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Apple's G5 Commercial Banned By UK Regulatory Agency

Apple's G5 Commercial Banned By UK Regulatory Agency

by , 12:00 PM EST, November 11th, 2003

When Apple launched the Power Mac G5, it did so with a claim that the G5 was the world's fastest personal computer. From Steve Jobs touting this at the WWDC, to promotional messages on Apple's Web site, to a TV commercial that ran for a few weeks, the claim of "world's fastest" was made loud and clear, and it was backed by test results Apple had commissioned from a third party tester, Veritest.

The hue and cry from the geek world on this issue was a cacophonous howl accompanied by wailing, and a great gnashing of teeth. Anti-Apple partisans claimed that the tests were rigged, while Pro-Apple partisans screamed that the tests were fair, and that the other side had used rigged tests for years, so what was their problem now? Apple itself even took the unusual step of actually responding to the criticism.

In the long run, it turns out that most of Apple's claims for the G5 were born out by real-world testing, while those of us in the States took the "world's fastest" claim with a measure of marketing salt in the first place. In the UK, however, that's a flavor of salt that dissatisfied viewers don't have to take, and eight people complained to the Independent Television Commission (ITC), a non-government agency that, "licenses and regulates commercial television services in the UK except S4C in Wales." The ITC, acting in response to those complaints, has ruled that Apple's claim can not be justified, and that the commercial can not be shown as-is on British airwaves.

From the report issued by the ITC:

Apple PowerMac G5

Complaint from: 8 viewers

Background
An advertisement for the new Apple Power Mac G5 claimed it was "the world's fastest, most powerful personal computer."

Issue
Viewers complained that the advertising was misleading because the main claim was based on the results of limited tests in which the specification of the computers used was configured to give Apple the best results.

Assessment
Prior to broadcast, the [Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre's (BACC)] independent IT expert raised some concerns, which the advertiser responded to. The BACC was satisfied with the advertiser's further substantiation and approved the commercial.

The advertiser provided the ITC with evidence which it claimed showed that the tests, carried out by an independent third party, were "fair and even."

Due to the technical nature of the advertiser's response, the ITC asked the BACC to refer the complaints and the response to the BACC's expert. He found that the claim was not supported by independent reviews and that at best "the G5 was generally as fast as the best Intel-based workstations currently available."

The ITC considered that there was insufficient evidence to support the claim "world's fastest, most powerful personal computer". Furthermore, it shared one viewer's doubt that the claim could be substantiated at all because, as evidence for and against the claim had shown, computers were constantly being updated and had many different applications and benchmarks. It reminded the BACC of the importance to obtain solid evidence for such absolute claims. It judged that the advertising was misleading and required that it should not be re-shown in its current form.

Conclusion
Complaints upheld. Breach of ITC Code Rule 5.2.1.

You can find the complaint at the ITC's Web site.

The Mac Observer Spin:

Interesting. Interesting, indeed. What is even more interesting is that Apple hasn't been running the commercials for the last month or two. The company never runs any particular advert for more than a few weeks, and this entire issue is moot.

What isn't moot, however, is the fact that Apple's reputation will take somewhat of a hit from this ruling. Note that the ruling did not say that Apple's claims were false, but that they couldn't be proved. That nuance will no doubt be ignored by many, but again, we are talking about the geek world. The rest of the computer-using public hardly cares.

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