Advertisers love comparisons, and with good reason: they work. Comparing your product to something else puts its worth in context. It’s what consumers do anyway–you’re just helping them along.
Less sophisticated marketers do literal and heavy-handed comparisons to branded competitors, accompanied by lawyered-up copy and disclaimers, and consumers hate them for it. Even the incredibly deft Mac/PC ads get their share of blowback from people who consider them mean-spirited. (BTW–it’s amazing to me no one’s done the Obama/McCain version of these spots..it would seem like a YouTube no-brainer…)
But the most sophisticated marketers, like P&G and some (largely Republican) political strategists, have grasped the deeper, more insidious truth:
It doesn’t matter who or what you compare yourself to, as long as the comparison is in your favor.
Years ago, I worked on P&G’s Puffs Tissues business. The client was absolutely insistent on a side-by-side demo in the advertising for their “new and improved” product, even though Puffs had no visible, demonstrable difference vs. Kleenex. We didn’t even have a good comparison to the older, “unimproved” version of Puffs. Finally, the R&D folks at Procter pointed out that Puffs were, in fact, puffed up with air as their final step in manufacturing, so why not compare them to the unpuffed (that is to say, the unfinished) version? The result: a visual of a stack of Puffs towering over a sad short stack of unpuffed Puffs. And of course, it worked like a charm.
John McCain’s handlers hope the same will hold true with their candidate. Comparisons with Barack Obama are not necessarily advantageous, so why not use the departing administration, which very nicely fits the “big-spending, me-first, do-nothing” requirements, as the foil? Who cares if they’re Republican? They’re un-Puffed!
Thanks to AD Kim “Crazy Fingers” Magher for the Photoshop work.