Pizza Hut has gained a court finding that Papa John's claim of "Better ingredients, better pizza" is deceptive advertising rather than puffery ("Jury finds Papa John's ads misled," AA, Nov. 22). And, regarding Papa John's countersuit, [the ruling was] that Pizza Hut spoke equally falsely with its own claim of "best."
The findings are consistent with arguments I have made recently in the Journal of Law & Commerce that the Federal Trade Commission is wrong in stating that puffery is always meaningless to consumers.
While the commission's conclusion is grounded in strictly legal and non-observational decisions by judges in ancient case precedents (the first was 155 years ago), the Pizza Hut case has done so on the basis of the findings of a jury: that is, a panel of citizens who, in addition to being jurymen, are also, and foremostly in their lives, consumers!
Concededly, the case could turn back the other way in its coming phases, dominated by the trial judge, and, eventually, appellate judges. Nonetheless, it remains wrong to decide the facts of consumers' perceptions by any means other than by examining-aha!-consumers' perceptions.
Ivan L. Preston
University of Wisconsin
Mona Lisa's smile
In February 1999, the agency Idea Company (Slovenia) composed a campaign for Daewoo Nubira . . . and the main visual actor was the Mona Lisa with an added grin, showing her teeth. The print ad with Mona Lisa entered this year's Cannes Lions competition along with our Internet site, which was also one of the finalists.
A few weeks ago we opened Advertising Age and stared in disbelief: The New York agency Merkley Newman Harty created a USA Mercedes campaign with a surprisingly similar visual identity ("Mercedes bulks up ad $ with new dealer funds," AA, Sept. 13). Its TV ad with smiling Mona Lisa was "the laugh of the week" at our agency, making us feel almost proud to have come across the same idea that works for prestigious cars in the U.S.
We know that similar ideas are not really hard to come by, and many have "borrowed" Gioconda's image and used it for some other purpose. On the other hand, we would not like to be accused of plagiarism of any kind. We are confident that Merkley never really saw our ad when it made its own, but because we are a smaller agency, a finger could very well (and easily) point at us.
We would hardly notice if Merkley used this idea for a totally different product, but since one car ad looks like another car ad (luckily on the other side of the globe), we find it interesting and noteworthy. It's more proof that good ideas work for anything and everything. Anywhere.
The campus turf battle
I vote for the marketing schools. While I agree with many of Robert S. Marker's points ("Campus turf battles hamper ad students," Viewpoint, Forum, AA, Nov. 1), I have personal boardroom and classroom experience to guide my vote. I believe marketing communications is now two-thirds marketing and business and one-third "creativity."
At Johnson & Wales University, the School of Creative Marketing is part of the College of Business. We are doing just what Mr. Marker advocates: integrating marketing with communications/creativity. A new bachelors degree program in marketing communications is being developed. Every teacher is a business-savvy professional.
You may look for the next "turf battle" to occur with the technology schools because that is where the action will be in the next century.
School of Creative Marketing
Johnson & Wales University
*In "HP unifies branding with $200 mil push" (Nov. 22, P. 18), a reference to "Other executions feature children . . ." refers to forthcoming ads but not to an idea video shown at Comdex Nov. 15.
*In "Reproducing the Bernbachian culture and environment" ("The First 50 years of DDB," Nov. 15, P. C20), the name of DM9 DDB Brazil President Nizan Guanaes was misspelled. In "Stepping up the emphasis on global integration" (P. C24), the name of DDB Managing Director of Worldwide Accounts Michael Bray was misspelled.