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Comparative Advertising: Future Indian Perspective


Comparative advertising is a kind of advertising where one get together advertises its goods or services by looking at them with that of its rivals. Generally the competition is the market leader for the reason that product category.

With the market becoming overcrowded with a huge no. of products, all the brands want for ways to attract the customers attention and comparative advertising is one such way they have discovered. Although comparative advertising was began long ago, yet it is merely in past few years that it is becoming popular way of advertising especially in industries like FMCG, cars etc.

Some popular types of comparative advertising include Apple's 'I AM A Laptop or computer' advertising, Pepsi's Blind Style Test action and the recent 'Rin and Tide Naturals' controversy.

This form of advertising is extreme and should differs from parody adverts where a imaginary product is adverts with the aim of poking fun at other adverts.

Types of Comparative advertising

Explicit - In cases like this something is directly compared to its competitor by taking the name of competitor.


The Famous Pepsi vs. Coke ad where Pepsi highlighted its superiority by declaring that a lot of people preferred the style of Pepsi over coke in a blind flavor test.

Implicit - In cases like this the fighting brand is not named explicitly, rather they may be referred to as leading brands.


Pepsodent in one of its advertising said it is 102 % much better than the leading toothpaste, implicitly referring to Colgate.

Advertisements can have two purposes:

To inform the product's advantages and strengths over opponents.

The emphasis is on highlighting comparative great things about own product or services somewhat than exhibiting the flaws of the competition.

Example: When Johnson and Johnson launched Whisper, they directly publicized the new features in whisper that have been not within the then popular brand 'Carefree' without ever naming carefree.

To show superiority of one's product and displaying that the rivals are inferior.

It is this category that the legal issues arise in particular when the statements made are not backed by proper substantiation or evaluation.

Example: Through the recent Rin vs. Tide controversy Rin openly announced that its product offered more whiteness than Tide Naturals.


Comparative advertising is governed by different laws and regulations in several countries. Although it is permissible in India and US provided it uses some recommendations, it is suspended in countries like European countries and Malaysia.

Comparative advertising has to comply with following legal and regulatory provisions within India:


The constitution of India has given certain privileges regarding independence of speech

However, article 19(2) also puts restrictions on the liberty of conversation and expression in the event they cause defamation or incitement for an offence.

The question which develops is that if the adverts as 'commercial talk' can be guarded under freedom of conversation under article 19(1)(a).

The Supreme Courtroom has ruled that 'commercial talk is an integral part of freedom of manifestation assured under article 19(1)(a) of constitution since it creates awareness amongst the general public. Nonetheless it is subjected to article 19(2).

1. 2. 2 Monopoly and Restrictive Trade Methods (MRTP) ACT

The section 36A of MRTP take action lists several procedures as 'Unfair trade routines'. Although this action has been repealed, its provisions continue steadily to stand.

The most significant amongst these practices is

Giving bogus or misleading facts disparaging the products, services or trade of another person.

1. 2. 3 Brand Act

Provisions against comparative advertising are also made in under section 29(8) and 30(1) of Hallmark work, 1999.

Section 28(a) says an advertisement infringes after trademark when it takes unfair gain or is resistant to the reputation of brand.

However, section 30(1) says a registered trademark can be used for identification goal if it neither can take unfair benefits nor will it really detriment repute of the brand.

1. 2. 4 Advertising Expectations Council of India (ASCI) Guidelines

ASCI is a voluntary regulatory body of the advertising world which provides guidelines for moral advertising and handles complaints against fake misleading adverts.

The ASCI code of India says that Comparative advertising is allowed if

Advertisements are substantial and predicated on facts

Advertisements do not mislead consumers.

There should not be any unfair disparaging of rivalling product

Legal Situations of 'Disparagement' in India

The following situations illustrate the decisions considered by Indian courts in case of comparative advertising.

1. 3. 1 Cherry Blossom vs. Kiwi

Kiwi liquid polish polish in another of its advertisements revealed that as the water from its container had not been dripping, the liquid from another container 'X' was dripping. The form of this bottle 'X' was much like Cherry Blossom- Kiwi's competition- that they had design sign up also. The advertisement thus became a case of disparagement since maybe it's recognized with 'Cherry Blossom'.

1. 3. 2 Ujala vs. Regaul case

Ujala in another of its advertisements founded its superiority by exhibiting that although it required only 4 drops, the other brands required several spoons. The girl in the advertising campaign looked down at the bottle of the other brand and said 'Chi chi chi'in disgust.

Later the rivalling brand Regaul submitted an instance of disparagement in court docket.

The court docket ruled the verdict in favor of Ujala proclaiming that because the bottle of the other brand in the advertisement did not bring any label nor achieved it have resemblance to the container of every other brand, so it was not a case of disparagement.

The judgment mentioned that a circumstance of disparagement can be registered in case of comparative advertising if the other product shown is of an 'identifiable' producer.

