Opinion - The Risk of Featuring Rivals in Ads

Opinion - The Risk of Featuring Rivals in Ads

Posted by Stelios on 5th Feb 2024

Let's talk about something I've noticed lately that's been quite puzzling: major brands featuring their competitors in their advertising campaigns. It's an old tactic rooted deeply in the playful jabs between giants like McDonald's and Burger King or Pepsi and Coca-Cola. It's all fun and games until it's not, right? Recently, this strategy has taken a questionable turn, with brands not just alluding to their rivals but outright showcasing them.

Source & Copyright: Burger King

Take Pepsi's recent stunt, for example. They boldly included a Coca-Cola can in their print ads. Not to be outdone, KFC followed suit, launching ads depicting fast-food aficionados at various eateries - McDonald's included - finger-licking with glee under the slogan "Everything reminds you of KFC." It's a cheeky nod to their iconic "It's finger-lickin' good" tagline, but at what cost?


Historically, ads that playfully poke at competitors can indeed strike gold. Remember Pepsi's clever use of optical illusions or Burger King's highlighting its fresh approach with a 'mouldy Whopper'? These campaigns worked because they kept the spotlight firmly on themselves, not their adversaries.

However, the recent trend of featuring the competitor's product front and centre is muddling the message. Many viewers mistook Pepsi's 'OK' ads for Coca-Cola promotions. The same confusion clouds KFC's latest campaign. At first glance, the focus is on someone enjoying a burger or pizza rather than KFC's message. It's only upon closer inspection that the intended joke clicks.

There's a prevailing theory that such tactics may overlook the very audience they aim to captivate.

"I think the 'punching up' nature of this form of advertising can work, but mentions of the competitor need to be more subtle and not the focus,"

It's about balancing creating captivating, memorable ads and ensuring they communicate who they're for. Remember, your audience won't be dissecting your ad in a boardroom; they'll catch it in passing amid their daily hustle.

Source & Copyright: KFC 

Focusing on competitors can distract from what truly matters: the customer. It might even unintentionally shine a spotlight on your rivals. Furthermore, it risks alienating fans of the brands you target and could attract the wrong demographic if your competitors cater to a different audience. Ultimately, such strategies may erode your brand's uniqueness and remind potential customers about other options.

You're inadvertently nudging your prospects to consider them by mentioning a competitor. It's a risky move that can divert attention from your brand's solutions. In essence, you could be your own biggest adversary in the marketplace.

Source & Copyright: Pepsico 

So, what's your take? Have you encountered ads that made you think more about the competitor than the brand? Do you believe there's a right way to include rivals in your marketing strategy, or is it better to keep the focus inward? Drop your thoughts in the comments below - I'm eager to hear your thoughts.

Main Image Source & Copyright: Pepsi-Pepsico