Should You Design Ads That Mock Competition?
It goes like this: you got a contract to design a product marketing campaign and the client specifies in the brief that they want the ad to be targeted at their top competitor’s product. Basically, you should design an ad mocking the competitor and show how superior your client’s products are.
Should you accept this brief and go ahead with the client’s requests?
The Ethical Point of View
Leaving other (financial) considerations aside, it is not OK to promote something by bashing in something else. Put yourself in the consumer’s shoes. Let’s imagine that Adobe Illustrator ran a series of ads saying that CorelDraw is good for nothing and you should only use Illustrator. Would this type of ad convince you to buy an Adobe Illustrator license? Probably not.
The Reputation Point of View
As a freelance designer, your reputation is everything. It is just like virginity – once lost, you cannot recover it. Even if you do not include this particular ad design in your portfolio, word goes around in the online world. If someone is deeply offended by the ad (and the bashed in competitor will certainly be), they can find out who developed the idea and you can basically kiss your reputation goodbye.
No one wants to work with a guy who will learn details about their products and business processes, only to use them negatively in poster, brochure or ad for a competitor. And the bigger the ad campaign, the harder your fall into disgrace.
The Karma Point of View
Such ad campaigns based on damaging a competitor’s reputation are like a boomerang: they come back at you and hit you right where you aimed your hit. Here is a classic case study:
Jaguar vs. Mercedes
The luxury car segment is one of the highest competitive markets. A lot of brands fight for the attention and money of a small and constant market share. When Mercedes created an ad featuring their new car body stability systems, Jaguar was quick to bite off (literally) and point out that smooth and quick reflexes are a more desirable feature of a luxury sports car:
BMW vs. Jaguar
Jaguar did not have a long time to laugh off their ad spoof. Another German car maker joined the game and created this ad:
It shows the BMW profile snarling at the frightened Jaguar decal, which looks like it is running away.
These examples are quite funny to watch. However, for the three companies involved, it was not so funny. And for the designers of these campaigns, unless they are in-house designers, it will not look good in the resume to boast that they made fun of a major car manufacturer.
It all depends on how financially assured and big you are in the design world. If you got a big company backing you up all the way, then you can dare embark on the design of such a campaign. If you are a freelancer trying to make a living in the business, better stay away from such projects.
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