What comparative ad? When comparison is not so
Posted on October 05, 2016 | By Tarek Chemaly

Comparative advertising is not allowed in Lebanon, which is why there are vague slogans such as "Master ta3mo atyab" (Master tastes better - implicitly "better than competing brand X"). Usually advertisers respect that part of the law, knowing that if one trespasses it, the other brands it represents become an easy target.

So, it is a bit of a gentlemen's agreement between ad agencies - when the law came out Brinol compared to what was obviously Persil in the background and all fury broke loose. Also, there was a Nokia ad which referenced Blackberry by name as well. Yet another example was the Dunkin Donuts ad that compared itself to Starbucks.

                                               

However, these were rare exceptions that is if one does not count Halloween impersonations by Shawarmanji, which dressed itself as the other competitors in town such as Kababji, Crepaway or Roadster Diner. 

                                      

                  

But there are many ways of doing a comparative ad all while remaining within legal confines. The ability of Lebanese brands to skirt the law is limitless. They can infer the competing brand without naming it all while still effectively not breaking the boundaries of the legalities - therefore not trespassing into defamation territory.

All of this is to explain how the Pix ads are directed towards Hall's but are not comparative ads. You see, for 250 Liras you can buy a Pix, whereas Hall's costs double at 500 LBP. Bottom line, you can get two Pix for the price of a Hall's "two is better and more cost-efficient than one" and in a smaller font "others are for 500 LBP".

The competing brand is not mentioned, rather shown in a very diluted way. You'd know what it is without even seeing its logo, but technically, there is no harm done as the logo is not exposed in the ad.

Take this other example, there's Le Charcutier vs Fahed Supermarket. Also legal comparison - no competitor brand naming as per the law, but also comparative. Fahed prides itself for having "crazy Thursday". Drive a bit farther on the highway and we have Le Charcutier shouting "not just for one day, our deals are every day". Note - Thursday is a day. The rest you can deduce for yourself.

What Pix and Le Charcutier did, was a blueprint for Beirut Beer. In a recent TV commercial which spoofs Almaza – the brand dubbed itself as "Lebanon's national beer" - Beirut Beer went and mocked the skiing, beach outings, Baalbeck selfies, and whatever else Almaza portrayed, as the ad nears its ending the main protagonist is shown walking near a man drinking from a beer bottle, which one knows is Almaza but the bottle is too far for the viewers to identify the logo.

As he delivers his words while sitting on a chair, he drinks Beirut Beer instead. Point taken, "real" cool people - those who do not have fake snow to ski on or those who walk around with flags to "prove" they are Lebanese, drink Beirut Beer.

No comparison, but totally comparative all the same

All this is a far cry from the "pixelation" days of advertising. Where an agency would compare this brand of detergent to another and so on. This indeed is a comparative ad, but way too subtle to be classified as such.

Funnily, when Almaza started to go "hip" in its advertising using cool youngsters, VW vans and Instagram hues, and keeping in mind that Almaza signs with "this is our mood, this is us", Lebanese Brew beer, which was a pioneer in that advertising segment, hit back with "this is our mood, not yours".