POV: Do brands over-react when others spoof their ad campaigns?

By Shibani Gharat , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | September 23, 2011
Being spoofed brings out the worst in brands sometimes. Should the 'spoofed' brand react at all?

Vibha Desai
Independent consultant

When a child taunts another child, you don't expect an adult response. It is like a tantrum or a jibe, and if you do respond, you become a child yourself. Once in a while, when you respond in a 'fun' way, everybody can win. But, when it is not done in the right spirit, it becomes a bitter name-calling match, and difficult to watch.

A recent example was the McDowell's ad, a take-off on Royal Stag. The personal attack on Harbhajan Singh was in poor taste. It also seemed to be self-defeating as it comes from a brand that is deeply involved with cricket.

On the other hand, we had a hoarding response to Jet Airways, done with class. The hoarding said 'we've changed', and Kingfisher put a hoarding on top saying 'we made them change'. Brands need maturity and their response must not be led by immediate provocation.

Jitender Dabas
Senior vice-president and head, planning, McCann Erickson

A spoof to my mind is one of the ways to get into a conversation. And, reacting to that spoof is also another way to get into the consumers' conversation.

As human beings, we always enjoy a fight, a conflict, especially when it's guilt-free. And, if that is between two famous people -- or brands -- it is even more enjoyable and talkworthy (or in a connected world: 'postworthy'). Therefore, if, by reacting to a spoof, a brand benefits, then why not?

Both brands benefit as far as the share of conversations goes. My advice to marketers: if you have made an excellent spot and somebody spoofs it, over-react and attract attention. More people will go see your ad. But, if you have made a bad ad and the spoof is better, let it pass.

In cases where a brand is a challenger (like Virgin, Sprite or Pepsi), spoofing adds to the brand story. It is not necessarily a waste of money.

Anup Chitnis
Executive creative director, Ogilvy India

Can somebody tell me why a brand like McDowell's would like to spoof some ad of Royal Stag? On top of that, a guy like Dhoni agreed to do the spoof (this is bizarre). And, the only thing you remember from the McDowell's ad is the Royal Stag baseline (how ridiculous).

The moral of this story is that the brand that spoofs gives the other free publicity. Royal Stag should be paying them instead of taking an aggressive stand. The best take that I remember is when Coke called itself the official drink and Pepsi came in with the 'Nothing official about it' campaign.

It left Coke speechless. It was all done in such a clever way, without ridiculing the other brand.

If somebody spoofs well, appreciate it. If it is not done well, it's not worth replying to.

Anand Ramadurai
Head, marketing, MIRC Electronics

A spoof should be taken in the right spirit. If someone has ever bothered to make a spoof on your campaign, or even a single ad, then your ad must be really noteworthy. It should be taken as a compliment.

Unless someone is deliberately trying to mar my brand, I will not react to a spoof. This happened very prominently in the Tide vs Rin controversy. Rin aimed at tarnishing Tide's image without typically airbrushing or pixellating their rival brand's name in a TV commercial.

But, there have been some noteworthy spoofs like Pepsi's 'Nothing Official About it' campaign. I would also like to mention Dove's hoardings that spoilt the elaborately laid out plans of 'A Mystery Shampoo' campaign by Pantene. I will give due credit to the marketing intelligence behind these brands to come up with something so quick, and yet so smart.

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