National Advertising Division Recommends T-Mobile Discontinue Gwen Stefani and Tom Brady Super Bowl Commercials

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 9:00 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2021 at 9:00 AM EDT

NEW YORK, Oct. 26, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs recommended that T-Mobile USA, Inc. discontinue two television commercials for its 5G network that were challenged by competitor AT&T Services, Inc. The challenged commercials, which premiered during the 2021 Super Bowl, feature well-known celebrities, Gwen Stefani and Tom Brady, engaging in video conversations on their cell phones.

National Advertising Division (NAD) (PRNewsfoto/National Advertising Division,B)
National Advertising Division (NAD) (PRNewsfoto/National Advertising Division,B)

The "Stefani" commercial begins by showing a conversation between Gwen Stefani and Adam Levine from Stefani's perspective. Stefani describes the type of man she is interested in dating. The voiceover then states, "On a spotty network, this is what Adam heard." Stefani's description is then replayed from Levine's perspective, but because of the significant video distortions and choppy or missing audio, Levine misunderstands Stefani's description and sets her up with the opposite type of man she described (Blake Shelton). The voiceover concludes the vignette by stating, "Don't trust your love life to any network. T-Mobile has more #1's in 5G than any other network."

The "Brady" commercial follows a similar format. Tom Brady is shown on a video call with Rob Gronkowski asking for advice about his next career move. The commercial first shows the conversation from Gronkowski's perspective as he describes the pleasures of retirement and encourages Brady to join him in Florida to relax. After the voiceover states, "On a spotty network, this is what Tom heard," the conversation is replayed from Brady's perspective. Again, substantial glitches in the audio and video result in miscommunication, with Brady thinking that Gronkowski has recommended that he move to Tampa Bay and win another football championship with him. The voiceover concludes the vignette with, "Don't trust big decisions to just any network. Go with T-Mobile, the GOAT in 5G."

Both parties submitted consumer perception surveys in support of their respective positions: T-Mobile in support of its arguments that the Stefani and Brady commercials do not convey a disparaging message about AT&T's service or network (or any other T-Mobile competitors generally) or a message that T-Mobile's service is superior with respect to video calls, but instead use humor to emphasize the benefits of its 5G network and; AT&T to demonstrate that the challenged advertisements communicate a comparative and disparaging superior performance claim. However, NAD declined to rely on either the advertiser's or the challenger's surveys due to concerns about the reliability of each.

Stepping into the shoes of the reasonable consumer, NAD determined that the Stefani and Brady commercials reasonably conveyed the comparative message that T-Mobile provides better 5G service for video calls than its competitors, and consumers making calls on a competitor's service were likely to experience spotty service that they would not experience on T-Mobile. T-Mobile argued that its 5G coverage and 5G speed test results support the comparative message that it provides better 5G service for video calls. NAD determined, however, that T-Mobile's speed testing did not provide a reasonable basis for the messages conveyed by the challenged commercials and recommended that T-Mobile discontinue them.

In its advertiser statement, T-Mobile stated that it "is disappointed with NAD's decision but will comply with its recommendations." The advertiser further stated that while it "is disappointed by NAD's conclusion that consumers may take away a negative message from its humorous commercials," it "remains a respectful supporter of the self-regulatory process."

All BBB National Programs case decision summaries can be found in the case decision library. For the full text of NAD, NARB, and CARU decisions, subscribe to the online archive.

About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs is where businesses turn to enhance consumer trust and consumers are heard. The non-profit organization creates a fairer playing field for businesses and a better experience for consumers through the development and delivery of effective third-party accountability and dispute resolution programs. Embracing its role as an independent organization since the restructuring of the Council of Better Business Bureaus in June 2019, BBB National Programs today oversees more than a dozen leading national industry self-regulation programs, and continues to evolve its work and grow its impact by providing business guidance and fostering best practices in arenas such as advertising, child-directed marketing, and privacy. To learn more, visit bbbprograms.org.

About the National Advertising Division: The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs provides independent self-regulation and dispute resolution services, guiding the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for advertising truth and accuracy, delivering meaningful protection to consumers and leveling the playing field for business.

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