1. 3. 3 Colgate vs. Pepsodent

Colgate filed a case against Hindustan Unilever Limited' when the latter publicized that its product new Pepsodent was '102 % much better than the leading Toothpaste'. Since in those days the market show of Colgate was 59 % and that of Pepsodent was 27%, Colgate was automatically assumed to be the leading toothpaste.

The judge ruled in favor of Colgate stating that since Colgate had been the leader in oral good care portion for so a long time the term toothpaste had become synonymous using its name.

The court ruled that the other product in the advertisements was identifiable with 'Colgate'; a case could be made of the disparagement of Colgate products.

From all these examples it can be figured if in comparative advertising the other brand is identifiable and it is described as inferior without substantial evidence then it becomes a circumstance of disparagement of that product.


Since Comparative advertising faces so many legal and regulatory bindings, the question which arises is that why accomplish that many brands use comparative advertising for promotion. This is comprehended better by evaluating advantages and drawbacks of comparative advertising.

1. 4. 1 Pros

Firstly, the largest benefit of comparative advertising because of which it is allowed by law is that it helps customers by keeping them enlightened about a product. It really is an important source of information for customers and helps them in logical decision making.

Also, Comparative advertising can be an good way to differentiate ones brand from others in an extremely competitive market. Comparative advertising really helps to highlight the USP's of your product which might not be within your competitors.

It works extremely well in the event the advertising brand is less known.

For example when Captain Make meals got into the Indian market it outlined its product superiority over Tata sodium (the largest sodium brand in India) by highlighting that it was a free of charge flowing salt.

Also, when Samsung entered India its punch lines said: 'If you aren't interested in purchasing the world's best Tv set, you can always but a Sony, Philips or Panasonic'. Since the rest of the three brands are extremely popular in India, it created enough fascination with Samsung.

It has been clinically proven that comparative adverts have higher recall as compared to non comparative advertisements

1. 4. 2 Disadvantages and Risk

The following are the disadvantages and dangers of comparative advertising-

Many times undiscovered or little known brands may make use of it by piggy riding on the brand name of the bigger competitor and may gain unfair edge.

The facts displayed in the advert may well not be true, but till it is proven the advertising company could have received sufficient publicity.

This is dependant on the belief that no promotion is bad promotion.

Also, when two brands advertise against one another, it increases the consumer's misunderstanding and the consumers lose trust in such brands.

For example, during the recent comparative advertising between Horlicks and Complain, both stated that their product is superior. Finally, it was the consumers who began doubting the truth behind the statements made by such advertisements.

Many a times it could be used for disparaging the competitor's product and good name.


Finally, even if the comparative advertising is based in test results, the methodology found in such advertising may be doubtful. This is the primary reason why indie labs are preferred for comparative advertising today.

In case of direct comparisons it often becomes puzzling to comprehend which brand is sponsoring the advert. This happens mainly in case of Radio and Tv being used as a medium to promote and less in case there is using print multimedia.

In case the claim cannot be substantiated, the competition can retaliate with lawsuit.

Recent Tends in Comparative Advertising in India:

Comparative Advertising has been practiced in India since a long time. However more recently the trend has started moving towards direct comparative advertising.

Direct comparative advertising is the most aggressive form of comparative advertising which is also the form where disparaging is most common. Three well known cases of comparative advertising are examined below

Santro vs. Indica and Icon

Sector - Automobiles

Perhaps this is one of the first high profile immediate advertising circumstance in India when Hyundai Santro compared itself to Ford's Icon and Tata's Indica in terms of design, features and technology and released the results on the net media.

Through these adverts Santro conveyed its intrinsic superiority over its competition Also, it benefited consumers as they surely got to know the advantages and disadvantages of each of the car that could help them in taking their own decision regarding car purchase.

Later anticipated to MRTPC rules Hyundai India soon scrapped these adverts.

Also, it is interesting to note that Saatchi and Saatchi, the advertising agency of Hyundai India in those days surrendered their Hyundai Account citing the use of comparative advertising by Hyundai as the reason why.

Complan vs. Horlicks

Sector - Health Drinks

On Indian tv the first high profile case of immediate comparative advertising was between GSK's Horlicks and Heinz India's Complan.

Both the companies ran direct comparative advertising against one another, each claiming that it's better than the other.

Years earlier, Complan acquired indirectly targeted Horlicks by boasting in its 'I am a Complan Guy' advertising campaign that complain was better than another Brand 'H'. However, now the evaluations between two have become more intense and blatant.

Horlicks in one such advert attacked Complan declaring that while Complan makes a child taller, Horlicks makes him 'Taller, sharper and smarter '.

Horlicks further mocked complain saying that while Complan costed Rs 170, Horlicks was coming in at just Rs 132 i. e. Horlicks is cheaper than Complan. Heinz later sued GSK and the advertisement was removed air.

