The Advertising Standards Authority is an independent body, established by the advertising industry in the UK, to self-police rules laid down within advertising codes. It has just issued an adjudication against Apple (UK) Ltd over what have been referred to as misleading advertisements for the iPhone.
The adjudication comes as a result of complaints, well two complaints actually, from television viewers who thought the Apple iPhone ad campaign was misleading.
The advert in question showed weather reports, mapping and hotel bookings via the Safari browser. A voice-over stated quite clearly that "...all parts of the Internet are on the iPhone."
This, of course, is not actually true. The complainers pointed out that "the iPhone did not support Flash or Java, both integral to many web pages."
Apple responded to the ASA investigation by arguing that the aim of the advert in question was to highlight the benefit of the iPhone "in being able to offer availability to all internet websites, in contrast to other handsets which offered access to WAP versions or sites selected by service providers."
Apple believed that by browsing the Internet with an iPhone, the user got a similar experience to browsing at home or work. It said that this "was different from accessing the internet using an ordinary mobile phone handset" and that "proprietary languages or technologies, such as Flash or Java, were not open source and required a plug-in or individual download in order for content to appear within the specific browser, regardless of whether the access to a site was made from an iPhone or home computer."
Apple contended that Java and Flash were examples of proprietary software they had chosen not to enable on the iPhone, but that they believed the advert was not "about technical details or the functionalities or plug-ins that were available on the iPhone" but rather the many and varied websites that could be visited.
The ASA upheld the complaints, noting that Java and Flash proprietary software was not enabled on the iPhone and so users would not be able to access certain features on some websites or websites that relied solely upon them.
"We noted Apples argument that the ad was about site availability rather than technical detail, but considered that the claims "You'll never know which part of the internet you'll need" and "all parts of the internet are on the iPhone" implied users would be able to access all websites and see them in their entirety" the ASA says in its adjudication, continuing "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 Apple iPhone advert cannot now be broadcast again in the UK in its misleading form.