Rivalry and competition have always been major driving forces behind effective advertising. It’s fundamental: outsell those who offer the same products and services you do and you’ve got it made. It’s hard to feel loyalty to a brand when you have no choice in the matter. If there is only one cable service in your area, you likely feel unhappy and trapped by it. Add in the option to choose someone else and suddenly you create brand loyalty. It comes as no surprise, then, that through the ages of advertising many campaigns have been based on a theme of one-upmanship. Some are classy, some are crass, and some are just a little confusing.
This summer Pepsi took a creative approach to their “Summertime is Pepsi Time” campaign by taking iconic winter Coke mascots and showing them in the “off-season” preferring Pepsi over Coke. Santa and the polar bears both made an appearance spending their summer vacations partying down and enjoying a dark carbonated beverage not classically associated with them.
Sometimes a company parodying the campaigns and products of a competitor can help consumers draw conclusions about each; for example, the Mac vs PC ads with Justin Long as the hip Mac and John Hodgman as the straight-man PC. Sure, sometimes this approach works amazingly; the Energizer bunny wasn’t the first bunny to run on batteries in a commercial, but he was the most memorable.
When companies run campaigns too identical to consider them parodies of each other, they instead leave you wondering which came first and why the second company didn’t take a fresh approach. Allstate’s “Mayhem” campaign and State Farm's “Chaos” campaigns are fairly similar and it is yet to be determined what will come next for them. The phone companies are notorious for doing parodies of each other and taking cheap shots at one another’s mascots. Sometimes it’s a wonder we as consumers can even figure out which company the ad is actually favoring.
One thing is for sure. While these tactics do increase sales, they do one thing even better: provide entertainment for us all.
Rebecca A. Martin is a jack-of-all trades in the ad industry with a background in project management, media planning and copy writing. She hails from Metro Detroit, Michigan. Connect with her here and follow her on Twitter.