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If you are planning to run a comparative advertising campaign, there are many benefits to this strategy. It can make your company stand out in the marketplace and encourage consumers to choose your product or service over your competitors. However, doing this the wrong way can generate scrutiny and complaints from your prospects and competitors, which can do serious harm to your business. Want to know the ins and outs of running a successful and appropriate comparative advertisement campaign in a newspaper or magazine? Here are some questions to ask yourself.

What Claim Do You Want to Make?

When creating a comparative advertisement, you need to think very carefully about the stated and implied meaning. While there may be things that you do not literally state, consumers will still reasonably understand certain things about what you are suggesting from your ad. It is important to ask yourself, “What does a consumer understand from my ad beyond what is expressly stated?” If you make claims that are untrue, you will be liable.

Consumer Surveys

Since it is so important to substantiate your claims, consumer surveys are a great way to gather research to do this. Keep in mind that you must conduct your consumer surveys the right way or you could end up harming your campaign. To be effective, the survey must be valid, reliable, and must follow the rigorous standards set by the courts. It is required by law to conduct real consumer comparison surveys and truthfully report the results.

Is It a Comparison with an Identifiable Competitor?

When comparing your product or service with an identifiable competitor, there are certain rules that apply. You don’t need to expose the name of your competitor for them to be identifiable; they may simply be implied through your ad. In fact, it is best not to identify the competitor by name to avoid liability. For example, when Samsung releases a new phone, customers assume the brand is comparing their device against Apple’s new phone. The same applies to brands like Pepsi vs. Coke. Your competitor may be identifiable depending on the ad, claims, audience, context, and nature of the market they operate in.

Are You Comparing the Right Things?

In your comparative ad, consider what you should be comparing. You should focus on whether your product or service does a better job at meeting a consumer’s needs and intentions. Your comparative ad must prove to have enough of an improvement in terms of use and value compared to your competitor and must be clear so as not to mislead your consumers.

Substantiate Your Claims Before You Advertise

It is also important to consider whether the claims you make are true. By using surveys, clinical tests, and other research you can substantiate the claims of your comparative ad. A common mistake made is that although the tests are valid, they do not support the claim expressly made. Even if you have incredible results and research, you need to back up your claim to be trustworthy to your audience. If your ad claims that your “tests prove” or that “clinical tests show” certain things, you need to ensure that these results are statistically accurate.


Another effective way to substantiate your claim is by doing product demonstrations. You can show your consumers how your product outperforms your competitor’s offer. Here are some questions to ask when conducting a demonstration:

  • Is the demonstration accurate?
  • When repeated, are the results consistent as in the ad?
  • Is the demonstration performed in a manner that is consistent with the manufacturer’s instructions for product use, and under conditions that are sensible for the product?
  • Is your product and your competitor’s product tested in the exact same way?
  • Is the demonstration relevant to the consumer?

Where Will Your Advertisement Be Challenged?

While your comparative ad focuses on showing the benefits of your offer over the competitor’s, there are ways that they can challenge your ad in return. Every jurisdiction has its own set of rules and requirements for extending liability to false comparative advertisers. Before launching your comparative advertising campaign, you should familiarize yourself with the unique requirements of your jurisdiction. It is good practice to determine all claims made in your ad, whether expressed or implied, to ensure they are honest and substantiated within the relevant forensic standards.

How North American Media Can Help You Create Your Comparative Ad Campaign

Every business has competitors, and if you’re trying to persuade your target audience to prefer your offer over the others on the market, comparative or competitive advertising is your best strategy. Although it may sound like a simple task to share how your product has more benefits and functionality or flare, this process must be done with extreme care and honesty. It will only harm your reputation if you bash your competitor or make claims without backing them up. To ensure you are following the rules and protecting yourself from liability, working with an experienced marketing agency will be to your advantage.

At North American Media, we specialize in helping our clients create robust, effective, successful comparative advertisements for print media. We can help you create an effective comparative ad campaign that shows how your product solves the problem that customers find with your competitor’s offers. We’ll help you get your prospective consumers’ attention and provide you with sound advice as to how frequently you should be placing ads. Our services are customized, so you can work within your budget and only pay for the services you need. We will also help you understand the different print media costs and how to create a comparative ad that is effective and trustworthy. Our agency can help you get started.

Our services also include direct mail marketing, list & insert brokerage, data solutions, list fulfillment, list management, and radio, TV & Podcast media. Contact us today!