Indian marketers have just breached their self-imposed truce. Though yesteryear price wars are now a complete no-no, given a buoyant consumer market, comparative advertising is surely back with a bang. And it's not just the eternal Pepsi versus Coke slugfest this time.
Taking potshots at competitive brands are some of the other big marketers in the country - P&G Rejoice versus Paras' Livon, Voltas air-conditioner versus the Korean chaebols and HLL's Kotex sanitary napkins versus P&G's Whisper.
After almost a two to threeyear hiatus, the Coke versus Pepsi rivalry is back again on the tube. Coke, through the Sprite ad, released a spoof of the 'Pepsi TV' ad, within a few hours of its launch on TV channels, with the punch line “soft drink hota hai peeney ke liye aur TV hota hai dekhney ke liye”. Not to be undone, Pepsi instantaneously hit out at Coke's “Thande Ka Thadka” ads.
However, what's turning the consumer and marketing fraternity's head is the P&G act with their Rejoice shampoo ad that uses the word 'livon' throughout the ad talking about its moisturising benefits ending with kanghi kare aise livon lagaya ho jaise and Kotex sanitary napkin radio spot, “don't whisper, say it aloud”.
Though comparative advertising is as old as the advertising craft itself, its tone & tenor is shifting from serious to virtually fun & games offlate. “Either it should be seriously done with correct facts or in a lighthearted but tasteful manner. In most cases it is the small brother taking on the big brother.
Here the joke needs to be well cracked otherwise it paints the younger brother as the villain who is trying to malign the brand people love,” says K V Sridhar, national creative director, Leo Burnett. He's bang on, for it's highly unlikely that either Pepsi or Coca-Cola will take each other to court on a seemingly funny take on each other's brands. Though, it's a different kettle of fish when comparative ads are done in a stiff, plagiarising or patronising style.
Take last year's Hyundai versus Maruti imbroglio. Hyundai released big tome-sized print ads last year comparing its Santro with Maruti's Wagon R, using what Maruti claimed as misinterpreted facts. Maruti got a show-cause notice issued to Hyundai, and managed to make Hyundai climb down partially from its initially stated position.
Similarly, P&G and Paras Pharma came to heads a few days back, with Paras taking P&G to court over the use of 'livon' in the latter's ad for Rejoice shampoo. The ad in question claimed that 'livon' is a part of Rejoice's new shampoo. “From the looks of it, it is a simple case of piggybacking on Livon brand's equity in the Indian market,” says Anand Halve, of marketing consultancy Chlorophyll.