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Comparative Advertising 101: 10 Tips for Digital Marketers


Companies may want to engage in comparative advertising, claiming that their products and services are better than their competitors based upon price or other measurable characteristics. Digital marketers often reference the names of competitors to gain an SEO advantage and garner clicks or other actions.

However, doing so can make marketers vulnerable to challenges by a competitor.

Here are a couple of examples:

· “X Company's pizza beat Y Company's in a national taste test, 2 to 1.” „

· “Unlike X-brand yogurt, new Y-brand yogurt never contains artificial flavors.”

While the topic of recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulation of rating, review, and placement websites are not the subject of this article, 10 general comparative advertising considerations for digital marketers are covered below.


Tip 1: Be Able to Substantiate Express and Implied Representations

The general golden rule is that — absent an express or implied reference to a certain level of support, and absent other evidence indicating what consumer expectations would be — advertisers must possess a “reasonable basis” for express and implied claims. What constitutes a reasonable basis depends upon a number of factors including, but not limited to, appropriate tests, research, studies, and other relevant evidence.

This is particularly true if an advertisement refers to a specific competitor. Claims should be supported by independent, head-to-head testing in consumer relevant conditions so that product performance is properly measured.

If there is no specific mention of the product being compared, advertisers should generally possess support for the claim with respect to approximately 85 percent of the applicable market.


Tip 2: Tailor Claims to the Underlying Support Before Disseminating Them

Comparative advertising is permissible if representations are truthful and not expressly or impliedly deceptive. Advertisers must be certain to tailor the claims to the underlying support, first, before disseminating them.

For example: If Company A has reliable testing to show that their eye drops ease dryness better than the competition but does not help with redness, the company should only advertise that their eye drops provide better relief from eye dryness but should not make claims that they offer better eye drops, generally. And the evidence that is intended to substantiate such claims must be possessed by the company prior to the dissemination of any express or implied claims.