Nothing compares…or comparing nothing.

I was reading the ads in the tube the other day.

It is Christmas season so lots of ads on gift giving. In front of me was a tube card advertising a kind of personalised greeting card – something you can order online and apparently personalise it with your own message or greetings. The advertiser used a side by side comparison; on the left hand side the visual shows a pretty cute pair of socks with very Christmassy pattern, the headline above reads ‘rubbish present’, on the right hand side the visual shows pretty standard looking design of the so called personalised card and the headline above it reads ‘brilliant card’.

I can’t stop wondering which present I prefer to receive. Just from the two options in front of me, I probably prefer the socks. The pair of socks is nothing spectacular, but with a bit of improvisation, the socks could turn into decorations on Christmas tree? May be?

I can’t imagine why people need to get the greeting cards from the web site these days when anyone can pretty much create their own from their desktop – with just a bit of imagination and adding a personal touch with the help of the countless software available in the market.

The ad is one of those typical ideas that create comparison for no particular reason and worst still, base on no solid ground or competitive advantage. It’s advertising for the sake of advertising. It also leads me to think about the cultural differences in comparative advertising. In Asia, for example, you need to have a solid ground in comparing your superiority over the competitors (or any other product group), otherwise, it is usually considered to be bad taste. Worst still, it could well be illegal. Back in Hong Kong, there was once a well-known brand of biscuits making a light hearted comparison with their products over ‘giving flowers’ as a present during festival, a group of florists complained about the tactics and the ad was banned.

In fact, the appreciation of comparative advertising is culture-bound. It fits better in markets of the configuration individualism-masculinity with weak uncertainty avoidance (such as the United States). It is often not appreciated in most other cultures.

Back to the tube card…the tagline of the ad reads ‘Give a moonpig card and knock their socks off this Christmas.’ Ah – the whole idea was probably derived from the saying ‘knock their socks off’.