Skype Broke Advertising Rules With High-Quality Webcam Demo

Internet phone company Skype should not have depicted a video call as being of such good quality in an advert because the experience was not typical, advertising regulator the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has said.

A television advert showed a video call between a new father and his parents. At one point he swivels his laptop around to show his partner and baby. Five people complained that the quality of the depicted video call was unrealistically good.

Skype said that, though it had depicted its service in the best possible light, what it showed was possible with its services if the best equipment and fastest internet connections were used.

The call was not a real Skype call because a webcam could not produce sufficient quality for broadcast. Simulations are permitted if broadcast technicalities make them necessary.

Pre-transmission screening body Clearcast said that it believed that the simulation was

representative of an actual call. When the laptop was moved in the ad the image slowed and blurred.

While the ASA accepted that the quality shown in the ad was achievable in some circumstances it said that the ad was misleading because it did not depict a typical user experience.

"We understood Skype had sought to mimic the effect of the blurring and slowness users could experience in a real time video call through the movement of the laptop by the new father," said the ASA ruling. "We also noted that the quality of a Skype video call depended upon the speed and quality of a user's broadband connection."

"We considered that viewers would infer that the sound and picture quality depicted in the ad was typical of the performance that all users could achieve," it said. "Consequently, because we understood that that was not the case at the present time, we concluded that the ad could mislead and should therefore have included qualifying text to make clear that performance depended upon the speed and quality of a user's broadband connection."

The ASA said that the advert broke its rules on misleading advertising and visual techniques and special effects. Skype was told not to repeat the ad.