Perhaps the single most important thing to know about advertising claims is that while they may take the form of a declarative sentence and seem to be being used to make an assertion they also make what speech act theorists* would call an offer -- an offer of a product or service intended to satisfy some consumer need. As such, they make an implicit promise to satisfy the consumer need that gives rise to the offer.
To see how offers work, suppose we have the following conversation:
You: Mike, I need a ride down town.I think you will feel betrayed. You expressed a clear need and my saying "I'm going that way." will be taken by you as an offer to satisfy that need, a need I clearly didn't satisfy. But -- and this is very important -- what I said was not false. I was going in the direction of the downtown area. So, my statement, "I'm going that way," construed as an assertion was true but my implicit promise to satisfy your need to get to the downtown area was clearly a false one.
Me: I'm going that way.
(You get in my car and I begin to drive. Halfway to the downtown area, I pull over to the curb.)
Me: This is where I stop.
In this light examine the following web advertisement, taking care to look at the speed claims
This ad makes two different surfing speed claims. Let's recast them as (1) and (2).
(1) With NetZero you will be able to surf the web up to fiveIn the ordinary use of English, we use "up to" claims to set limits though the limits are not hard and fast. Suppose you need to go to a pharmacy and ask me to drive you there. Suppose, further, that I replythat I am pretty busy but will take you there and wait for you for "up to 20 minutes" (i. e., as many as 20 minutes but not necessarily more). Finally,suppose that I get an emergency mobile phone call and have to leave justa few minutes after I dropped you off. You will, I think, feel that I have betrayed you in that I had promised, at least implicitly, to wait for allof 20 minutes and I didn't. Suppose, on the other hand, you take 30 minutesto finish your shopping and come out of the pharmacy and find me still there.
(2) With NetZero you will be able to surf the web five times faster.
That does not make my implict promise to wait "up to" 20 minutes false. In conclusion, "up to" claims tend to be used to set limits, though they are not hard and fast.
Returning to sentences (1) and (2), we can say that as an assertion (1) would be true if NetZero only allowed you to surf 2 or 3 or 4 times faster than normal, for recall, "up to" claims are used to set soft limits. On the other hand, were NetZero only able to allow you to surf 2 or 3 or 4 times faster than normal, (2) would clearly be false.
It is not all that unusual for an advertisment to make both types of claims, as I pointed out in my (out of print) book The Language of Television Advertising. I would find it odd were an advertiser who can truthfully assert a strong form like (2) choose to use the weaker "up to" claim. It is also odd that they would use both.Recall that advertisements are a species of offer -- in the NetZero case, the offer of a service. As such, it undertakes a commitment tosatisfy the need the consumer has for the service they offer. In fact,consumers typically don't have a specific surfing speed they need. Their need is to get the fastest web surfing they can afford. Recognition of this and the fact that there are non-telephone type modes of connection that are blazingly fast may be why NetZero makes the strong claim (2) in addition to (1).
If NetZero can't deliver a five-fold increase in surfing speed, then claim (2) is false both as an assertion and as an implied promise. I do not, in fact, have any personal knowledge of how good the product is and therefore can't say whether it is true or false. Suppose, though, that they had not included the strong claim. Since the advertisement constitutes an offer, albiet a commercial offer, it is subject to the condition that the service satisfy the consumer's need for a fast internet connection and should the connection fall short of a five fold increase I believe the consumer would have a legitimate gripe for NetZero is implicitly promising them that they will get such an increase. The reason is that in setting the limit at a 5 fold increase, that is what will determine the expectation of the consumer that that is what they will get.*See Wikipedia on Speech Acts. If you Google "speech acts," you will get a large number of results as befits the fact that it has been a very popular topic in lingusitics and philosophy since the publication of John Austin's How to Do Things With Words. I offered my own quite different approach in Speech Acts and Conversational Intereaction.