Parle Agro has won an injunction against the recent print advertisement of Godrej's Xs brand, comparing the two brands on the mango content. The effect is that Godrej has to pull back all its comparative advertising across all media immediately.
agencyfaqs! readers may recall the story we ran last week 'Xs and Frooti lock horns; mango drinks war may end up in the courts', where we informed that Parle Agro (owners of Frooti) was mulling legal action against Godrej Industries. The bone of contention: the recently released Xs ad that claimed Xs contains 50 per cent more fruit pulp than Frooti.
As it turns out, following the report, Parle Agro actually slapped a case against Godrej Industries at the Delhi High Court on grounds of "misleading the consumers by disparaging Parle Agro's product". In a note to agencyfaqs!, Parle Agro said, "In an action moved by Parle … the Delhi High Court (Hon'ble Mr. Justice D.K. Jain) today (April 30) restrained Godrej Industries Limited and anyone acting under them, from displaying in any manner any advertisement bearing reference to the products of Parle."
It seems the advocates for Parle impressed upon the court that the advertisement was misleading "since it sought to compare two incomparables". While Xs is a mango nectar, Frooti is a ready-to-serve beverage, which falls under a different classification altogether under the Fruits Product Order 1955. "As such the advertisement was misleading and intended to harm the reputation and goodwill of Parle and its products," pointed out an executive speaking on behalf of Godrej. Following this, "the Court … issued an ad-interim injunction as prayed for by Parle."
To get Godrej's perspective, agencyfaqs! got in touch with M Y Verma, executive vice-president, sales & marketing, Godrej Industries Foods Division (GIFD), at his residence. His initial reaction was one of surprise. "I do not know what has been happening." It seems he is on leave from work. However, he mentioned that he would be able to give GIFD's official statement on this once he is able to touch base with the company's legal counsel. And that cannot happen before May 2 because May 1 happens to be Maharashtra Day and most of the Government offices in the state are closed.
Simultaneously, there was action on the floors of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) as well. It seems a licensee of Parle Agro along with a consumer moved the Commission "to restrain Godrej Industries from displaying the advertisement in any form of media disparaging the products of Parle".
Interestingly, sources at Parle Agro inform Godrej officials pleaded "no contest" and stated that they have decided to withdraw the print advertisement and pull down all hoardings in Mumbai with immediate effect.
This episode is reminiscent of another legal battle fought in the late nineties between Parle Agro and Godrej Industries at the Metropolitan Magistrates Court in Mumbai. Parle Agro had slapped a criminal case against Godrej Industries because Godrej had launched its fruit drink, Jumpin, in a green-orange pack very similar to that of Frooti. However, in this case, Godrej lost the case and relaunched Jumpin in a different pack - displaying the colours yellow with elements of red and mango.
Commenting on the course of events, an industry observer said, never has any advertisement been so 'brazen' in its claims. "Yes, there are many instances of innuendoes in comparative advertising, where probably the product is shown but the brand name or logo is masked. In this case, the comparison is absolutely unfair. First, the comparison is between a 200-ml pack of Frooti with a 250-ml pack of Xs. Why did Godrej not use a 200-ml pack of Jumpin instead? And second, Frooti and Xs fall under two different classifications. While Frooti is a ready-to-serve beverage, Xs is a mango nectar. It would have made some sense if they were to compare Jumpin with Frooti. At least they belong to the same category."
Whatever be the final outcome of this incident, the whole episode raises some unsettling questions. The most important being: To what extent is comparative advertising justified?
Opines Sanjay Nayak, senior vice-president & general manager, McCann-Erickson India, "Comparative advertising is not an issue as long as it is backed with facts and not designed to mislead the consumer. The other issue is that the company should think a lot before spending money on media because you end up generating a lot of recall for the competitive brand as well."
And if that means having to recall your advertisement in the end, there's hardly any point in spending so much money on the exercise in the first place. Â© 2002 agencyfaqs!First Published : May 02, 2002