The Top 10 Most Aggressive (and Often Hilarious) Corporate Ad Wars
By Anthony Shields Nov 29, 2012 3:12 pm
Our favorite heated exchanges between rival companies.
MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL The corporate world is a competitive place where you make plenty of enemies for being good at what you do. When rivalries get heated, sometimes companies forget to focus on business and start making personal attacks on their competitors. Lucky for consumers, watching companies take stabs at each other is usually entertaining -- the best advertising creatives know that humor is a good way into our wallets. The following is a list of the most aggressive and hilarious ad wars in corporate history, because you deserve the last laugh.
For years now, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has stood with no equal as the most used search engine. However, that hasn’t stopped challengers from trying to dethrone it. With its Bing engine, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) tried to find success in the market, but found itself stymied by slow consumer adoption. To appeal to consumers, Microsoft launched a website featuring a double-blind side-by-side comparison of the two engines, reminiscent of Pepsi’s (NYSE:PEP) Pepsi Challenge. “Bing It On,” which weny live in September, allowed people to enter search terms into a bar and compare which results they found most useful. The folks at Bing claimed that people prefer Bing to Google 2 to 1, but it’s hard to verify those statistics. For now, this feud is one-sided as Google has yet to acknowledge the challenge, but it doesn't really have a reason to. People aren’t saying “Bing that” yet.
German luxury car makers Audi (ETR:NSU) and BMW (BIT:BMW) have been rivals for a long time, though they mostly preferred to duke it out on race tracks and auto-awards magazines. This changed in 2009, when in a Los Angeles billboard advertisement for its A4, Audi called out BMW by simply stating the words, “Your move, BMW." BMW quickly responded to the challenge by posting an ad on an adjacent billboard for its M3 with the word, “Checkmate.” Ironically, things didn't end there. Audi would later retaliate with a billboard for its exotic R8 which stated “Your pawn is no match for our king.” However, BMW determined to get the last word, tethered a zeppelin featuring an ad for their F1 sports car to Audi’s R8 billboard declaring “Game over.” Perhaps for good reason, Audi has since reduced the aggression of its advertisements, though BMW has yet to be as gracious. Recently, the company posted a billboard for its cars over an Audi dealership in Hong Kong, letting Audi know that this war is very much still on.
Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) and DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV) are the two biggest providers of satellite TV, so it should be no surprise that they are close rivals. However, some serious animosity started to flare up in the summer of 2009 when Dish started an ad campaign comparing its price and services to those of DirecTV and cable networks. Dish and DirecTV got into some serious lawsuits over Dish Networks' allegations, but when the judge threw their cases out, DirecTV decided to fight fire with fire: It released a series of ads that accused Dish Network of lying and offering an inferior service. The two have since moved away from fighting each other and focused their efforts on combating their common enemy, cable.
This year, the tech world has been abuzz with patent wars, with the battle between Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung (PINK:SSNLF) at the forefront. Samsung lost big to Apple in a number of intellectual property cases, which soured the firms' relationship as partners. Samsung could have taken it in stride, but when its marketing team noticed that Apple’s iPhone 5, released in September, barely improved on previous iPhone models, it decided to take swipes at Apple by comparing the newest Cupertino release to Samsung's Galaxy SIII. Declaring that “The Next Big Thing is Already Here,” Samsung released several print and commercial ads poking fun at Apple’s products and over-dedicated fan base. The ads were a big success and may have played a role in Apple’s recent downturn in stock price and consumer appeal. Despite their renowned wit, Apple’s marketing team has yet to fire back at Samsung, but with the possibility of an Apple Samsung break-up soon, retaliation may be in the works.
