Ad watchdog questions Vodafone's 'Best bar none'

'We're not generally superior, you know'

'We're not generally superior, you know'

Vodafone's 'best bar none' ad campaign has drawn fire from a rival mobile operator over claims it may be misleading consumers – criticism seconded by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).

The billboard advertising campaign, which featured a picture of a full-strength signal icon with the legend 'Best in London bar none' and 'Best in Britain bar none', carried small print saying audited results between April and September showed Vodafone had the 'best call success rate' of any UK mobile network.

The ASA received a complaint from rival network provider O2, questioning whether the "call success rate on which the claims were based" was "sufficient to justify the general superiority claim for mobile network performance" and whether the small print on the posters was visible enough.

Vodafone claimed the small print on the posters made it apparent the network wasn't "making claims about having the country's best network performance" and that the signal picture emphasised that.

The ASA disagreed, saying in its ruling: "We considered that the claims 'Best in Britain bar none' and 'Best in London bar none' would be interpreted as general superiority claims over the other mobile networks.

"We considered that because the claims in the headlines were general, the small print and the graphical signal device would contradict and not qualify them."

Vodafone and the ads watchdog also crossed swords over the visibility of Vodafone's small print.

The network operator argued its small print was big enough to be seen by normally sighted people at a reasonable distance.

The ASA concurred but pointed out that using white text on a near-white background - a picture of clouds - probably wasn't the best idea, concluding in its ruling the small print "was not sufficiently prominent on the posters".