Advertising Tips
Danger - Comparative Advertising

Marketing executives sometimes let their egos run away with them. This is not news to those of you who have dealt with marketing executives. This isn't to say that these folks are bad people; just that they sometimes fall prey to their sense that people are waiting with baited breath for their company's next commercial.

Out-of-control ego sometimes manifests itself in the form of comparative advertising. You know what I'm talking about -- the ads that claim "product A is better than product B." Unfortunately for the Marketing or Advertising executive who wishes to make a comparative claim, consumers often are carrying on conversations, reading, or gobbling food during commercials. This makes it difficult for any advertisement to reach a target audience with a message. This difficulty is intensified when a commercial asks people to think hard about what is being said.

Every mention of a competitor's name or product in an advertisement increases the probability that the audience will think the ad is for that competitor. In television and print advertising, each visual image of a competitor forms an impression in the minds of the audience. Advertising research commonly finds that a large percentage of the audience will believe that the competitor's product is the one being advertised. It can be disastrous if a majority, or a large minority, believes this. An advertiser could potentially be spending money to promote a competitor's product.

The easiest way to avoid this problem is to avoid comparative advertising entirely. Let the product or service advertised carry the day by speaking to your product's/service's benefits. If you're lucky, your competitors will take the comparative advertising approach, do it badly, and you'll be the beneficiary of free advertising.

This is not to say that good comparative advertising is impossible. It often works in priced-based advertising in print media, where competitors' prices are compared side-by-side. But to indulge in comparative advertising, especially on television or radio, is to run the risk of saddling yourself with an extra burden, not unlike climbing a hill with a heavy weight on your back. If you feel you must run a comparative ad, please give careful consideration to at least testing it with the target audience to find out the extent to which your competitor(s) will benefit.