Comparative Advertising: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

If you have ever participated in a taste test at a local grocery store sponsored by a company, you were a direct participant in comparative advertising. In this lesson, you'll learn about comparative advertising and have a chance to take a short quiz.

Definition

Comparative advertising is advertising in which you compare your product either directly or indirectly with competing products. It is a very common method of advertising used by nearly every type of industry.

Honesty Is the Best Policy

While comparative advertising can be effective, you must proceed with caution and be honest in your comparisons. On a practical level, consumers are becoming more and more sophisticated and are capable of verifying comparisons with independent Internet research. Even more importantly, you have to tread carefully in your comparisons so you don't violate the law. If you advertise inaccurate information that misinforms people, you have exposed yourself to not only lawsuits from your competitors but also actions from regulators, such as the Federal Trade Commission.

Examples

Let's look at some examples to illustrate the idea of comparative advertising.

  • Your marketing research indicates that nine out of ten consumers will choose your soda over your competitor's soda in a blind taste test. Confident in the research results, you decide to hold a series of events at grocery stores where you offer customers the chance to take a blind taste test involving your soda and your competitor's soda. You use some of the events as the basis for television ads.
  • You run a consumer electronics company that is about to introduce a new computer tablet on the market. You run a series of television ads that place your tablet next to the leading tablet and an actor demonstrates features of your tablet that is not available with the leading tablet.
  • You run an automobile company and your flagship SUV is in fierce competition with a competitor trying to displace you as the market leader. You run an ad show the superior luxury of the interior of your product against the more Spartan interior of the upstart.
  • You run a national chain of cancer treatment centers. After looking at the survival rates for your patients compared to the national rates, you decide to run an advertising campaign showing how your patients have a higher survival rate than the national average. This is an example of an indirect comparison because consumers must infer that your center performs better than competitors based on national numbers.

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