Does Negative And Comparative Advertising Work?

John Wood
bds beechwood


We have recently taken a detailed look at published sources of research, and conducted some in-depth interviews and group discussions to try and shed light on the cognitive processes involved in comparative advertising. The aim of our research was to help clients decide whether comparative advertising was an appropriate strategy for their brands.

Clearly, there are practical and theoretical issues involved and comparative advertising is a legal minefield. Trademark infringement, defamation, trading standards and codes of practice all need to be considered, but this article is largely concerned with the cognitive process.

Historically, comparative advertising has been much more prevalent in the US, for legal and cultural reasons, and, in one sector particularly US political advertising negative advertising predominates. Enormous ad expenditure takes place during a US election typically $500 million in a presidential election year, with President Clinton alone spending over $90 million on TV in 1996. Because the stakes are so high, extensive research is undertaken.

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