Using Competitor Names in Commercials

It seems like most companies or brands in the US refrain from using competitor names or products in their ads. However, in some industries (e.g. cell phone networks, cola, OTC painkillers, etc), it’s very common.

I assumed that this wouldn’t be allowed due to intellectual property laws. But since it’s apparently not, why don’t we see it more often?

It’s more specific than that.

In the industries you mentioned, the brand leader does not acknowledge the other companies. Coca Cola never mentions other products. McDonalds never mentions other restaurants. Bayer never mentions anybody else. Google doesn’t have TV commercials, but you can be sure they wouldn’t mention bing. Apple makes fun of PC, but PC commercials have only recently, and obliquely, acted like there’s a choice besides a PC.

There are no laws about it, as you correctly observe. It’s corporate image, and it’s a risk to tamper with it. Mentioning the other guys is confrontational, first of all, and establishes that you are *not *the brand leader, second of all.

Maybe you want to be seen as brash, and anti-establishment, but probably only for the short term. If you get near the top, giving free shout-outs to the other guys probably helps them as much as you (after all, you have less market share you’re trying to capture than they do).

Actually it’s not entirely true.

The Halloween Pepsi/Coke ads were a genius bit of marketing and countermarketing.

Here’s the original Pepsi ad.
And I learned something new. The Coke rebuttal was an internet joke so I guess only Pepsi used their competitors name.
The internet rebuttal does illustrate the potential downsides of doing so however.

It’s not done much because it’s a bad practice. The odds are about evenly split between the viewer retaining the advertiser name, the competitor name or having a lower opinion of both products. There’s almost no upside except in some very specific and limited cases.

Remember the Max Headroom cola ads? Quick, which product was he pitching?

He was pitching new Coke. A substantial number of marketing survey followups thought the ads were for Pepsi, mentioned prominently in the ads.

Remember the Pepsi Challenge?

This is largely it, coupled with the reason that many corporations don’t want to get into public pissing matches with their competitors.

One that I remember is Sega’s tagline “Genesis does what Nintendon’t.” It was pretty effective, too.

There was the TV ad for Honda’s Hurricane, supposed to be the Kawasaki-killer. It showed a Japanese warrior scurrying into a storm shelter. The cutline? “Even a ninja must hide from the hurricane.”

Don’t think it exactly knocked the Ninja out of any garages but it was damned clever.

Typically, though, any commercial that compares products will lower opinions of both for a sizable percentage of viewers. It’s most prominent (and most measurable) in political ads. “Joe Does/Jane Doesn’t” ads tend to lower polls for both Joe and Jane, or level the 2-candidate numbers.

If bashing the other product worked, it would be ubiquitous. There’s nothing about ethics or politeness or honor involved.

That original ad looks backward to me if it’s meant to be a Pepsi ad. It looks like it’s saying - hey, that’s not a real Coke can, it’s actually Pepsi. Aaarrggh!

Car and truck ads do this all the time. GM is currently running a Silverado commercial where Ram and Ford are mentioned (in a scoffing tone) at the end. It seems, at least, for these ads comparing certain qualities, or “facts” like mileage, between competitors is done openly.

As an aside, why can’t a competitor sue for trademark infringement? Is it allowed in all free trade countries?

Part of that is very selective choice of what they compare. There are so many comparing bodies and so many categories that it’s hard to find a vehicle that doesn’t top its narrowly-defined class.

“Highest sales of any pickup over 1 ton with a gas V8 and 7200-pound towing package.” Etc. - which is presented as “HIGHEST SALES over Ford and Ram!”

Trademarks aren’t some magical shibboleth that cannot be uttered by anyone. All registering a trademark means is that nobody else can sell a similar type of product under that name. It doesn’t stop them from referring to your product by your trademark, which is what they would be doing in an advert.

Agreed, expect that they are using it for commercial gain. I’m not saying whether it’s right or wrong, just that it wouldn’t shock me if it wasn’t allowed in some places.

It’s Pepsi dressing up as something scary - a Coke.

Obviously, the rules depend on how well-financed your legal department is, but in general I believe you’re allowed to mention other trademarks to compare yourself to them, not to trade on them.

So “Better than <competitor brand>” is generally allowed, but “We sell <competitor brand> products” requires permission.

There had been rules about mentioning competitors names in adverts,
but these were relaxed to encourage competition.
If there is a market leader, then the under-dog may wish to advertise the similarity , and benefits, of their product compared to the market leading product.

The market leader won’t mention the lesser names ,as that advertises them too.

There is a benefits vs risks trade off, you can always be sued for not having proof of your facts.

It really wasn’t. Sega didn’t start gaining recognition until they switched to the much more familiar “Sega Scream.”

They may be legal…but I hate 'em. It’s…unmannerly.

Not too long ago, a lube-and-tune chain that I go to started a series of ads sneering at car dealership auto service.

I phoned their corporate hq, got a service rep, and told them that I disapproved, vigorously, of “slamming the other guy” as a way to try to build up your own reputation for quality.

I think I (and probably others) may have had an effect: the ads stopped!

They do. Off the top of my head, for the Chrome browser (IE and Firefox competitor) and Chromecast device (Apple TV, Roku, etc. competitor). Possibly also for Android.

For a classic spat, check out Qualcast vs Flymo ads from the early 1980s.

I saw this today and thought of this thread.

Jaguar to Mercedes - your move.

#goodtobebad indeed :wink:

Here is the Mercedes commercial they were referencing.