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UK Watchdog Nixes iPhone Ad Over 'All Parts of the Internet' Claim

By Walaika Haskins MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Aug 27, 2008 3:14 PM PT

Less than a week after a representative for Orange in Poland revealed that actors were paid to stand in line the night the iPhone launched there, another kerfuffle has arisen over Apple-related marketing, this time in the UK.

UK Watchdog Nixes iPhone Ad Over 'All Parts of the Internet' Claim

The UK's Advertising Standards Authority has pulled an iPhone commercial after it received complaints from two viewers that the ad was misleading.

"[Apple is] having two issues -- one probably more important than the other," said Mary Beth Kemp, a Forrester Research analyst.

Advertising Hyperbole?

The TV commercial features a hand and finger turning on the iPhone and navigating through a series of Web pages, when the phone rings. As the anonymous hand answers the phone, a voiceover says "You never know which part of the Internet you'll need. The 'Do you need sun cream' part? The 'What's the quickest way to the airport' part? The 'What about an ocean view room' part? Or the 'Can you really afford this' part? Which is why all the parts of the Internet are on the iPhone."

At issue is Apple's claim that the iPhone can access "all parts of the Internet." The problem with that assertion is that the iPhone supports neither Flash or Java, technologies commonly used on many Web pages.

In its response to the complaint, Apple said the ad's goal was to highlight the benefit of the iPhone's ability to surf all Internet Web sites, unlike some other handsets that rearranged content to fit on a small screen or only access Web portals selected by service providers, according to the ASA's adjudication. The ad was meant to give viewers the impression that surfing the Net with an iPhone was analogous to the experience of using a home or office computer, with Web sites that appeared the same on the handset as they did on a computer.

Apple said none of the pages shown in the commercial featured Java or Flash and that the ad did not make reference to any other technical functionality of the iPhone. The company believes that the reference to "all parts of the Internet" was clearly a referral to site availability and not the functionality of every component of a Web site.

Despite the explanation, however, the ASA pulled the ad because it considered the claims, "You'll never know which part of the Internet you'll need" and "all parts of the Internet are on the iPhone" gave the impression that users would be able to access all Web sites and see them in their entirety. It is something viewers were likely to expect because the ad did not explain the iPhone's limitations, according to the organization.

Much Ado About ...

Although Forrester's Kemp acknowledged that the ad is a little misleading, she said the ASA may have been a little overzealous. "Clearly, the iPhone does not allow the utilization of Flash nor Java. And to say you can surf the whole Internet, seen through a rigid lens, is not true."

"At the end of the day, there is lots of goodwill that seems to be happening around that, with Internet users debating who screwed up, with many arguing that the Advertising Authority was too strict. The net result is unfortunate, but not too negative," she told MacNewsWorld.

Any losses Apple may have suffered from having the ad removed are mitigated by the high media attention the situation has attracted, said Zippy Aima, an analyst at ABI Research.

"Apple will not lose anything because of it," she told MacNewsWorld.

The larger problem for Apple is the marketing stunt Orange, the iPhone's carrier in Poland, pulled last week, said Kemp.

"The element I find most disturbing is [what happened] in Poland," she noted.

Apple, according to Kemp, does not seem "socially savvy" -- that is, knowledgeable about online social media.

The Polish affair, she felt, put Apple in the same company as Wal-Mart, which revealed last year that supposed blogs from a husband and wife as they traveled across the U.S. were fake and that the pair had been paid.

"They are in the same camp as Wal-Mart with its fake blogs -- flogs -- and other companies that have made some high profile flubs. Undoubtedly, it's a local initiative that went wrong. It was a screw-up, something not to do," Kemp explained.

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