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The Effectiveness of Comparative Versus Non-Comparative Advertising: Do “Strictly” Comparative Ads Hurt Credibility of Non-Professional Service Brands?

A September 2015 Journal of Advertising Research article by Fred Beard, University of Oklahoma, investigated the effectiveness of comparative advertising for a prominent service brand. Chevy’s certified service for automobile maintenance was compared with Ford’s certified service.

Results from this study included:

-The potential for negative outcomes is a strong possibility when prominent non-professional service brands identify one other by name in their campaigns.

-Services advertisers who use strictly comparative advertising are justified in doing so if their target audiences are mainly younger consumers and if claims of believability are not crucial for advertising effectiveness.

-If message or claim believability is critical, non-comparative advertising likely will be more effective than comparative advertising, regardless of target audience age.

The author presented the following guideline for marketers:

Prominent brand advertisers should be wary about using strictly comparative advertising, even that which could be considered low in negativity, and especially if older consumers are the target audience. The possibility that services consumers follow a fourth hierarchy-of-effects process—feel–do–learn—further suggests how serious negative affective and conative consumer responses might be for services advertisers especially.

The author notes that the results of the study were limited to comparative advertising in print media.

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