Last Friday’s email included a press release from the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, regarding claims made by Texas Instruments about DLP projectors that were disputed by Epson, the leading manufacturer of 3LCD projectors.
Epson challenged several of TI’s claims about reliability, ease of operation, and performance in color imaging. Some readers may remember a demo that TI hosted at last year’s InfoComm, where they talked about the superior performance of BrilliantColor and compared a DLP projector so equipped with a supposedly equivalent Epson model.
During the demo, the TI engineer remarked on the "oversaturated" and "cartoonish" qualities of color on the Epson as he emphasized the more accurate saturation and shading on the BrilliantColor platform. Having attended InfoComm for many years, I’ve learned that most technology demonstrations at that show need to be taken with several grains of salt, so I offered to run the same tests in my own facility - an offer that never was followed up.
Apparently the NAD had similar issues with TI’s Internet and print ad campaigns for DLP projectors. According to their 2/29 press release, "NAD noted that the advertiser (TI) provided a written representation that it has permanently discontinued a number of claims that referenced "cartoon-like" colors or over-saturated colors as well as misconvergence claims. As a result, NAD did not review those claims."
TI was also called to task for not clearly stating that only 24% of all DLP projectors include BrilliantColor technology, the implication of the ad campaigns being that all new DLP projectors were so equipped.
NAD also referenced the 3LCD and DLP projector reliability studies that TI conducted in 2002, 2003, and 2005. For those who don’t remember, the 2002 study, conducted by the Munsell Color Science Laboratory at Rochester Institute of Technology, claimed that 3LCD projectors were not reliable when operated continuously at high temperatures (80 degrees Fahrenheit).
The 2002 study had serious flaws, the most significant of which was that one 3LCD projector actually survived this crunch test and another came close. TI repeated these tests in 2004 and 2005, but the NAD noted, "…In evaluating the evidence for the picture reliability claims, NAD concluded that the results of testing conducted in 2002 and 2004 were not sufficient to support the current claims. As for the 2005 testing, NAD determined that the results were insufficiently reliable to support the claims at issue and recommended that they be discontinued or, in the alternative, carefully qualified."
NAD also recommended that TI’s total cost of projector ownership (TCO) calculator on its DLP Web site (http://www.dlp.com/TCO/) be modified to stop auto-filling certain parts of the blank form, as apparently TI was assuming certain costs of owning and maintaining 3LCD projectors that could not be determined accurately.
While NAD did conclude TI’s claims that DLP projectors are simple to operate, reliable, and don’t require an air filter that must be cleaned periodically were true, they did ask TI to drop language that implied all DLP projectors would be unaffected by picture degradation and maintenance issues.
Now, here’s the rest of the story, with apologies to Paul Harvey. The real problem back in 2002 was simply this: DLP projectors were more expensive than 3LCD models of equivalent resolution and brightness.
TI’s 2002 study purported to show that the additional cost of a DLP projector was worth it in terms of longevity, but their own research revealed that a majority of buyers would be satisfied with three years of service from a projector before replacement - a life span that at least one lower-cost 3LCD model achieved within the 2002 Munsell test.
The fact is, many buyers don’t understand or care about the differences between 3LCD and DLP. Instead, they’re focusing on price, brightness, resolution, and size.
TI would be better served by cutting back on their marketing "spin" and refocusing their energies to help brand partners keep DLP projector prices competitive with 3LCD models. According to a 2/15 release from Pacific Media Associates, 3LCD technology dominated 2007 pro AV projector sales, accounting for 7 out of every 10 models sold.
Think lower prices had anything to do with it?
Correction: My Display Daily for February 18th incorrectly stated that NTIA digital TV converter box coupons were worth $20 each. That number should have been $40.