What’s the Deal with Apple and Misleading Ads?

Apple has just had yet another iPhone ad banned from the airwaves, begging the question: What’s the deal with Apple and misleading ads?

Banned In The U.K.

The most recent case involves an iPhone 3G commercial that shows users surfing the Net at superfast speeds. The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the spot exaggerated the phone’s speed, showing Internet activity far faster than any regular user would experience. A disclaimer at the end stating “network performance will vary by location” was not sufficient, it said.

Apple responded to the initial complaints by claiming the ad showed “relative” speed and was meant to demonstrate how much faster the 3G iPhone was than past devices. The ASA, however, didn’t buy it.

Common Trend

This is becoming a surprisingly common trend for Apple. The company saw another iPhone ad banned in the U.K. back in August. In that instance, the ASA said the ad’s claims that “all the parts of the Internet are on the iPhone” were misleading, as the iPhone didn’t support Flash or Java. (Apple said it only meant to imply that you could get to any Web site with on the phone, not that any Internet technology would necessarily work on it.)

Just a couple of months before that, a lawsuit was filed against Apple for its ads suggesting the iPhone 3G is “twice as fast” as past models.

And, looking even further back into the calendar, the cases keep coming. This past March, Apple settled a suit over ads for its MacBook and MacBook Pro notebooks complaining that the computers didn’t support “millions of colors” as their ads had claimed. And back in ’04, the ASA banned a spot for the Power Mac G5 that stated it was the “world’s fastest personal computer.” Independent testing found a couple of Dell systems were in fact faster.

Putting It All Together

So is Apple a little lax when it comes to making bold and superlative-filled claims? Or are people just too fast to nitpick and jump at any opportunity to stick it to a big name corporation?

In this instance, I have to lean toward the former. While they may be nitpicky, the complaints — particularly those recognized by the ASA — do seem to have validity. You don’t see other major tech corporations being banned from the airwaves this frequently, and the public is certainly just as eager to stick it to Microsoft or any number of other big name entities.

Ultimately, you’d think Apple would take some extra caution in its claims and its commercial presentations at this point. You’d think it would do that anyway as part of a moral obligation to its customers. But particularly with its ever-expanding history of issues, it’s hard to believe that the folks signing off on the ads haven’t figured out that exaggerations — even in the slightest ways — are going to get called out.