Monday, June 30, 2008

Comparative B’advertising

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Some classic examples have benchmarked the history of comparative advertising. And leading the fight club is the protagonist of this story, Pepsodent, which, in its advertisements, claimed, “New Pepsodent is 102% better than the leading toothpaste.” The ad showed two boys being asked the name of the toothpaste brand that they used. One happily exclaims Pepsodent, while the other’s disgruntled response, though muted, clearly points cynically towards Colgate (especially as a background jingle similar to the one in Colgate’s ads is used quite appropriately). Incidentally, at that time, Colgate toothpaste ruled the market with a massive 59% market share. Expectedly, Colgate took HLL (which owns Pepsodent) to court, and HLL had to withdraw its ads.

On the personal care front, HLL stirred another hornet’s nest when it came out with an advertisement that read, “The Truth, Not Just Promises.” The ad went on to explain how ‘Fair & Lovely’ was much more effective than ‘No Marks’. Ozone Ayurvedics, the owners of ‘No Marks’, did not take this lightly. They felt this was wrong & unethical. They got their facts in order, and claimed in return that No Marks had the highest content level of active ingredients – about 59.5% of their product’s total composition, compared to 0.66% in Fair & Lovely. With these and many more such shocking statistics, No Marks sure had a point to prove. HLL is surely getting cold feet on seeing a much stronger competitor; and if it continues like this, the faith of consumers might slowly get eroded.

Similarly, the Kiwi Liquid Wax Polish ad showed a squeamy and clearly unlikable liquid (polish) dripping from a bottle marked X, while no such liquid dripped from the Kiwi bottle (what else!). The shape of the bottle X left no doubt that it was Cherry Blossom. Amusingly, even the government body MRTP agreed so – and the ad was ruled a case of disparagement. Subsequently, Kiwi was asked to discontinue the same.

But poor Colgate, its cup full of woes continued from another front. When Vicco tooth powder (remember the inimitable Vajradanti!), in its ads showed an allegedly useless – and obviously unattractive – oval shaped tin of a competitor, though without any label, everyone could still identify the “useless tin” as a Colgate tooth powder can. Once again, MRTP noted that the advertisement created an impression in the viewers’ minds that the can was of Colgate, and they would be inclined to believe that the product was absolutely useless, which was not right.

As must be clear by now, though effective, comparative advertising should be used with extreme caution. Comparative advertising is most effective when it’s factual, and there are significant & meaningful points of differences that are highlighted.

Copyright © : Rajita Chaudhuri and Planman Media.

An Initiative of IIPM, Malay Chaudhuri and Arindam chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist).

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