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Apple escapes censure over Mitchell and Webb ads

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Britain's advertising watchdog has ruled that consumer electronics giant Apple did not breach regulations in its adverts featuring comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) had received 14 complaints from people who thought the national press, internet and cinema ads misleadingly implied Apple Macs were less vulnerable to viruses than PCs using any operating system

But in adjudication the ASA said: "We concluded that, because people who saw them would understand they referred to PCs that ran on Microsoft Windows and any operational difficulties that might be associated with them, the ads did not misleadingly imply all PCs, regardless of software or system, were vulnerable to crashing and viruses."

In one of the national press adverts under scrutiny, Mitchell, representing a PC, holds up a sign that reads "fun is just a waste of time", while Mac-depicting Webb's sign says "computers should be human and intuitive so, well, that's what I am".

In the first of the internet and cinema adverts that drew some consumers' ire, the Peep Show comedians intimated that PCs were more susceptible to virus attacks than Macs.

And in the final internet and cinema ad that drew complaints, which like the others is introduced with the exchange "Hello, I'm a Mac"/"And I'm a PC", Mitchell repeatedly freezes mid-sentence in a reference to PCs' apparent frequent restarts.

Complainants highlighted the fact that viruses attacked software and not hardware, with Linux and other operating systems contracting a similarly low number of malicious attacks as Macs.

Consumers also suggested the claim that Apple's own operating system meant users "don't have to worry about viruses" was irresponsible.

In response, Apple, which also said it did not plan to run any of the adverts again, insisted its claims were based on comparisons with PCs running a version of Microsoft Windows.

Apple said that since its adverts were clearly targeted at home PC users – 97 per cent of which have a Windows operating system – the comparisons were valid, adding that the risk of contracting viruses on Macs was "greatly reduced".

"Apple sent excerpts from news articles on the number of viruses identified for PCs, which stated that Macs did not face the same security risks as PCs," an ASA spokesperson said.

"They also sent a letter from an IT security company that stated Windows systems faced many more security risks than Mac or Linux systems."
© Adfero Ltd
13 June 2007 00:01 GMT

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