In case of Horlicks and Complan, the former is the market leader with 60 percent60 % market show while last mentioned has just 15 % of the market share.

However, later Complan also arrived with print adverts where Complan was compared to Horlicks on variables like Main ingredients, Protein content, Protein quality, quantity of nutrients etc.

Needless to state, with each one of these advertisements, each demonstrating a different end result, the consumers became very baffled and irritated. Hence, later both the companies quit such adverts.

Rin vs. Tide Naturals

Sector - Detergents

Rin and Tide will be the most recent example of direct comparative advertising. On Feb 28, Rin openly launched an harm against Tide saying that it provided superior whiteness when compared with Tide. Also, HUL played safe with this advertisement by putting a disclaimer in its advert saying, "Schematic representation of superior whiteness is based on Whiteness Index test of Rin Vs Tide Naturals as tested by Independent lab". I thus complied with the ASCI recommendations in this advertising campaign.

P&G later registered a case against HUL in Kolkata and received an interim injunction for the advert. HUL on the other hand stated that it was Tide which had been misleading customers by professing that its product Tide Naturals had 100 % natural ingredients whereas by P&G's own entrance Tide Naturals was a fabricated detergent. An instance had been filed by HUL against P&G in the Madras high judge before HUL released this controversial advertisements. The Madras court ruled and only HUL and aimed P&G to remove the advertising campaign and change its packaging.

Even the Horlicks and Complan strike was not as blatant and direct as Rin and Tide as Horlicks just exhibited Complan but never got its name. Alternatively, Rin directly said that 'Tide se kahin zyada behtar safedi de Rin'.

At present ASCI has asked HUL to substantiate its claim that it was better than Tide. However, HUL till then acquired done the injuries. Its success can be judged from the actual fact that the tv screen Score Points-(TRP) which this Rin advertising campaign received within 3 days and nights was comparable to its other advertising TRP of a whole month.


Since Rin vs. Tide Naturals is the first extremely blatant and competitive form of direct advertising in India, this case has been used to comprehend the consumer's understanding about comparative advertising in India.


The main objectives of this research are:

To know why Hindustan Uniliver limited launch this ad.

How this will impact tide's sales.

What will be future of advertisement world.


To attain the above research goals we completed an exploratory analysis and accumulated data from Primary Sources.


2. 3. 1 Key DATA:

Primary data is collected by first hands information from the survey conducted by having a smartly designed questionnaire (given in Attachment A) which aimed at offering people's view foe this ad, that whether Rin has been right in launching this immediate comparative advert.


Research results of principal data, in which a study has been conducted by organizing a questionnaire:




Which detergent do you really normally use

Which factor is most important while purchasing a detergent?

Are you aware of recent RIN & TIDE controversy?

Which one do you think is better out of Rin shakti & tide naturals?

Do you think Rin Shakti is reasonable in looking at with tide naturals openly?

Do you think it will have an impact on the sales of tide?

Do you think such kind of advertisements can change consumer belief about product?

What do you consider such kind of advertisement should be inspired?

Do you feel this advertisement changes the situation of advertisements world?


Though India has been subjected to comparative advertising for a long period, it is only in the recent years that India has experienced the new style of immediate comparative advertising. The Indian laws and regulations have made provision for comparative advertising so long as they don't really mislead the consumer and disparage the competitor brand.

Since Rin vs. Tide is the first absolutely direct comparative advertisements its legal implications and impact on consumers is yet to be observed.

However the following details can help concluded about direct comparative ad in India

ASCI, which is the primary regulator of the advertising in India is a non administration body. Thus it can only just create mental pressure on companies, since its decisions aren't legitimately binding. If direct comparative advertising was to become simple fact, India would require much stronger laws to prevent disparagement of challenged brands.

The benefits of such advertising are yet to be observed. Again, the challenging brand should be prepared to face retaliation from the challenged brand. When this happens the consumers are caught between your wars of two brands which in the end leave them confused. This is not and only both the fighting brands.

Such advertisements shouldn't be launched by market leaders. They must be launched by followers. For market market leaders the better strategy would be to stay quiet rather than retaliate through any advert. Knowing the mental and sensitive mother nature of Indian audience it is very likely that the challenged brand would obtain open public sympathy. Also, the fans benefit from these advertisements particularly when they are less known brands since it brings those to limelight.

The decision of Rin - Tide circumstance would be major deciding factor about the continuing future of direct comparative advertising in India. If your choice goes in favour of Rin then all the major brands like Coke and Pepsi, Colgate and Pepsodent etc. can also follow Rin's strategy. International brands like Coke and Pepsi have been openly pursuing comparative advertisement in US, so they can also do the same in India.

In case way too many brands start going for comparative advertising, then your impact of the advertisements after consumers gets diluted.

Finally, even direct comparative advertising (if done properly) may well not be deceptive and unethical. The challenging brand should give attention to highlighting its product superiority without disparaging the rivalling brand.

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