After spending five years in Indian Advertising, I moved to Connecticut, the bedroom of New York. Hoping to get a first-hand experience of US ad agencies and their work, I dived in. Of course, anybody who is interested in advertising can see first-rate ads from around the world, thanks to the Cannes website, ad-based shows on TV and the youtube....but what about the regular Joes? How and where are American products being promoted day in and day out?
The first thing that struck me about American TVCs was the abundance of "comparitive ads". Pain relievers, sandwiches, car insurances....no category is spared. As an ad executive and a consumer, I can say that it does not work. What I am left with is either confusion or the competitive brand.
Let's take the example of Advil, a popular pain reliever in US. It actually shows us a split screen comparison between itself and its competitor Tylenol, complete with a voiceover and on-screen scribbles underlying the benefits of taking Advil over Tylenol. But know what, by the time my mind has juggled back and forth over the two brand names and their pros and cons, I have already moved on to another channel or the next ad.
Next time I am at a pharmacy, my mind has happily glided over the details and I am left with a feeling of "either this or that". Both are good as both are market leaders is the message that I have retained. Differentiation be damned when the basic composition and the usage is similiar. Note how the brand message is lost in a clutter of comparisons.
Also, why would you promote your competitor in your time? You bought space or time in a particular medium to advertise your brand, why waste it on anything else?