foul-play in ‘unlimited’ advertising

UK consumers might find some comfort that lying to misleading the masses isn’t a speciality of telcos here; everyone around the world is up to no good.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has told telcos to keep a better handle on advertising claims, demanding more honesty. Transparency and accuracy might seem like strange concepts to telecommunications companies, who have made somewhat of a speciality of applying flexibility to the definition of certain terms, but the regulator is hitting back.

“Telecommunications companies should be wary of using absolute claims like ‘unlimited’ where that does not give a true picture to consumers of what is being offered,” said ACCC Chairperson Rod Sims.

“We have taken a range of actions against telecommunication companies for misleading consumers. It is about time they showed more respect for their customers and the Australian Consumer Law. With much higher penalties now available for breaches of consumer law, I hope they will take their obligations more seriously. From now on consumer law penalties will seriously affect their bottom line, and we will not hesitate to seek the highest possible penalties.”

The issue here is focused on the ‘unlimited’ claims put forward by telcos when promoting mobile data plans. Optus, Vodafone and Telstra are the trio under the microscope of the ACCC, alongside private litigation brought by Optus against Telstra in the Federal Court. The result of the investigation, which took place between March and June, is that while the trio of white liars did include disclaimers, these were not sufficiently prominent or clear enough to explain to consumers the existence and impacts of the limitations. In short, consumers were not told about the throttling which would take place after data limits had been reached.

While the Aussies might be the centre of criticism right now, few nationalities are innocent. The UK has consistently mislead the consumer with the dreaded ‘up-to’ metric, and while this has been addressed by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) there are some, including Telecoms.com, who do not believe it has gone far enough. In years gone by, telcos could make speed claims in advertisements if they could prove 10% of customers could experience the promise. While this has been raised to 50% during peak hours, there have been calls this percentage should be higher.

In another example, Vodafone UK had one of its broadband adverts bands after the ASA deemed that there was a disconnect between the buffering scenario in the advert and how it related to the refund offer or service guarantee. The ‘ultimate speed guarantee’ advert featured Martin Freeman as a gamer experiencing connectivity issues at a critical point during the game, with BT making the initial complaint.

It is certainly promising to see a watchdog taking action against the telcos, perhaps we should all just ignore the advertising for the moment. We’re struggling to think of a telco which has earned the right to be trusted after years of misleading promises, inaccurate promises or childish moaning. Trust is hard earned and easily lost, and the telco industry is running on empty.

Confusion reigns in China as Facebook is/isn’t granted access

For a brief moment in time, Facebook thought it had access to the fortunes of China. But now execs are heading back to the drawing board as its subsidiary’s registration has been removed.

After a decade of struggling to make any headway, there was a win. A company was registered in the city of Hangzhou according to a government filing, financed with an investment of $30 million and Facebook listed as the only shareholder. Unfortunately for Facebook, this registration was removed late Tuesday night, perhaps indicating the social media giant is back to square one.

The company registration should be viewed as nothing more than a minor win for Facebook. This was not permission for a fully-fledged launch in China, but it was a presence in the country. Facebook has confirmed it planned to create an innovation hub, similar to those which it has created in countries such as Brazil, to tap into the local market. But, it was a foot through the door, if only for the briefest of moments.

This licence would have allowed Facebook to access Chinese developers and consumers, though the launch of an app would have required more negotiations. Should Facebook have wanted to launch its full service, this would have been even more complicated. But this minor win meant CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his cronies were inside the tent, rubbing shoulders with the right people. The removal puts the social media giant back outside, crossing its legs.

Why the registration has been removed is anyone’s guess, but it does show the complications of trying to access one of the world’s most sought after prizes. To do business in China, you do it on its terms with no back chat. This might be a difficult pill to swallow for Silicon Valley companies which are used to calling the shots, but China has shown over the last decade how stubborn and resourceful it can be.

With the world’s largest population, a young and increasingly affluent middle-class and a hunger for the digital world, the Chinese population looks prime for the US giants of the internet economy. But with the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter being banned, the profits have instead gone to domestic brands. China has not bowed to the global infatuation with these companies, instead, used its promising society to fuel the growth of brands such as WeChat, Alibaba and Baidu. The Great Firewall of China has certainly brought riches for those who are lucky enough to be on the right side of it.

Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives have been trying to crack this enigma for years, but it seems they are not willing to accept the required concessions. A social media platform not under the direct influence of the government is not a position China wants to find itself in. It would be potentially empowering and destabilizing, a path the government does not want to walk. Some companies have accepted these conditions, LinkedIn is one example, though the majority have drawn a line in the sand.

It should be noted Facebook does do business in China. It sells advertising to Chinese brands looking to capitalise on the vast reach offered by the platform, but for Facebook to continue the exceptional growth investors have become accustomed to over the years, it needs access to the consumers as well. Expanding the user base is critical for the social media giant, and there have been signs in recent months it might be hitting a glass ceiling.

In the Western markets, some might argue there is limited room for additional users, while younger generations are starting to snub the platform in favour of brands such as SnapChat. The business can grow in some developing markets, though these are not the consumers which are deemed attractive to advertisers. To maintain profitability without the growing user base, Facebook would have to serve more ads to the user. This would be a downward spiral. As mentioned before, China has a growing, young, affluent, digital-savvy middle class. This is an audience advertisers would be interested in engaging.

The subsidiary’s registration was not going to ensure Facebook could launch its services in the country in the short-term, but it was certainly a step in the right direction. Despite the fact it has been seemingly revoked, it is still progress.

Most people think ‘fibre’ means FTTP – survey

A survey commissioned by UK fibre challenger CityFibre found that most people think fibre should mean fibre, which seems fair enough.

The research was conducted by Censuswide, who surveyed 3,400 UK broadband punters. 24% of respondents reckoned their broadband consisted of fibre all the way to the premise, even though only 3% of the UK currently has that privilege. Furthermore 45% of them assumed a service advertised as fibre meant fibre all the way, rather than just to the cabinet or whatever.

CityFibre is in the process of taking the Advertising Standards Agency to Court as it disputes its conclusion that ‘fibre’ is not a misleading term in broadband adverts when used to describe hybrid copper-fibre connections. That seems like a reasonable objection and is clearly the reason it commissioned this survey.

But CityFibre isn’t entirely innocent of a spot of misleading itself. The press release announcing this survey was headlined ‘Two thirds of broadband customers believe “fibre” should mean fibre-to-the-premises in ads’, but then offers no data points to support that claim. The closest one is the finding that 65% of respondents ‘didn’t think their current connection relied on copper cables or hybrid copper-fibre’.

There’s also this: While just under two thirds (65%) said their broadband provider had described their connection as “fibre”, only 1 in 6 (17%) thought this connection would include copper cables. But that’s still not consistent with the headline. People in glass houses…

“We are calling on all broadband providers to stop using the word ‘fibre’ unless it is describing a full fibre connection,” said Greg Mesch, CEO of CityFibre. “Rather than waiting for the backward-looking ASA to be forced to act, the industry should stand as one and pave the way for a new generation of connected homes, businesses, towns and cities across the UK.”

Mesch and CityFibre have a long history of agitating about the US fibre environment and usually manage to diminish their point by overdoing it. But that doesn’t mean they’re wrong and in this case they definitely have a point. Calling a service ‘fibre’ clearly infers it’s fibre all the way. If it’s hybrid then that should be represented in the name, regardless of what ISP marketing manager want.

Microsoft launches its own personalised advertising platform

Despite all the flak Facebook has been receiving for its hyper-targeted advertising platform, Microsoft has decided now is a perfect time to launch its own version.

The Microsoft Audience Network is an AI-powered audience marketing service, combing data sourced from assets including Bing, MSN, Outlook.com, the Edge browser, LinkedIn and ‘high quality’ third-party websites, which promises to engage potential customers, at the right time, with the right message.

“The Microsoft Audience Network offers advanced audience targeting and brand safe native placements,” said Rik van der Kooi, Corporate VP of Microsoft Search Advertising.

“We recognize that the industry is ever changing, customer-centricity matters more than ever to businesses, and AI is transforming how marketers and brands engage with their customers. It is no longer about optimizing your media spend by channel but understanding your customers and their interests and preferences.”

