Letters, June 1, 2009

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To attack or not, that is the question

RE: "The Gloves Are Off: More Marketers Opt for Attack Ads" (AA, May 25). All of the literature I've read suggests that attack ads are pretty dangerous. One of the major risks you run when you use attack ads is that consumers will remember the comparative claims, but not which brand corresponds to which claim.

This seems to be particularly true with low-involvement products.

I'm going to suggest that any gains these companies are seeing are not so much a result of attack ads as they are the result of a refocused advertising campaign that communicates a clearer message. I'm also going to suggest that brands are best advertised with clear messages that invite consumer involvement rather than all these gimmicky ads that seem to wash through the industry every few years.

Sean Jordan
St. Louis

Having cut my account-management teeth at Bates, I love comparative-brand advertising! Not "ash canning," as the network-TV legals used to say, but meaningful brand claims based on solid research and backed by related written proof -- then creatively translated by sharp copywriters for consumer relevance.

Bottom line to me: The more we see this kind of comparative advertising and legal challenges from competitive brands, the better off consumers (and we) will be.

Time to sharpen our pencils, everyone!

William Crandall
East Rockaway, N.Y.

There is a big difference between attack ads and legitimate, factual, comparative advertising.

My years of experience have convinced me that hostile attacks that point out the potential shortcomings of others are not effective ways to build a brand. Brands that build their franchises on the strengths of their own product or service build sustainable businesses.

Using a competitor as a reference point to showcase real and meaningful differences can sometimes be effective. However, it must be done with caution and with the caveat that it can backfire (and often does).

Hank Wasiak
New York

There definitely is such a thing as overattacking. I really think that Apple is going to get its clock cleaned very soon by all of the PC players that have been quietly sitting by the sidelines.

Kyle David
Allentown, Pa.

What the Dell were they thinking?

RE: "Dell's Della Debacle an Example of Wrong Way to Target Women" (AA, May 25). At best Della would have a hope to connect with the tween market (Delia?). Although I know that even my 12-year-old daughter would not buy into this type of imagery.

It's unbelievable that in a marketing era where the keywords are to "engage, connect, be authentic," a top brand such as Dell would fall back on tacky clich├ęs. It's insulting to women, for sure, but it's deeply embarrassing to Dell.

A little scratching of the surface would have quickly indicated how misguided this effort was. It's ironic. Dell wants to "connect" to this audience but never bothered to find out what it needs. Isn't that marketing 101?

Anne-Marie Kovacs,
Henderson, Nev.

What will Bing bring to market?

RE: "Microsoft Aims Big Guns at Google, Asks Consumers to Rethink Search" (AA, May 25). I don't understand why Microsoft feels the need to throw a bunch of ad dollars in the attempt to bite into competitor market share. Hasn't it learned its lesson with Zune?

Further, if you look at the social web, you'll find that expanding the marketplace increases everyone's share of the pie, including indices that provide quality searches. I don't see a social media outreach or community building strategy in place from JWT.

No one is going to replace Google, and users (particularly influencers and superusers) want the power to choose their experiences.

It'll be very interesting to see what Bing's unique value proposition is, considering that dynamic engines like Wolfram Alpha are making a careful entrance into the search world.

Gunther Sonnenfeld
Los Angeles


In a chart accompanying "Mag, Newspaper Readers Aging at Accelerated Rate," (AA, May 25), a picture of First magazine, rather than First for Women, was used to illustrate the age statistics for First for Women (48.2, up 5.9 years).

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