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Time for the good stuff

I'm seeing more articles citing the increase in competitive advertising. The basic storyline goes something like this: the economy stinks, marketers need to be more effective, so they're dialing up more head-to-head competitive advertising.

One Interpublic executive was quoted in yesterday's WSJ saying, "Ads have to get competitive in bad times. It's a dog fight. It's about getting leaner and meaner."

Really? Was he knowingly serving up the ineffective stuff during the good times? I doubt it. When was the last time you heard a marketer or agency exec say, "Hey, let's hold that really effective idea until we need to sell something."

To be sure, competitive advertising has its role in the mix. It's a way to clearly convey a brand's advantages. It's particularly effective on-line and at point-of-sale. But if a brand adopts this as its sole message it runs the risk of becoming the grumpy McCain to the category leader's more inspiring Obama.