Corporate Eye

When Brands Attack – The Rise of Comparative Advertising

Did you ever take “The Pepsi Challenge”?  Have you seen the Mac Guy vs. PC Guy commercials?  Chances are at some point you’ve seen some form of comparative advertising that could more accurately be called a “Brand Smackdown”.  Not unlike two brands entering an ultimate fighting ring, comparative advertising has become an all-out battle among some of the world’s top brands.

In the news of late has been the Dunkin’ Donuts vs. Starbucks taste test ads where Dunkin’ Donuts tells consumers that more “hard-working” people prefer their coffee than the high-priced Starbucks, “elitist” coffee.  Rumor has it, Time Warner is preparing to launch a comparative advertising campaign against Verizon.

And now, Campbells is attacking Progresso with ads telling consumers that more Progresso soups contain MSG than Campbells soups do.  Progresso is responding with its own attack and its own Progresson Taste Challenge.  Check out the 3-frame ad I found on Yahoo! this morning inviting consumers to take the Progresso vs. Campbells taste test:

I’ve always been against mentioning your competitor in advertising.  I simply don’t want to give them any free publicity.  However, there certainly are examples in advertising history where comparative advertising can work for the brand with lower market share.  Apple is the prime example of that.  By creating a series of commercials that cite clear differentiators between the Mac and Windows products, Apple was able to successfully take a small bite out of the leader’s market share.  Of course, those ads aren’t the only thing Apple has been doing right.  Apple is a great example of a successful relationship branding strategy at work, but that’s another story entirely.

What do you think?  Will attack advertising help the Dunkin’ Donuts and Campbells brands or hurt them? 


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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.