A self-regulatory group has called foul on a recent Verizon ad in which Scrooge, played by Paul Giamatti, complains that he can “barely get reception” on his cell phone.
The 30-second spot opens with Giamatti saying “Bah Humbug,” while waving his phone in the area.
He sees a character played by "Saturday Night Live" actress Cecily Strong and tells her he “can barely get reception outside ye old town center.”
She responds: “You need a better network. 'Tis the season to switch to Verizon.”
That ad launched last November. (A more recent Verizon ad features Giamatti as Albert Einstein. He complains in that ad that his network "has gone kaput.")
AT&T challenged the Scrooge ad to the National Advertising Division of BBB National Programs, arguing that the commercial conveyed the message that Verizon's network is better than those of its competitors.
Verizon countered that the ad was “puffery,” adding that Scrooge is “a famously negative character” who “is making predictably negative comments about an unnamed network,” according to the self-regulatory group's written opinion.
The National Advertising Division sided against Verizon.
“Despite the comically negative demeanor of Scrooge, the commercial conveyed the message that Verizon offers superior network reception than other wireless carriers,” the organization wrote in a decision made public this week. “Despite the fanciful depiction of Giamatti as the well-known miserly, miserable Scrooge, he is complaining about a specific problem with his phone -- the difficulty in getting cell reception.”
The organization added that even though the ad includes “fanciful” elements, it “conveys an objective comparative superiority message that Verizon’s network is better than its competitors which requires substantiation.”
Verizon failed to support that claim, the self-regulatory group found.
The organization recommended that Verizon revise the ad.
The wireless carrier said it plans to appeal, noting that the ad doesn't mention AT&T or any other competitor.