Verizon Wireless’s U.S.-shaped coverage maps have gotten under the skin of competitors for years — this time, T-Mobile has successfully persuaded the advertising industry’s self-regulatory group that Verizon’s “More Everything” television commercial should be pulled.
T-Mobile raised an objection to Verizon’s ad, claiming it featured coverage maps that were both misleading and out of date. The scrappy rival similarly challenged Verizon’s “2X Bandwidth in Cities Coast-to-Coast” ad campaign, as well as its “More Data” and “More Upgrades” claims.
The National Advertising Division’s self-regulatory counsel, which was called upon to mediate the dispute, sided with Verizon on the accuracy of its coverage maps in print and on the Web — but called on the nation’s largest wireless carrier to discontinue their use in the “More Everything” TV commercial.
In a statement, Verizon said the disputed TV commercial has “finished its scheduled run and will not be repeated.” The company said further that it would take the NAD’s recommendations into account if it uses comparative maps in future TV ads.
The National Ad Division found that Verizon’s print and Web ads clearly labeled the controversial maps as pertaining to 4G LTE coverage. The same was not true of the accompanying, fast-paced TV commercial, in which Verizon makes the claim of “more network strength” prior to showing the maps.
“NAD determined that the overall message conveyed by this portion of the commercial was not adequately limited to a comparison to 4G LTE coverage,” the group found. “As such, NAD recommended that this commercial be discontinued.”
Verizon’s coverage maps were the subject of a 2009 lawsuit brought by AT&T, in which it alleged Verizon’s “There’s a Map for That” campaign made claims about 3G network coverage that were misleading or inaccurate. Verizon filed a countersuit, alleging AT&T’s “More Bars in More Places” ads were inaccurate. Both suits were dropped.
T-Mobile lodged a complaint with the NAD earlier this year, asserting that Verizon’s “More Everything” campaign launched in February would lead consumers to believe T-Mobile offers no wireless coverage in unshaded white areas of the color-coded maps. A survey it commissioned found that two-thirds of those asked believed the white space on the map signified lack of coverage.
The rival said the Verizon map uses T-Mobile data from October 2013, and failed to show T-Mo’s 15 percent growth in 4G LTE coverage since that time.
Verizon countered that the coverage map deals exclusively with 4G LTE coverage, something it mentions more than a dozen times in print and Web ads. The ad targeted consumers who understand the value of the advanced wireless technology, it said.
Verizon’s own expert picked holes in T-Mobile’s consumer survey, noting the respondents were not given the option of selecting an answer that corresponded with its intended message about 4G LTE coverage. Although T-Mobile takes issue with the outdated coverage map, Verizon noted it declined to furnish more current data.
T-Mobile also claimed Verizon’s “2X Bandwidth in Cities Coast-to-Coast” ad campaign created the misleading impression that Verizon had doubled its overall network bandwidth nationwide. Verizon said its promotion referred to cities where Verizon bolstered its 4G LTE coverage with additional wireless spectrum to improve capacity.
The National Ad Division said Verizon should discontinue use of a claim of “nationwide coverage” until it reaches the industry’s accepted threshold of covering at least 200 million people. Verizon said it will take this into account before making future nationwide coverage claims.
The carrier said it surpassed that threshold this summer.
Verizon had already stopped using its “More Data” and “More Upgrades” advertising claims before T-Mobile raised its objections.
The carrier issued a statement, saying it was pleased with the National Ad Division’s decision.
“We were pleased with the result, which said that our comparative 4G LTE maps are appropriate, as long as from the context of the ad it is clear that we’re comparing only 4G LTE coverage areas,” said a Verizon spokesperson.
Updated at 3 p.m. To include a statement from Verizon.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.