Verizon told to stop ‘most powerful 5G’ claim

Verizon is still being told to stop claiming it’s building “the most powerful 5G experience for America,” with a panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) determining that it boils down to the interpretation of the word “powerful.”

In May, the National Advertising Division (NAD) recommended that Verizon discontinue the claim that “Verizon is building the most powerful 5G experience for America,” which appeared in two TV commercials.

“NFL: 5G Built Right” focused on Verizon’s installation of its 5G network in Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, and “5G Built Right: Madison Square Garden” showed Verizon installing a 5G network in that New York City venue. AT&T had challenged the commercials to the NAD.

Verizon appealed NAD’s recommendation, saying that the claim “Verizon is building the most powerful 5G experience for America,” delivered a “present tense message,” suggesting that 5G is available now, as well as a “future” communication that 5G will be available at a later date. Plus, according to Verizon’s argument, the “present tense message” was limited to the stadiums shown in the commercials and made it clear that Verizon 5G service is not widely available across the country. 

However, the NARB panel concluded that the two commercials did not communicate a “present tense” network message and that the commercials don’t communicate that a Verizon 5G network is generally available in the United States but, rather, “that Verizon is committed to building a first-rate 5G network.”

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In its advertiser’s statement, Verizon noted that while it disagreed with the NARB's conclusion that the "most powerful" claim was not substantiated, it agreed to comply with NARB’s decision, noting that it is “pleased the NARB found that Verizon substantiated the claim it is ‘building a powerful 5G experience for America,’ and overturned NAD's conclusion that certain claims were implied.”

‘Most powerful’ claim

The NARB panel found that the evidence doesn’t clearly demonstrate what consumers understand “powerful” to mean in the context of “the most powerful 5G experience." The panel decided that the claim “most powerful” conveys a broad superiority message and that the advertiser would need to demonstrate consumer understanding of the term “powerful” in order to make the claim, NARB explained.  

With no evidence of consumer understanding of the term “powerful,” Verizon didn’t have proper support for the claim and NARB recommended that it be discontinued. 

Each of the three biggest carriers have been accused of making 5G claims that overpromise or misrepresent what they can deliver. AT&T touched off a firestorm when it began using the term “5G Evolution” back in 2017 to describe a service that used its upgraded 4G LTE network; it later agreed to stop using the term.

The NAD recently recommended that T-Mobile stop claims that its 5G network is more reliable than competitors’ 4G or 5G networks, a decision the operator planned to appeal. Earlier this year, Verizon agreed to stop certain 5G ads after the NAD determined some claims could mislead consumers about the carrier’s 5G availability and typical speeds.