Microsoft Graph

As you can see from the image above, campaigns can potentially go incredibly in-depth, with very specific messages and almost invasive intuition. While this is common-practice across the digital economy, Microsoft has chosen a very interesting and unusual time to launch such a service.

The ‘Microsoft Graph’ offers datasets with rich knowledge of consumers’ interests and preferences, which will only become more detailed as more of the consumers life hits the digital highway. Using the Bing Ads platform, machine learning algorithms guide audience segmentation, engagement prediction and personalized offer selection. To increase the accuracy and effectiveness of these campaigns, the team has also partnered with third-parties such as Yelp, Twitter, Foursquare and TripAdvisor to add more information into the mix. Addressing the privacy issue, Microsoft promises all data will be anonymized.

Facebook is facing intense criticism over its own advertising platform, most notably the ability of advertisers to launch targeted and personalised advertising campaigns. Politicians are perched comfortably on their high-horses, clopping along, stirring up disgust in the masses. The world is not looking favourably on targeted advertising campaigns and services. It certainly is a bold move from Microsoft to make such an announcement now, potentially opening itself up to criticism.

Facebook is being made an example of right now, being blamed because we didn’t want to know the complexities of the big data machine. The internet giants are not blameless whatsoever, and do have a tendency to toe the line of ethical, while also lurking in unexplored corners of the internet, but society on the whole buried heads in the sand. No-one questioned how Facebook continued to be free, but then the world is disgusted when the answer is forced upon us.

Microsoft is now offering a service which is commonplace, but we question whether now is the right time. Launching the service in a couple of weeks, once the euphoria surrounding Facebook’s advertising practices have died down, might have been a better idea, but only time will tell.

Europe wants to hit internet giants with 3% revenue tax, for starters

The European Commission has picked a good time to try to tax internet giants more, starting with 3% of revenues made from advertising, data and digital interactions.

The most significant fall-out from the overblown, but persistent Cambridge Analytica story will be for internet giants to face far more scrutiny over how they use the extensive data they gather on all of us. What seems to upset people the most is when they’re reminded of the Faustian pact they have made with said giants by being reminded of the enormous profits they’re making by exploiting all of us.

This is therefore a good time to be shaking those companies down and the European Commission must be delighted this story has broken just as it unveils its initiatives to stop that exact type of company from avoiding paying tax in the countries in which it does business, as opposed to just where it’s headquartered. No doubt the nuances of transnational tax law are riveting, but it doesn’t really matter, because the EC has spoken.

The proposed remedy to this shocking lack of revenue into EC coffers comes in two phases. Ultimately Europe wants the whole world to come to an agreement on how to tax digital products according to where the value is generated, rather than banked. But until that happens the EC thinks it’s fair enough to slap a 3% tax on revenues (not profits, mind) on online advertising, the sale of user data and digital platforms that facilitate interactions between users.

“Digitalisation brings countless benefits and opportunities, but it also requires adjustments to our traditional rules and systems,” said Valdis Dombrovskis, VP for the Euro and Social Dialogue. “We would prefer rules agreed at the global level, including at the OECD. But the amount of profits currently going untaxed is unacceptable. We need to urgently bring our tax rules into the 21st century by putting in place a new comprehensive and future-proof solution.”

“Our pre-Internet rules do not allow our Member States to tax digital companies operating in Europe when they have little or no physical presence here,” said Pierre Moscovici, Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, Taxation and Customs. “This represents an ever-bigger black hole for Member States, because the tax base is being eroded. That’s why we’re bringing forward a new legal standard as well an interim tax for digital activities.”

As ever this is just the first inch forward by the glacial European bureaucratic machine and its will take sever hundred obscenely lavish lunches to really get to grips with it. More significantly things like this require all member countries to sign it off, which seems unlikely, so it could all be a massive waste of time. But if companies like Facebook know what’s good for them, they could do worse than show some goodwill when it comes to tax.

Here’s a handy vid from the EU Taxation and Customs Union explaining why tax is actually great in the kind of dumbed-down language that speaks volumes about how they perceive their client electorates.

