Should your advertising be more aggressive?

Advertising Age in the US is reporting (25 May 2009) that "attack dog" ads have become far more commonplace over the last year or so.

In competitive advertising, advertisers name their chief competitor and say "we are better than them".

Is there any evidence to suggest that Australia is going the same way?

It's probably hard to know where Australia sits on the "soft sell" versus "hard sell" pendulum, but it's interesting to think about where you believe your company should be.

According to Advertising Age, comparisons in advertising in the US are getting sharper, responses are growing testier, and an increasing number of ad battles are ending up in court.

So why is this happening?

Obviously, the point of comparative advertising is to set yourself apart.

If you can find a strong point of difference that is important to a sufficient number of prospects, then the advertising is most likely going to be very effective.

With the economic downturn, marketers have been under so much pressure to improve their market share, it's probably not surprising that this trend has appeared.

Of course, the evaluation you have to make is whether you get more for your promotional investment with an aggressive approach compared with a more conventional advertisement.

With comparative advertising, clearly you can be on a winner, but equally you can risk getting sued or alienating consumers. In our laid back way, it seems that at least some Australians don't like to see you "going after" a competitor.

Some points to consider:

If you want to avoid ending up in court, don't name your target rival. A more general term such as "some of our competitors" is less likely to get you into trouble.

If you are negative, you can reduce sales in the overall category! Which is hardly likely to be your objective. So stay positive. Highlight the benefits you offer. And the more specific the benefits, the better.

If you say it, consumers will doubt it. So only make a claim if you can back it up. Ideally, have facts and figures or an authority to support you. "The Reserve Bank supports this type of loan in its report on . . ."

Keep your advertising original. Avoid "me too" claims. If a competitor can prove that you are using a claim that they made previously, you may be in hot water.