If you can put the competition’s logo on the ad . . .

I’ve heard this rule invoked by dozens of creative directors over the years as grounds to reject a concept. I recommend that this criticism be tossed on the slag heap along with other bogus rules such as the “borrowed interest” prohibition we discussed in an earlier post.

If you were to view every ad currently running in a particular category, without knowing which brands did which ads, there would likely be some ads about which you could easily identify the brand. But most ads would possess a degree of “interchangeability.” Could be a Miller ad. Could be a Bud ad. Could be a Toyota ad. Could be a Nissan ad. Could be LG. Could be Sony. That, by itself, would not make the ad bad. In fact, it could be a great ad, carrying a powerful truth, delivered in a striking manner, consistent with, or at least consonant with, its brand. And yet not be obviously assignable to one and only one brand.

If you have to look for the logo to find out who did the ad, this is no basis for dismissing the ad. In fact, it might be a basis for praise, since it means the viewer of the ad was sufficiently engaged by the ad to take the trouble to wonder whose ad it was.

In most cases, every brand within a category has to choose from among the same finite set of benefits as the other brands in that category. Ideally, what sets a brand apart is the ownership of a certain benefit or combination of benefits, as filtered through their own unique brand voice, face, personality. Unfortunately, this circumstance is rare. Most brands don’t do that good of a job of setting themselves apart. But the fact that a brand has not differentiated itself clearly and unmistakably doesn’t preclude the possibility of producing a great ad for that brand. Even if, were you to swap out logos and taglines, that same ad could just as easily have come from some other not-very-well-differentiated brand in that same category.

43 comments:

Tom Tom said...

I have this belief that a company's advertising is a direct reflection of the management of the company. A campaign that's overly safe or boring shows the boring and uninventive people running the show (fine for a steel manufacturer, perhaps not for a rising tech company). In this way the logos aren't interchangeable at all because many companies in the category might not be willing to run a certain type of ad.

The real problem is when you can swap out the entire product category (is this an ad for nails or tennis balls?).

chris alonso said...

What do they say about the sincerest form of flattery? Well using competitor's logos I think is just a lazy way of getting something up and out the door quickly

Guerrilla Communication said...

The issue of "if you can put the competition's logo on the ad..." is not so much a question of "will the consumer now have to search for the logo because we really got his attention."
The problem is that it may now merely look like all the other ads in the category evoking little interest and even less passion.

gromain said...

i agree with guerilla communication - is the question so much about interchanging logos or being able to propose (and sell) something different from what the client/the consumers will expect ?

deacon said...

As they say, it could have just as easily been "Come to Winston Country".

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Che Guerilla said...

That's why I believe that a brand should engage into a very precise path so that one can easily identify its communication even without showing the logo. Not that hard

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