 

CityFibre hits out at UK fibre advertising rules

CityFibre has rubbished research from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that inferred consumers aren’t that bothered by fibre, and claimed other providers are directly misleading potential customers.

While such posturing should always be taken with a pinch of salt, as any research which doesn’t say CityFibre is the most important company on the planet will always be rubbished by CityFibre, the loud Northerner does have a point. Just because the consumers aren’t that bothered about whether a service is fibre-based or not doesn’t mean the ASA shouldn’t create stringent rules around it.

CityFibre has now filed for a judicial review of the ASA’s continued use of the term ‘fibre’ to describe some services which are only part-fibre. The firm argues the research and logic leading to the decision was fundamentally flawed, and that only full-fibre offerings should be able to use the term.

“You could hardly expect an automotive manufacturer to get away with advertising an ‘electric car’ when the most electric part of the car was its windows. The time has come to do away with ‘fake fibre’,” said CityFibre CEO Greg Mesch.

“The ASA’s short-sighted decision to allow yesterday’s copper-based infrastructure to masquerade as the future-proof full fibre networks of tomorrow is a clear failure in its duty. It has failed to ensure honest and truthful broadband advertising, it has failed to enable consumers to make informed choices and it has failed to support a national infrastructure project critical to our success in a digital age.”

CityFibre has made itself a reputation of moany very vocally and being incredible combative when it comes to press announcements or any rules from the ASA and Ofcom which doesn’t give it an advantage as a challenger brand, so you have to be careful here.

The firm is referring to rule changes made by the ASA back in November 2017 which looked at advertised broadband speed claims. In the same consultation, the ASA said consumers weren’t that bothered about whether the service was fibre or copper, just as long as it was quick enough, therefore there wouldn’t be any wholesale changes or challenges made to the language used in advertising. This is what CityFibre has taken issue with.

Just to be clear, broadband providers cannot claim their service is fibre if it is not. They also cannot claim it is full-fibre unless it is. Part-copper services cannot be claimed to be best in the market. And advertisers have to claim appropriate speeds for the technology being used in delivering the service. Taking CityFibre’s comments alone you would assume it was the wild west, but despite being blown out of proportion, it does have a point.

Rules should be tightened up around this area of advertising, as just because consumers do not care about fibre now they will in the future, when fibre connections will be critical to meet the demands of the digital economy. By this point, misconceptions and false-truths might be ingrained in the mind of the consumer as the rules are lax now. This is not to say that the rules are not accurate as they are, but there are too many grey areas for the ‘creative’ marketers to exploit. We generally don’t trust those in advertising and they have done little to prove this mistrust is not appropriate, especially in the telco space.

Perhaps advertisers should be held accountable to explicitly say what type of network is available. Maybe they should have to describe the service as one of two offerings; part-fibre or full-fibre. No other options, just to the point and informative. This would be fair to the consumer, but since when has that been a concern for the advertisers.

Facebook is for Edith and Snapchat is for Timmy

Facebook might be top-dog when it comes to the social media giants but recent estimates indicate its now more appealing to older generations while Snapchat is seemingly stealing its younger customers.

For the first time, Facebook cannot say the majority of 12 to 17 year olds in the US are using the platform at least once a month. These are of course forecasts for the next couple of months, all is not lost yet, but eMarketer believes the social media status quo is changing. Facebook is appealing less to younger generations and Instagram is not picking up the slack as it previously did.

This was at least some sort of consolation. User information was retained in the wider group as those who didn’t sign up, or left Facebook, would usually end up on Instagram. But, the growth in popularity in Snapchat is siphoning away more users. Facebook is still growing, but it is older generations who are adding these numbers; commercially this is not as attractive. Facebook wants youngsters who can be sold to in future years, when they are going through middle age and making bigger purchasing decisions. If it doesn’t capture these users, Facebook decreases in commercial attractiveness to advertisers.

“Snapchat could eventually experience more growth in older age groups, since it’s redesigning its platform to be easier to use,” eMarketer’s Principal Analyst Debra Aho Williamson said. “The question will be whether younger users will still find Snapchat cool if more of their parents and grandparents are on it. That’s the predicament Facebook is in.”

