Comparative Advertising

Comparative advertising, for those who don’t know is where one brand does a direct comparison with one of its competitors – featuring the competitor in the ad.

This is a popular technique in the US, but not so popular in the UK – which can make it even more effective.

Many people still believe that you are not allowed to do comparative advertising in the UK. You can. But there are strict rules. The main ones being that you have to do a like for like comparison, the comparison has to be factual and it has to be fair.

Increasingly supermarkets are using these techniques as it is very easy for Asda to prove that they are selling a loaf of Hovis bread for less than Sainsbury’s.

With other products it is a lot harder. The above ad for Roundup created by Flint took a lot of time and effort, not only to create, but also in working with the good people at the Clearcast (which used to be the BACC). Clearcast are the people that approve all TV ads before they go on air and it is they who enforce the rules and make sure that all ads on TV are fair, true and do not mislead the consumer.

The effort taken to create a comparative TV ad is one thing that puts people off, the other is people’s opinions. In order to get BACC approval you need legal confirmation. In the case of Roundup ad the lawyer told us that we were perfectly in our rights to do this, but he didn’t recommend it because we were paying to put another brand’s product on air. This is a popular criticism of comparative advertising… but…. thank you very much Mr Lawyer, why not stick to the day job?!

In the case of the Roundup comparative advertising was a very successful strategy for many reasons, which I won’t go into in this blog for fear of both boring you and giving away too many of my client’s secrets.

This ad has helped to increase Roundup’s sales by 30%, which is 12% above market growth. It is by far the best selling weed killer in the UK and had the biggest jump in sales this year.

The Adwatch table from Marketing magazine shows the high recall levels of the ad – Being in this table is particularly impressive as they ad was relatively niche-targeted and had a limited media budget.

So, in summary. If you are thinking of running a comparative ad, it’s not the easiest thing to get on air, it’s not going to win you a Cannes Lion, but it could have very good results on your clients sales. And in the words of Sir Alan Sugar advertising is all about “shifting gear”.