Times are tough for all mass media right now. And there’s a bloody fight for advertising and sponsorship revenue. A really bloody fight.
Well, I have an idea for them on how to increase the size of the advertising pie. Take a bit of the heat off.
Quite simply, it is comparative advertising.
In short, if comparative advertising was allowed in this country, far more advertisers would spend far more money giving consumers real choices.
Only this week Cell C bemoaned the fact that it cannot compare its tariffs directly with Vodacom, M-Net and Virgin Mobile.
And the reason it cannot do so has nothing to do with any advertising regulations but everything to do with trademark laws that forbids the naming of competing brands in advertising.
So, why should the media get involved in trying to unblock things?
Well for a start, there is a lot of money in it for them and secondly because no one else will do it.
For decades now South African consumers have been denied choice simply because no one has had the inclination to lobby for a change in trademark legislation.
Frankly, our consumer bodies are all pretty much fast asleep or have been hoodwinked into believing that comparative advertising will be destructive, unfair to smaller brands and so forth.
All of which is rubbish. The law of the land is there to protect everyone against misleading claims. And in spite of all the huffing and puffing from the anti-comparative ad lobby, when it comes down to the nitty gritty it promotes healthy competition and obviates the situation now where consumers just have to take an advertiser’s word for it that their product is the “best”.
So, with the consumer bodies unable or unwilling to do anything about it, that leaves business.
Well frankly, that’s the problem. Right now it suits the majority of advertisers to let sleeping dogs lie. They really don’t want anyone making comparisons because that would mean having to start providing value to customers instead of just creating the perception that they are getting value and good service.
Don’t expect politicians to get involved either, because in spite of the fact that lobbying for comparative advertising would earn them votes, the business lobby will be down their necks in a heartbeat. Besides, they have far too many other crises occupying their minds.
So, it falls upon the media to start some serious lobby action to get the laws changed.
I do not believe it will be easy and it will get a lot of resistance along the way.
But the rewards will be great. For a start Cell C would most certainly increase its current advertising budget, of that I am sure.
In tough times, when the rats, mice, lions and elephants are all scrapping for pieces of the advertising pie, those who rely on ad revenue for their very existence should start thinking out of the box.
And getting the comparative advertising laws changed would be the perfect example.
I reckon that the advertising industry could also use the increased ad spend that would come from this, but I am hesitant to suggest that they do something about it because over the past 40 years I have yet to see the ad industry get off its self-absorbed arse for anything.
Follow Chris on Twitter @chrismoerdyk
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