Aside from this conflict, another area to consider would be whether Facebook is able to recapture the lost users. Snapchat has had to content with losing users when they grow a bit older, perhaps this is something investors have learned to accept, but this will be a new challenge for Facebook. When the lost users get older, will they be bothered about Facebook?

While the loss of younger users is a new twist on the Facebook story, the social media platform has been fighting to recapture the enthusiasm of yesteryear. In short, we feel the platform has become less engaging, less interesting and less useful.

Maybe this is the reason youngsters are not engaging with the platform in the same way? When your correspondent joined Facebook it was about connections. Older users might be able to remember what Facebook was, but someone joining today would simply see a wall of videos, news stories, adverts and the occasional update from friends. Maybe platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are just better at providing engaging links to the users personal community.

Something needs to change at Facebook. User numbers are increasing, but this can only go on for so long; there are only so many internet users on the planet. If it starts haemorrhaging younger users who (1) find a more engaging platform, or (2) don’t want to rub shoulders with their parents in the digital world, new ideas will be needed.

Facebook is the dominant social media platform on the planet and it will still be in that position tomorrow. But Facebook should learn from its own rise to prominence; offering something which the user genuinely wants can make a super-brand over-night, while concentrating too much on the commercial side of the business could lead to the end. We’ve been writing more negative stories about Facebook than positive ones in recent weeks; that is never a good sign.

May new ideas are needed, maybe Facebook needs to remember want it did well at the beginning. Whatever changes at Facebook HQ, it needs to keep a wary eye on Snapchat though, it has been coming up with some very good ideas

ASA tells Three to be more accurate when whining

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has ruled Three’s campaign for a spectrum cap on mobile operators as misleading, primarily because it implied it was an independently run mission.

After pleading with Ofcom to impose a cap on the amount of spectrum any one telco could hold, Three threw a temper tantrum. Ofcom agreed a cap was necessary, but Three deemed it was not stringent enough. Instead of using the billions of profits its parent company has hidden away in Hong Kong to compete in the open market, Three used creative advertising campaigns to bend the opinion of the general public.

After a consultation, and a complaint by BT, the ASA has ruled the Three campaign was misleading the consumer and cannot run again in its present form. This is of course not a bad on Three’s freedom of speech rights to moan, but it must whinge in a more accurate manner from now on.

“We told Make The Air Fair to ensure its ads did not imply that it was an independent body campaigning on behalf of consumers,” the ASA said in its ruling.

“We also told them not to make claims which stated or implied that BT/EE ‘dominated’ the mobile market, that it could ‘ruin’ the UK’s mobile internet, or that if BT/EE bought more spectrum in the auction it would result in higher mobile prices, slower speeds and worse coverage for UK consumers, unless they held adequate substantiation.”

The campaign itself was a bit of an odd one for the telco space, mainly because it was creative and appealing to the consumer. Featuring a cartoon depiction of Ofcom CEO Sharon White as a superhero, the Make the Air Fair campaign demanded she take action to create a better mobile environment for the consumer.

It claimed that BT/EE ‘dominated’ the UK mobile market, it would ruin the mobile landscape in the future, if BT/EE was allowed more spectrum assets prices would rise, as well as decreased speeds, coverage and performance. The implication from the campaign, which featured across paid-for Facebook post, regional press ad, poster and internet display ads, was that this was an independent campaign group.

Being funded by Three, TalkTalk, CityFibre, Gamma and Relish, this was clearly not an independent campaign and the ASA found no evidence to substantiate the claims. In short, Three and its cronies were spinning assumptions presented as facts; very dodgy grounds. Such campaigns do very little to change the perception that telcos are liars, especially following the ‘up to’ farce.

While it is our job to remain impartial, Three makes it quite difficult at times. This campaign seems to be just another way in which the telco, which is owned by a Hong Kong based profit machine, is trying to avoid competing on a level playing field. The team constantly seem to be looking for a helping hand from regulators or politicians, playing the David vs. Goliath card. Perhaps this is an instance which will force the miserly Three to put its hand in its golden-lined pocket.