History is littered with trends that tanked, fads and fashions that seemed like a good idea at the time but, in retrospect, usually came to be labeled, “What were they thinking?” Elephant bellbottoms, ironing your hair, underwear as outerwear – they all beg the question. Buttery chunks? Is bleaching wide, uneven swaths of yellow through your hair attractive or natural looking? And nude lipstick? Try ChapStick®.
Some fashion fatalities hang around longer than others. Some come BACK into style, dusted off and called “retro,” when they probably should’ve stayed gone. To name a few: platform shoes, blue eye shadow, micro mini skirts.
The ad industry has a bad habit of recycling ideas that weren’t smart – or good advertising – in the first place. One of the worst is spending your ad time/space and dollars to promote your competition. It’s very popular these days. And among folks who should know better…
It’s not a new concept; in fact, it’s been going on for a long time. Pepsi has mentioned Coca-Cola in TV commercials since the 1970s. In 1992 Ray Charles “accidentally” drank a Diet Coke in a Diet Pepsi commercial.
You’d think creative people would be more original. But a quick look at recent TV offerings came up with quite a few advertisers using the same old, tired tricks. In one, the terminally-adolescent boys of SONIC® make fun of Wendy’s Frosty composition, the whole time prominently displaying the Wendy’s logo. Then the BURGER KING®, that scary big-plastic-headed creature, breaks into McDonald’s headquarters to steal a recipe. (Seriously? That’s the best idea you could come up with?) It’s not only dumb, it shows Mickey D’s is so much better that BK has to STEAL to compete – their name as well as their product.
AcneFree, a product you may not have heard of, mentions better-known competitor Proactiv® twice during a single commercial.
Even the “Windows 7 was my idea” commercials from Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the same folks who brought us those horrendous BURGER KING® commercials, rip off their tagline (“I’m a PC”) from the Macintosh commercials created by TBWA\Media Arts Lab that ran from 2006 until May of this year. Even though they don’t mention Macintosh by name, you hear “I’m a PC” and you think, “I’m a Mac.”
Blogger Dong Ngo wrote,
“…when I saw the ‘I am a PC and Windows 7 was my idea’ ads, I just wanted to jump into panel to ask the presumptuous-looking guy, ‘What is your idea, dude, really? What’s really new?’ (And speaking of original, come on Microsoft! You can do better than imitating Apple’s …ads!)”
He didn’t use nice words to describe Apple’s ads, but call me prejudiced. I’m a Mac myself. I LOVE the “Mac/PC” commercials and am sad to see them go off to the advertising retirement home.
Not only is it tacky to use someone else’s name to promote your product, it’s bad business. While some people believe imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, using your competitor’s name, images and products in your ad gives them visibility – at no cost to them. The advertisers signing the checks for these ads should be asking, “Tell me again why I’m paying to advertise my competition?”