May 22, 2023
Context Can "Blur" a Relatively Limited Express Claim Into a Much Broader Superiority Claim
AT&T's Challenge Against Verizon's "Frontline" Service
On May 2, 2023, NAD announced its ruling in a case regarding the scope of this ad claim by Verizon. “Verizon is the number one network choice in public safety.”
Background for the claim:
* Verizon's commercial promoted its “Frontline” wireless network solution for first responders and safety personnel.
* Other networks (including AT&T) provide a similar, competing service.
Review: Background for net impression.
* Net impression is the overall advertising message/takeaway understood by reasonable consumers, not what the advertiser intends the message to be.
* The context of the ad claim, including all implied claims, should be considered as part of the overall net impression.
* Advertisers are required to substantiate the overall net impression of an ad, including relevant context and all implied claims.
AT&T filed a challenge with NAD, arguing that the net impression of Verizon's claim was that Verizon's Frontline service is superior to similar competing services.
Verizon countered AT&T's alleged broad superiority claim arguing that the net impression of its ad conveyed only the relatively limited claim regarding choice.
The Issue and NAD's Ruling
So, the issue was all about the scope of Verizon's claim: whether it was limited to choice or did it contain a broader message about superiority?
NAD ruled that Verizon's claim was limited to choice, and here's why.
AT&T based its argument on the context of Verizon's ad, arguing that context contributed a superiority message to the net impression.
NAD reviewed the context at issue and found that it did not “blur” the “number one choice” claim with the impression of superiority.
NAD has found in other cases that context including performance comparisons and comparative language caused limited express claims to "blur," resulting in an broader net impression of a superiority, performance or efficacy-type claim.
Bottom line, in this case, NAD found there was no context associated with Verizon's ad that would “blur” Verizon's express “choice” claim sufficient to create a broader superiority claim.