Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rin vs. Tide Naturals; HUL vs. P&G; Future of Comparative Advertising looks interesting!

It’s the first time in India that competing brands have been named rather than pixilated (as they usually are) in a TV commercial.   For the TV commercial click here, Rin Vs Tide Naturals Ad campaign 

Comparative advertising is there to stay. In real terms, it must be used often as it makes it easy for consumers to evaluate and chose the best among several available options. There is a limit to everything and  similar is the case with advertising; wherein ASCI (Advertising Standard Council of India) has defined certain rules that all advertisements must comply with.

The recent war between  HUL and P&G is over the advertisements featuring Rin and Tide Naturals. HUL (through its latest advertisement launched in last week of Feb) openly challenges the superiority of its product Rin over P&G's Tide Naturals. This campaign claims that Rin provides more brightness in comparison to Tide Naturals, which is the new product that P&G launched a couple of months ago in the mass segment positioning it against Rin as well as Wheel. Declining market share forced HUL to get aggressive in its advertising strategy to regain market share. But was HUL right in doing so?

HUL claims that the Rin commercial is in line advertising regulations laid by the industry. HUL terms its claim to be factual, accurate and substantiated based on laboratory tests done through globally accepted protocols in independent third party laboratories. ASCI has even issued a notice to HUL to substantiate its claim.

P&G has also moved to High court against the disparaging advertisement of HUL's Rin. Prior to this, HUL had challenged P&G's claim in its advertisment on Tide Natural. On being directed by ASCI, P&G seems to have modified its advertisement.

Following are the statements made by spokespersons from both companies:-

“The Court had asked us to make minor modifications to the Tide Naturals TV commercial for which the modification has been actioned,” said a P&G spokeswoman.

Referring to P&G, an HUL spokesman said: “The advertising of one of our competitors has sought to give the impression that theirs is a natural detergent when, in fact, by their own admission in court, it is a synthetic detergent. This has misled consumers at large.”

The P&G spokesperson denied this charge. “Tide Naturals has the goodness and freshness like that of lemon and sandalwood. This claim does not in anyway lead consumers to believe that any natural ingredients are present in the detergent,” she said.

Doubt that still remain in people's mind is whether HUL was right in bringing the disparaging advertisement that explicitly attacks P&G's Tide. 

As per Nadkarni, founder director of Marketgate Consulting, it is a valid strategy followed by marketers to really compare their product and if one has superiority then it is a question of letting consumers know that you have that product. (excerpt from CNBC-TV18 interview) The only thing is that the claim must be substantiated properly. 

Another thing hovering in a marketer's (or even common men) mind is about the Tide commercial's calling its new product as Tides Natural. People complained that it cannot call itself Natural as it doesnot contain any natural ingredient. But did we ever wonder whether Wheel Lemon and jasmine or wheel lemon and orange has any of these or Pond's sandal talc has sandal wood in it. 

Dust does not seem to be settling soon, with ASCI waiting for HUL's reply to the notice asking for substantiating its claim described in the commercial. While rest of the industry and common men is wondering how would P&G reply to this through its commercials.

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Vivek Bhatia

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