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ASA: "studio-quality" camera claim not misleading - Apple

Published on 09 August 2018

What factors will the ASA consider when assessing statements made in ads? And what meaning will be given to industry standard terms when used in a different market context?

The background

For the release of its new flagship mobile device (iPhone X), Apple ran a television advert which stated: "Radically new cameras with Portrait Lighting. Studio-quality portraits. Without the studio. See portraits in a whole new light".

Two complainants challenged the advert on the basis that promising customers a "studio-quality" camera experience was misleading and could not be substantiated.   

Apple stated that "studio-quality" lacked a clear industry standard meaning. They submitted that across the photography industry there are wide variances between equipment, techniques, lighting and talent. As such, they argued the term should be subjectively interpreted.  

Apple further stated that the iPhone X had multiple camera features (in both the hardware and software) which reflected studio equipment and effects, for example:

  • the Portrait Lighting feature enables users to create lighting effects and compose images such as those seen in studio images, such as images with a strong depth of field effect; and

  • the 50 mm focal lens in the iPhone X is one of the most popular lens choices for professional studio portrait photographers.

Supporting this position, Clearcast reiterated that "studio-quality" was not an official or measurable term. In their assessment, the images were a fair reflection of the camera's capabilities.

The development

The ASA found in favour of Apple and concluded that the advert was not misleading.

In reaching this decision they considered how a customer would interpret the featured text "studio-quality portraits" when presented alongside the video demonstrations in the advert. In this context, the ASA determined that customers would interpret that the phone's lighting effects would enable customers to imitate a portrait image taken in a studio environment.

The ASA recognised that the camera lens on the iPhone X (50 mm focal lens) was a piece of equipment that commonly features in studio photography.  Also, they noted that the images shown in the advert were a true reflection of the phone's capabilities.

Why is this important?

This decision reinforces that statements given in advertisements should not be considered in isolation. Instead, they must be considered in the entire context in which the customer will interpret the statements. Here, this included video demonstrations in the advert which supplemented the meaning of "studio quality".

The decision also indicates that common industry terms may be given different or diluted meanings when placed in a different market context. For instance, "studio quality" in the professional photography industry can be interpreted differently as to when the phrase is used in the context of the mobile telephone market.

Any practical tips?

Advertisers need to carefully consider the context of any featured text or statements. In particular they should consider how an ordinary customer may interpret any claims made and whether these claims can be factually substantiated.

Particular care must be taken when using phrases with industry standard undertones. Any advert falsely claiming industry standard features without the requisite substantiation may well result in a breach of the CAP Code.