Mobile Kombat

Well now, this is exciting.

It seems a pub fight has broken out. It’s being fought on ‘Motherwell rules’ and Apple just got a pint glass in the eye.

“Comparative advertising is not against the law, nor should it be. But to practice it today makes a mockery of pretensions to culture and refinement and decent corporate behavior.”

It’s a great example of comparative advertising, or what David Ogilvy would’ve called ‘knocking copy’, whereby one company highlights the shortfalls of their competitors. And it’s seems like a dangerous game.

Knocking copy isn’t illegal, not in the EU anyway, where it’s governed by a series of incomprehensible directives. As I understand it, it's legal up to and including using a competitor’s trademark in advertisements, which would be a seriously ballsy move.

Knocking copy is even legal in the notoriously litigious U.S. where it’s actually encouraged by the FTC. The principle is that comparative advertising benefits consumers and encourages competition, provided that the comparisons are “clearly identified, truthful, and non-deceptive.” The only real stipulation is that “claims which expressly or implicitly disparage a competing product should be held to the highest level of scrutiny in order to ensure that they are truthful, accurate, and narrowly drawn.”

Well that seems fair enough I suppose.

This Samsung ad is certainly narrowly drawn, in that it deals expressly with the issue of battery life, rather than saying; “The iPhone is generally shit, and the Samsung Galaxy S5 isn’t.”

Anecdotally the battery life issue is one that a lot of iPhone owners complain about, and one that Samsung owners gloat over as they hook-up their phone for it’s fortnightly charge. So the ad appears to be truthful and accurate too.

I’m looking forward to seeing Apple’s response, if they even bother to concoct one.

Which they may not. They may decide that Samsung is actually discrediting itself by running knocking ads, and is in fact showing desperation here. Confident of their superior product, Apple may simply rise above it.

That’s one of the problems of running comparative ads, it can trigger the question in the mind of the prospect; “If your brand is so bloody good, how come it isn’t the market leader?”

In ‘Positioning’, Al Ries and Jack Trout quote the ‘chairman of a top 10 agency’ as saying;

“Comparative advertising is not against the law, nor should it be. But to practice it today makes a mockery of pretensions to culture and refinement and decent corporate behavior.”

I personally think that’s bollocks. In the case of Apple vs. Samsung – I welcome a healthy bit of mud-slinging, it’ll probably result in better products for us consumers, and after all isn’t that what we fought the Cold War for…sort of.

And perhaps Apple will take the point, so in a couple of years I won’t have to charge my phone twice a day, which is a real pain - since I sit right next to a mains socket.

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