Negative advertising – a public relations dilemma

Apple versus Microsoft, perhaps the best example of negative advertising in Technical PR, Engineering PR, Industrial PR, Manufacturing PR or Electronics PR.I’ve recently contributed to an article on the PR impacts of negative advertising campaign for stateside marketing and PR magazine Platform. The interesting thing about this article for me was that its objective was to address whether saying negative things about your competitors in advertising material created a positioning issue that could be addressed through PR.

I believe that negative advertising, where it can be entirely substantiated, can be a very effective tactic. There’s nothing wrong with Tesco telling us they are cheaper than Waitrose and Sainsbury’s because they are proven to be so. However, in doing so, they seek to make us think they are cheap, which they are not. Lidl is cheap, Morrison’s is cheap (For all non UK readers - these are all supermarkets! Ed) Tesco is mid range. However, their adverts create the perception that they are high quality but low cost. They compare themselves to good quality competitors, suggesting they offer similar standards, but point out that they are cheaper on a particular amount of brands each week. It’s really clever.

Where does this leave us in terms of technical PR and advertising though? Can we place adverts saying our bearings last 25% longer than the next most expensive brand? Should be saying that our robots are 50% less likely to breakdown that our competitors? In my opinion, if the data is there to prove this without question then yes. If it isn’t, get ready for a law suit.

However, most industrial brands use a relative concept as their cornerstone message. Our bearings are ‘trusted’ or our robots are ‘flexible’. These concepts can’t be proven in relation to their competitors so woe betide anyone who says our robots are the ‘most flexible’ or our bearings are the ‘most trusted’. There is such a things as an Advertising Standards Authority after all.

But does negative advertising create a negative PR issue that has to be tackled. Well, you will have to read the article in Platform to find that out.

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Richard Stone

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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