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What message does competition-focused advertising send out to consumers?

If you were a passenger on the London underground in the latter months of 2009, you may have noticed a fairly immodest advertising campaign by high street electricals retailer, Dixons. One ad boldly encourages shoppers to ‘Step into middle England’s best loved department store, stroll through haberdashery to the audiovisual department where an awfully well brought up man will bend over backwards to find the right TV for you’. The font then switches to the brand’s recognisable typeface and adds: ‘Then go to Dixons.co.uk and buy it’.

While certainly providing an amusing read, was this attacking strategy ill-advised? The 2009-2010 sales results indicate that the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. While DSGi International sales were up 3%, the John Lewis Partnership sales rose 6.5%. Taking the upper moral ground, John Lewis reacted to Dixons’ blunt campaign with a series of exquisitely photographed images of their products, placing emphasis on quality and service.

It seems that Dixons perhaps went one step too far in an extreme direction. Their message was fun, but also indirectly highlighted a number of areas where the company falls short on its competitor’s performance. It’s a stark warning that brave as it is, even in the most tongue-in-cheek advertising campaigns, the message is everything.

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