Kim Penstone

Advertisers who speak freely

2004-07-21 13:11

I love comparative advertising! I loved it when BMW handled the "Benz" at Chapman's Peak. I loved it when Chicken Licken's Dr Phunk administered to the Colonel's soul. And I love that FNB is taking an open swipe at 20twenty.

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against 20twenty (in fact, I'm a step and a half away from joining the happy throng) and I'm not an FNB client. I liked it just as much when 20twenty had a dig at the Big Four.

I guess I'm just one of those people that enjoys a good, public catfight, especially when it's clouded by innuendo and insinuation and some witty wordplay for good measure.

In addition, I always find it interesting to see what competitors see in each other. There's nothing like some healthy comparative advertising to expose the chinks in both sets of armour.

And, as a consumer, I find that particularly useful. If it's done properly, comparative advertising will cut down on my need to shop comparatively. So the ad for product X will give me the pros of X and the cons of Y, while the ad for product Y will give me the pros for Y and the cons for X. What more could I ask?

Let's take the argument a little further.

If done properly, comparative advertising could also reduce the cons of both product X and product Y. Wouldn't you improve your offering to prevent your competition from bad mouthing you? So perhaps the manufacturers of both product X and product Y would do their damndest to ensure that there was nothing to bad mouth?

Pie in the sky thinking, I know. But I can't help it.

The truth of the matter is that I have a wicked, some say twisted, sense of humour that derives some sort of perverse pleasure in seeing corporates squirm. Also, as an industry observer who is forced to watch far more than her fair share of advertising, I simply appreciate any communication that lifts itself above industry norms.

Who knows? Should the Advertising Standards Authority decide to lift those 17 provisos that effectively bar comparative advertising, I may get tired of the catfights and beg for a return to gentlemanly communication.

But for now, I say bring it on. Let's put a toe in that gutter (you know I'll draw the line at the whole foot) and may the best wordsmith win. Freedom of Speech and all that?

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  • Kim Penstone is editor of Marketingweb, a website wholly owned by Moneyweb that focuses on the media, marketing and advertising arena. For more articles of a similar nature, go to

    Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


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