OBSERVATIONS: Comparative Advertising in Magazines: Nature, Frequency and a Test of the 'Underdog' Hypothesis

Tahi J Gnepa
California State University, Stanislaus

In a political context when a candidate compares his or her record with that of his or her opponent while stressing its weaknesses, it is known as negative advertising. Similar references to competition in the marketplace are known as comparative advertising. Despite the threat of costly legal challenges (Buchanan, 1985; Buchanan and Smithies, 1989), comparative advertising has grown more acceptable. This growth owes to the FTC's encouragement of the practice in 1971 and to the belief that comparative advertising is effective in positioning 'underdog' brands. While Brown and Jackson (1977) found that only 5% to 10% of TV ads were comparative in 1973, thirteen years later, more than 50% of all TV ads on NBC were comparative (Levy, 1987). Many studies which have examined comparison advertising have concluded that the strategy is appropriate only for 'underdogs' (Shimp and Dyer, 1978). Thus, they predict, mostly lesser-known brands will use it. The current investigation attempts to determine whether sufficient empirical support exists for such a suggestion.


Comparative advertising defined