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Is It Ever Ok to Take a Swipe at Your Competitor in Advertisements?

Posted by: ecurtis on Sept. 2, 2011

by Christine Gorney, Public Relations Assistant “Generally we have been told in advertising to not use negative advertising. If you have nothing positive or unique to say, then you have nothing to talk about,” says our creative director, Frank Scotti. But there are always exceptions to the rule, the two being Coke vs. Pepsi, and Mac vs. PC. These companies have been battling forever and have built their own cult following. Their ads are tactful, humorous, and hit a certain note with all of us, despite which side you have chosen. We also tend to root for the underdogs, which is why we like seeing these big brands targeted. This played off well with Apple’s Mac vs. PC ad campaign, which was very risky for Apple, but paid off heavily in the end. It was the underdog taking a stab at the “the man,” which makes it memorable and draws us to the screen. “These ads aren’t the only advertising campaigns the companies are pushing. They have several different messages being broadcasted, which is a big reason why it works,” said Scotti. Diet Coke recently squeezed Pepsi out of its number two spot of most popular soda, which most likely fueled the new ad campaigns. What are the risks of using negative advertising? Well, you do risk bringing more attention to your competitor since you are mentioning them. It can also make the viewer believe that you don’t have anything special about your own product and the only thing you can do is bash your competitors. Look at Verizon’s new campaign, “There’s an app for that.” They compare Verizon coverage to AT&T, but are the ads effective and memorable? Now T-Mobile is throwing in their own ads with attacks against both. Too much bashing? I think so. It makes me think, can’t we all just get along? And besides, I don’t see any cult followings for any phone companies. I tend to choose my carrier on who is going to offer me the best price, and which coverage works best in my area. With that said, I am a Mac and I prefer Coke. Let us know what you think. And I am curious… Mac or PC, Pepsi or Coke?

Recipe is a full-service marketing agency specializing in the food and beverage industry. Recipe offers award-winning creativity across all marketing channels including social media, public relations, packaging, web and advertising. For more information on Recipe, email or visit

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