Negative advertising is nothing new in the political realm, but there is a new trend of response ads appearing in the retail industry as well. Negative political television ads have been around for decades (see Daisy, Willie Horton, 3am phone call), and some of these spots include response ads directly mentioning another opponents ad. A recent example would be the Virginia Governors race with McConnell and Deeds placing negative ads and using each other’s visuals.
While negative advertising has been around in retail as well, usually it is based on the smaller share attacking the industry leader, not a back and forth battle. The classic examples are Pepsi vs. Coke and more recently Mac vs Windows:
Usually the leader would ignore the competitor to maintain their brand’s positive image. However, a new trend emerging is an actual response from the leaders in the example of the recent Verizon and AT&T 3G ad campaign. Verizon’s television ads display a map comparing the two coverages and even uses a play on words for AT&T’s exclusive contract with the popular IPhone, mimicking “There’s an app for that” with “There’s a map for that”. The difference from other retail negative campaigns is that AT&T responded to these claims with an ad of their own showing their coverage map and even hired a Hollywood actor to deliver the message. Here are the two ads:
AT&T might have been just trying to dispel misleading accusations, but the fact that they rolled out a large-scale campaign instead of a simple press release is significant. The two companies even sued and countersued each other reminiscent of a bitter political campaign debate. Whether this is a bigger trend or an isolated instance is yet to be seen.