02.09.09

Samsung ads spark ASA investigation

Samsung has come under fire from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK due to complaints that its adverts for LED back-lit TVs were misleading.

Two complaints, that were upheld by the ASA, challenged whether the company’s advertisements misleadingly implied that the product had an LED (Light Emitting Diode) display when it merely used LEDs for backlighting. The ASA ruled that the advertisements must not appear again in their current form.

The Samsung advertising campaign in question was made up of TV and magazine advertisements. The voice-over on the TV advertisements stated: “Welcome to a whole new world, where Samsung LED technology brings you sharper images, deeper blacks and brighter colours. The ultra slim Samsung LED TV. The next generation of television has arrived.” The on-screen text read: “Samsung LED TV Next Generation TV.”

The magazine ads were headlined "The Next Generation of TV has arrived" and stated "Welcome to a whole new world. Where Samsung's revolutionary LED technology redefines all standards of television. Bringing you sharper images, deeper blacks and brighter colours. A stunning, ultra-slim profile. And design with the environment in mind. Search on Google for LED TV". The logo stated "LED TV Next Generation TV".

According to the ASA Samsung argued that the discernible difference between LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) and LED (Light-Emitting Diode) TVs was that the LED TV used light emitting diodes as display backlights or edge-lights, rather than cold cathode fluorescent lamps found on most LCD televisions. They argued that this light source technology enabled them to improve the colour, design and energy efficiency of the appliance. The company said that the phrase "LED TV" was intended to communicate the type of technology their TVs used in a general way to the consumer and had used the phrase for their edge-lit TVs since December 2008. Although this type of TV was initially referred to as "LED-based LCD TV" or "LED LCD TV" they argued that the term had evolved and they were now called LED TVs by consumers and the industry.

Whilst they acknowledged that some informed consumers would be aware of the technological systems used in their product, they believed that this would not be the case for the majority of consumers. In addition, they stated that the phrase "LED TV" was widely used to describe the type of TV they sold and sent evidence to show it had been used by their competitors and the media and was accepted in the industry. Samsung also argued that the ads made clear that the phrase "LED TV" meant that their TV used LED technology to improve the colour of the image which clarified the technology of the product to consumers.

Clearcast, an NGO that pre-approves British adertising, endorsed the Samsung’s comments and sent information on how its LED edge-lighting operated.

The ASA issued the following ruling: “The ASA understood that the Samsung TV had an LCD display with a LED edge-lighting and that it did not have a full LED display. Furthermore, we understood that full LED screens were currently only available in certain mediums, such as large outdoor screen displays; whilst full LED TVs for household use were in development, they were not yet available in the UK market. We noted Samsung’s assertion that the phrase "LED TV" had evolved and that TVs that used this technology in either back-lighting or edge-lighting had adopted the phrase to generically describe the technology. However, we noted that there were LCD TVs for sale that used LED technology in their backlighting or edge-lighting, but that they were still described as "LED LCD TVs" or similar, and that the phrase "LED TV" was not adopted consistently throughout the industry. We considered that the ad implied the TV displays were comprised totally of LEDs similar to some outdoor displays when that was not the case. We considered that because the ads were ambiguous and did not make clear how the TVs utilised the LED technology, the ads were likely to mislead.”

The TV ad breached CAP (Broadcast) Code rules 5.1.1 and 5.1.3 (Misleading advertising).

The magazine ads breached CAP Code clause 7.1 (Truthfulness).