Comparison advertising: making a comeback? Discuss 3 Comments

Comparison advertising. It’s been around for a long time. In days of old, it was the way to go. Choosy Mom’s choose Jif, the Pepsi Challenge, We’re number 2, so we try harder, the demos showing how Bounty was the “quicker picker upper.”

During the boom years, comparison advertising became passe among market leaders- why give credit to your competition.

Typically, it was a way to leverage a smaller brand against the leader.

Audi challenges BMW and loses

Audi challenges BMW and loses

It’s a dangerous proposition. Look at the smackdown Audi gets from BMW in their billboards in Santa Monica on the right. Those who don’t study their craft are doomed to get hit twice. Honda fired Chiat/Day from their motorcycle account. Their new agency came up with “Follow the leader” to which Chiat/Day came back- now working for Yamaha with “Don’t follow anyone.”

When the economy goes bad- all bets are off. It’s time to go into the cage for a brand on brand death match.

While scrapping for every dollar might not be an option as consumers cut back, the damage it can do to a brand is real. Do you really want to be the cheapest, lowest price product when the money starts flowing again.

Chuck Porter once said at the Cincinnati Ad Club “Anyone can do a better price and product ad, all they have to do is have a lower price” so it sort of shocks me when Crispin Porter + Bogusky starts running ads for Microsoft based on price.

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Where “Laptop hunters” Lisa and Jackson go to buy a laptop for under $1,500 and do a comparison between Apple and a PC.

After the drilling Apple has given Microsoft with their “Get a Mac” campaign, which has won an Effie,  and has been credited for doubling market share, Apple had to see it coming.

But, this is the kind of attention Microsoft wanted when they hired the best ad agency in the country to try to breath life back into their bankrupt Windows/Vista brand.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky is again proving that edgy, strategic advertising can get people talking about a brand differently, quickly, by pushing buttons.

They did it for anti-smoking with Truth, Mini with “Lets Motor”, the creepy King and subservient chicken for Burger King, un-pimp your auto for VW and now MSFT is getting the treatment.

[The reality is: both Apple and Microsoft will be in trouble if some 17 year old does for Linux what Blake Ross did for the Mozilla code base to create Firefox.]

Realize that Microsoft isn’t even comparing their product to Apple in the ads- they are comparing their partners hardware- people aren’t validating Microsoft in the buying ads- but Sony, HP, Dell etc.

How many companies would spend their marketing dollars on promoting their marketing partners?

When times get tough, consumers do spend more time evaluating major purchases. However, it’s not price that they look at as much as value. Giving consumers reason to talk about your brand value is only a good idea if it is really there. Look at the response to a Business Week story on the subject of the Microsoft challenge- compared to a holy war.

Maybe the best advice still comes from that old Chiat/Day ad: “Don’t follow anyone” and don’t compare. Leadership has its privileges.

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3 Responses

  • Jeff says:

    So let me get this straight: Microsoft will buy you a PC. That’s the ad? Shoot! If I was Apple, I’d launch the same ad, but at the end, return the computer, get the money, and go buy a Mac.

  • David Esrati says:

    @Jeff- great response. Thanks for commenting.

  • edwardboches says:

    Many years ago, we did an ad for a software company, McCormack and Dodge, at the time Number 3 in the industry. The headline read, “Of the big three in software, who’s really number one?” It was a revolutionary type of comparison ad. Not competitive, but challenging. Not declarative but provocative. Not dissing the other guy, but celebrating the brand M&D. Still can work if done right: with wit, cleverness, and room for interpretation.

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