A Verizon ad featuring a testimonial by Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost may mislead consumers, according to an appellate board of the ad industry's self-regulatory watchdog.
Yost, who suffered a broken pelvis after falling from a tree on his property near Atlanta, says in the ad that his phone saved his life by allowing him to call his wife from “the middle of the woods.”
“I’ve talked on this phone through the happiest times in my life and through the saddest times in my life. But I never dreamed in a thousand years that it would save my life,” he says in the spot. “I fell 22 feet, completely shattered my pelvis. In the middle of the woods, I called my wife.”
Verizon rival AT&T challenged that ad to the Better Business Bureau's self-regulatory program for the ad industry, arguing the spot was misleading because Verizon doesn't actually offer coverage everywhere.
Last year, the National Advertising Division sided against Verizon, finding the ad problematic because it suggested that Yost made the call from below ground level.
Verizon then appealed to a panel of the National Advertising Review Board. That unit also found fault with the ad.
“The commercial conveys the distinct message that Ned was in a remote area, not in a suburb of Atlanta, when he suffered an injury,” the panelists said in an opinion made available Monday. “Having such coverage in remote areas would be a distinct marketing advantage for a network, but Verizon did not offer evidence of any such capacity.”
The National Advertising Review Board also took issue with a separate Verizon ad featuring a dancer who discusses accessing streaming video in order to learn routines while she travels by subway to auditions.
“I need my phone to work while on the subway,” she says in the spot.
The National Advertising Division deemed that ad acceptable, stating in a September opinion: “It is commonly known that subway coverage across America is steadily improving, and mass transit systems tend to offer cellular service or Wi-Fi -- many now offer both.”
But the National Advertising Review Board panel sided against Verizon.
“Fairly interpreted, one message communicated to reasonable consumers is that the Verizon service provides effective streaming in underground mass transit systems across the country,” the watchdog wrote. “This is a reasonable communication even if some consumers may conclude that the dancer in Kellene is on a New York City subway, especially given that the commercial was part of a nationwide campaign, not a local one.”
The appellate panel added that Verizon had not offered evidence “regarding its service’s ability to provide streaming in underground mass transit systems, in New York City or anywhere else.”
The watchdog recommended that Verizon revise or discontinue the ads. The company said it will do so, according to the review board.