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8 Ad Taglines that Sneakily Ding the Competition

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Companies naturally want to convince people that their products are better than the competition, but when it comes to advertisements, making direct comparisons between competing products can be tricky. Ad campaigns must step lightly around potential issues with the verifiability of claims, liability, and trademark laws. For example, while it’s OK to say your product is the “best,” it’s not OK to say it’s “better” than a specific competitor unless you have clear evidence on exactly what makes it better. Attempts to play on trademarked phrases can also backfire. McDonald’s once sued Burger King over an ad for the Whopper that read “It’s not just Big, Mac” and won by showing that some people were confused by the ad into thinking that they could get a Big Mac at Burger King. To get in a good jab at the competition, you’ve got to be indirect, but not so indirect that your audience won’t pick up on it at all. Here are eight ad taglines that found a way to sneakily ding the competition

1. Sweet’N Low: "For millions of people, there’s just no equal"

When artificial sweetener rival Equal came along, Sweet’N Low started using this subtle dig in their commercials. When Splenda entered the market and started gunning for the number 1 spot, they dropped it in favor of a tagline from the pre-Equal days, “Wherever you go, Sweet’N Low.”

2. DHL: "Yellow. It’s the new brown."

Ashby Parsons

No need to mention UPS directly. DHL is merely talking about the benefits of its vibrant banana color scheme and how much better it is than that muddier, blander other one. Right?

3. Dunkin’ Donuts: "Delicious lattes from Dunkin' Donuts. You order them in English."

Why wouldn’t you order them in English? That would be crazy. But according to this commercial, there do exist some places that do make you order your coffee in a bizarre, made-up language. Wonder who they could be talking about? (Side note: I guess this commercial marks the moment when “latte” acquired full English-word status.)

4. Virgin Atlantic: "Keep Discovering – Until You Find the Best."

When Virgin Atlantic started service from London to Dubai they advertised it with the slogan “Keep Discovering – Until You Find the Best.” That’s not sneaky at all—until you realize that “Keep Discovering” is the slogan for Emirates Airlines.

5. Samsung: "It doesn’t take a genius."

CNET

Samsung chose the indirect way to claim the Galaxy phone was better than an iPhone by turning Apple’s Genius Bar concept around on them.

6. Verizon: "There’s a map for that."

Verizon also took a swing at Apple, who has a trademark on “there’s an app for that,” back in the days when you could only get iPhone service through AT&T. In this commercial they tout the superior broad coverage of their network with a twist on one of Apple’s taglines.

7. Audi vs. BMW: "Your move/Checkmate/Your pawn is no match for our king/Game over."

When you do decide to take on your competitors by name, you’d better be ready to keep upping your game. When Audi erected a billboard in L.A. with the cheeky tagline “Your move, BMW,” BMW responded with a confident “Checkmate” on its own billboard. Not ready to give up yet, Audi replied with “Your pawn is no match for our king” over a picture of their most exotic model. BMW’s response was to attach a zeppelin to the billboard on which was printed a photo of one of their Formula 1 racecars and the words “Game Over,” which pretty much put the matter to bed, without them ever deigning to print the word “Audi.”

8. Nintendo: "Why did the hedgehog cross the road? To get to Super Mario Land 2."

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In the '90s ad battle between game companies Sega and Nintendo, Sega used the more aggressive approach, calling out its competitor by name with the inelegant “Genesis does what Nintendon’t.” Nintendo used the subtle approach here, not mentioning its competitor’s name or even the name of its game character (just a generic hedgehog…), but still getting the message across.

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Design
This Amazing Clock Has a Different Hand for Every Minute of the Day
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In the video below, you can watch Japanese ad agency Dentsu transform passing time into art. According to Adweek, the project was commissioned by Japanese stationery brand Hitotoki, which produces crafting materials. To celebrate the value of handmade items in an increasingly fast-paced world, Dentsu created a film advertisement for their client depicting their goods as a stop-motion clock.

The timepiece ticks off all 1440 minutes in the day, and was assembled in real-time against a colored backdrop during a single 24-hour take. Its "hands" were crafted from different combinations of some 30,000 disparate small items, including confetti, cream puffs, tiny toys, silk leaves, and sunglasses.

"In a world where everything is so hectic and efficient, we wanted to bring the value of 'handmade' to life," explains Dentsu art director Ryosuke Miyashita in a press statement quoted by Stash Media. "We created different combinations of small Hitotoki brand items to express each and every minute."

You can check out a promotional video for the project below, which details the arduous crafting process, or view a real-time version of the clock here.

[h/t Adweek]

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History
The Time Walter Cronkite Angered R.J. Reynolds
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If you’re a stickler for the correct usage of “who” versus “whom,” or if you find yourself seething over the “10 Items or Less” sign at the grocery store, you have something in common with Walter Cronkite.

As a respected journalist and news anchor, Cronkite was very careful about his words, from his enunciation of them to the tone in which he said them—so you can imagine his indignation at being asked to deliver a line with purposely incorrect grammar.

In 1954, shortly after being named the host of a morning show on CBS, Cronkite was tasked with a live-read of a Winston cigarette ad. Though it’s hard to imagine Anderson Cooper or Lester Holt concluding a segment with an earnest plug for Budweiser or McDonald’s, anchor-read endorsements were commonplace in the 1950s. Cronkite had a problem with the commercial, but it wasn’t the product he took umbrage with—it was the tagline: “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.”

Though it may sound fine to most ears, the word “like” is actually used inappropriately. Traditionally, “like” is used as a preposition and “as” is used as a conjunction, but the Winston ad treats “like” as a conjunction, or a connecting word.

Here’s the line in action. Just a warning: If you’re a grammar purist, the phrase “tastes real good” is also sure to raise your hackles.

Cronkite refused to say the line as it was written. Instead, he delivered it the correct way: “Winston tastes good as a cigarette should.” His former English teachers may have been beaming at their television sets, but the execs at R.J. Reynolds, Winston’s parent company, weren’t so happy, and neither was their ad agency. The agency pounced on Cronkite’s correction, but he remained unapologetic. “I can’t do an ungrammatical thing like that,” he told them.

Wording wasn’t the only problem—his smoking, or lack thereof, was also an issue. Cronkite wasn’t a cigarette smoker, but after delivering the offending line to the cameras, he was supposed to take a puff from a Winston. Though he obliged, he didn’t inhale. The agency reprimanded Cronkite for that as well, feeling that a spokesperson who clearly didn’t use the product couldn't convince viewers to pick up a pack. They asked Cronkite to inhale on camera—and that’s where he drew the line. “Let’s just call this thing off,” he says he told them. “CBS was up in the rafters, of course, about it at the time.” It was Cronkite's first and only commercial.

Here’s the story straight from the anchor himself:

For the record, Cronkite wasn’t the only high-profile person who had a problem with the Winston wording. “Like goes Madison Avenue, like so goes the nation,” Ogden Nash wrote in The New Yorker.

Years later, Winston tried to capitalize on the controversy with a commercial that depicted a professor lecturing his students about the sloppily worded slogan. The students doth protest, jumping up in unison and saying, “What do you want, good grammar or good taste?”

Unimpressed, The Wall Street Journal responded to the question in a 1970 op-ed: “It doesn’t matter which you want. In a Winston ad, you don’t get either.”

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