The art of attacking a rival brand

December 8, 2022
Marketing communications

In comparison with political candidates, consumer brands tend to be very cautious about “attack ads” when taking on competitors. A poll was conducted by AdweekMedia/ Harris last month that found this caution to be well founded.

Respondents were asked to select various reactions to an ad that attacked a rival brand. 38% said that it made them think negatively of the brand making the attack, with just 4% saying it made them think worse of the brand under attack. 13% said it made them think worse of both brands.

Confusingly perhaps, a stand-out 44% said such an ad didn’t make them change their opinion of either brand, serving as a reminder that many consumers are indifferent to any sort of ad.

Women tended to think more disparagingly of an attacking ad (43% vs 34%), while men were more likely to say such an ad wouldn’t alter their opinion of either brand (49% vs 40%).

When all is said and done, while people across the board claim to dislike the brand strategy of attack ads, Election Day results often suggest that such ads have worked. Consumers may just be less averse than they claim to brand advertising that goes harshly after the competition.


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