When the game-changing iPhone hit the mobile phone industry in 2007, Verizon (NYSE:VZ) was more than a little bitter that AT&T (NYSE:T) had the exclusive honor of carrying it. The company vented its frustration by increasing the aggression of its ads, and claiming that it had much better 3G coverage than its competitor. Most of these ads were just as focused on the iPhone as they were on AT&T. In one Verizon commercial, the iPhone’s popular slogan “There’s an app for that” was modified into “There’s a map for that,” wherein the company described the superiority of its map services. During the 2009 holiday season, Verizon even went so far as to compare AT&T's iPhone to a broken toy. Verizon would eventually secure a deal to get its own iPhone, but both companies are still going at it.
To this day, the video game industry has been largely characterized by its sense of competition and divisiveness, but what’s largely celebrated as its best rivalry was the early 1990s feud between Sega (PINK:SGAMY) and Nintendo (PINK:NTDOY). When Sega beat Nintendo to the punch with its release of its 16-bit console Genesis, the company loudly exclaimed its superiority over the then market-dominating Nintendo Entertainment System with the slogan “Genesis does what Nintendon’t”. The verdict is still out on whether the catchphrase was clever or corny, but when Nintendo released its own 16-bit console the Super Nintendo, Sega abandoned the slogan, instead coining the term “Blast Processing” to highlight its system’s more advanced processor. Although Nintendo would never fire back at its rival, it would eventually win the war, as Sega was forced out of the console market by 2003.
Believe it or not, Burger King’s (NYSE:BKC) first campaign against McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) in 1982, started with a commercial starring the young Sarah Michelle Gellar, claiming that McDonald's gave smaller burgers to kids. McDonald's sued both Gellar and Burger King over the ad, but refused to stoop to the level of making similar ads against Burger King. That didn’t stop the Whopper makers from making more commercials, and if anything their ads have gotten even more aggressive over the years. Despite the onslaught, McDonald's has remained America’s No. 1 fast food restaurant, with Burger King recently sliding into third place behind Wendy’s (NASDAQ:WEN). Really makes you wonder: Who's the king and who's the clown?
The beer industry has a longstanding reputation of having some of the most entertaining commericials on television -- often even better than the shows they're interrupting. With that in mind, it should be no surprise that when two of the industry's biggest companies, the Miller Brewing Company (LON:SAB) and Anheuser Busch (NYSE:BUD), crossed swords over the title of best light beer, the results would be sidesplittingly funny. The two had been taking jabs at each other for years, but things got a little more serious in 2004 when Miller introduced a ref character that gave out penalties for serving up Budweiser’s inferior beer. Bud’s clever marketing team was quick to embrace the premise, creating commercials that explained that the refs were actually hoarding the beer for themselves, and later one that featured a ref tackling a quarterback just to get a Bud Light. Nothing was off limits as the two even managed to cash in on the 2004 election.
Microsoft and Apple have been at each other’s throats for nearly four decades, but for many years Microsoft’s utter domination of the market kept things from getting too ugly. However, in the early 2000s when Apple came roaring back, the company's marketing team made it known that there was no love lost between the two. To great success, Apple launched its widely famous “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” ads in the US and UK, to showcase Apple’s creative functionality and strengths of its software. Unwilling to take this lying down, Microsoft released an ad claiming that Apple was unfairly stereotyping its customers, and later created an ad focused on the steep prices of Apple’s hardware through its “Laptop Hunters” commercials. The two haven’t attacked each other in a little while, but things between them are as tense as ever. As the current market leader with more enemies than it can count, Apple is probably thankful for the slight reprieve.
Pepsi and Coke (NYSE:KO) have been going at it for almost a century, but things didn’t really start getting nasty until Pepsi launched its Pepsi Challenge campaign in 1975. It’s rumored that the allegations of the challenge later inspired Coke to develop the disastrous “New Coke” brand in 1986 to change its image, but quickly changed back after public backlash. This was for the best -- Coke remains one of the world’s most recognized brands, and still stands ahead of Pepsi despite their tireless rivalry. The two have fought in commercials, loyalty programs, and even social media, though the fueding hasn’t soured either company's ethics: In 2006, Pepsi was offered Coke’s secret formula by a group of Coke’s employees but was quick to notify its rival of the attempted trade, proving that there is still honor in war.
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