Truth in advertising, in a literal sense, doesn’t exist. Advertising exists to inform, persuade, entertain, and all with an ulterior motive to cause a specific action.
To separate your money from you. That’s a bit simplistic but at a basic level it’s quite true.
Here’s a case in point. Fast internet access. A recent study says that about 60-percent of US households now gain access to the internet via a high-speed connection.
That connection is usually through one of four means;
1) via the TV’s cable connection, such as Time-Warner’s internet service.
2) the telephone company’s DSL service.
3) a high-speed direct connection at work (usually the phone company, but sometimes the cable company)
4) high-speed wireless (a growing number).
The rest of those who connect to the internet use a standard dial up service to a local internet service provider; an ISP.
At home we have two connections to the internet, via a high quality local ISP and Hawaiian Telcom, and via Oceanic Time-Warner’s internet service over the cable TV lines.
Oceanic in Hawaii provides TV to about 80-percent of all households on the island, twenty gazillion TV channels, and access to the Internet. They also run more TV commercials touting their internet service than there are grains of sand on Waikiki Beach.
Those commercials primarily feature a standard theme; how slow DSL and dial up are, how fast Oceanic internet is. In fact, Time-Warner said their service is 100 times faster than dial up (it’s not) and 3 times faster than DSL (sometimes, but seldom), therefore, it’s the ‘fastest internet service in Hawaii.’
Advertising’s primary objective is to separate your money from you, and Time-Warner does an excellent job. They also do an excellent job of stretching the truth, if not outright lying to the public.
Here’s why and how.
First, there’s theoretical speed on the internet, and there’s actual speed. Oceanic’s advertising said they’re 100 times faster than dial up. Dial up averages about 5k per second, so 100 times that would be 500k per second.
I’ve never, ever, never had an Oceanic internet connection achieve anywhere near 500k per second. Why? There are too many other factors which determine speed on the internet.
For example, how far away the web site connection is, how busy internet traffic is at the time, how fast (or not) the web site’s servers are, how good your individual connection is at the time.
Maybe Oceanic’s internet connection is faster in a laboratory for tests, but not at home in Hawaii.
I’ve had Oceanic’s internet service multiple times since it was offered in the mid 1990s. I’ve had DSL service for over 15 years. There’s not much difference in the speed. Ever.
On test downloads during non-peak hours, Oceanic’s connection will be faster. During peak hours, it’s often slower. On average, they’re the same. In price, they have different packages, but are similar.
Something else not mentioned in Oceanic’s slick advertising is shared bandwidth. With their internet connection, everyone on the block (and the next block, and the next block) shares that bandwidth; the more users, the slower the speed.
DSL on the other hand, is a direct connection back to a telephone company’s nearby Central Office, which is just a hop away from a direct connect to the rest of the internet. So, fewer slowdowns during peak times.
In TV commercials, Oceanic says users get a thick straw for internet access, instead of a ‘thin straw’ like DSL. In a wonderful counter to that ad campaign, Hawaiian Telcom says that thick straw is shared with your neighbors, so it’s not so fast after all, and DSL is less expensive.
In short, Time-Warner’s advertising didn’t really tell the truth and they conveniently hid other truths, while Hawaiian Telcom exposed Oceanic’s weakness and high price.
One thing neither Time-Warner or Hawaiian Telcom mentioned is reliability. That’s unfortunate, because my many years of experience with both indicates near daily drops and extreme slow-downs in Oceanic’s internet connection, while I can count on one hand all the outages from Hawaiian Telcom. That’s one hand, five fingers, five brief outages in years of service.
That compares favorably to a similar number each month with Oceanic.
Sometimes the truth hurts. A little more truth in advertising would be beneficial to the customer.