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Oracle Appealing Trash Talk Wrist Slap

Advertising industry self-regulatory group recommends that Oracle discontinue ads claiming Exadata performance advantages over IBM Power servers.

Oracle has shown it's perfectly willing to challenge court decisions it doesn't like. So it comes as no surprise that Oracle has vowed to challenge an advertising industry self-regulatory body that thinks the famously competition-trashing company should tone down the claims in its Exadata ads.

In a decision announced on Tuesday, the National Advertising Division (NAD), a unit of the industry's Advertising Self-Regulatory Council (ASRC), said it has recommended that Oracle discontinue comparative product-performance claims that appeared in a full-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal.

The ads proclaimed "Exadata 20X Faster… Replaces IBM Again," and "Giant European Retailer Moves Databases from IBM Power to Exadata… Runs 20 Times Faster." That wording was challenged by IBM, which argued that the "20x Faster" claim was misleading, and unsupported. In particular, IBM argued that besmirching the entire IBM Power line of with the 20x claim was overly broad.

[ Want more on Oracle's trash talk? Read Oracle's Cloud Rivals: Reality Check . ]

Oracle has agreed to stop using the claims, according to the ASRC, but it also vowed to appeal the decision and all of NAD's findings with the ASRC's National Advertising Review Board. Oracle argued that the ad amounted to a case study, even though the retailer was not named and the ad copy provided all of 20 words of insight into the implementation.

If you visit the URL included on the ad you'll find a tad more detail--three bullet points, 75 words. Oracle also pointed out that the both the ad and the Web page included the caveat "Individual results depend on a number of factors. Actual results may vary."

The NAD found that the message was not supported by the evidence provided in the ad or provided on the advertiser’s Web site. Further, NAD said that even if Oracle's Web site disclosure was acceptable and had appeared in the ad, it would still be insufficient because an advertiser "cannot use a disclosure to cure an otherwise false claim."

In a statement provided to the ASRC, Oracle said it was "disappointed with the NAD’s decision," which it believes is "unduly broad and will severely limit the ability to run truthful comparative advertising, not only for Oracle but for others in the commercial hardware and software industry."

Will the Review Board find that it's okay for Oracle to say 20X? If so, maybe sugary cereals really are a part of a complete and balanced breakfast.

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User Rank: Apprentice
7/26/2012 | 4:03:47 PM
re: Oracle Appealing Trash Talk Wrist Slap
Indeed, backing up comparative product performance claims with factual data is the crux of the issue. The NAD found that Oracle failed to demonstrate that it had support for that performance claim in the ad. Oracle's claim was hardly an apples-to-apples comparison G«Ű it compared the performance of a new Oracle Exadata system to a six-year-old IBM Power System, and the ad did not provide disclosure as to how the systems were configured. From the NAD report, the Exadata system in the comparison used OracleG«÷s latest hardware and had 33% more processor cores, almost 3.5 times as much memory as the IBM system, and ran an upgraded database software, Oracle 11g with partitioning and Real Application Clusters, compared to Oracle 10g on the IBM system used at the unnamed European retailer.

Steve Sibley, IBM
User Rank: Apprentice
7/25/2012 | 1:04:35 PM
re: Oracle Appealing Trash Talk Wrist Slap
Who doesnG«÷t love trash talking? I personally find it highly entertaining. Now as long as the trash that is being discussed can be backed up with factual data, otherwise it is just someone running their mouth about their opinion. I do however see the point that Oracle makes, if it were true then absolutely a company should be allowed to compare it to its competitorG«÷s products that are similar in nature. If I owned a company and had factual proof that stated my product was better than my competitors I would most certainly point out exactly how it is better when the 2 products have the technical specs. As a matter of fact you would have a hard time keeping my mouth shut and not bragging to everyone that I have a better product. I understand that this is may not be a professional way to act but sometime you have to be proud and flaunt, but only when you can back it up.

Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor
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