November 22, 2023
    6 min read

    Advertising Wars and Why They Work (With Examples)

    Ever since the dawn of time, advertising has been a key element of every single business. Even the best product in the market will fail if it remains unknown. And even if they know that it exists, they must also know why they should buy it themselves. Just from this, we can conclude that advertising is a crucial pillar for a brand.

    If we take this topic a step further we see that there is no industry or market out there, which only has one brand on its table. There is always competition, there is always a counterpart to something, and every single brand from the smallest to the biggest ones has one or multiple brands in the same niche that competes with them. 

    And with that, we arrive at ad wars, where competing brands take it to the next level and not just advertise their products, but draw direct distinctions between them and their rival brands for their own benefit.

    What are the key elements of an Ad War Campaign?

    First of all, as mentioned above, the main goal of one of these campaigns is to directly compare your product with your biggest rival and show why your product is superior to the other.

    Most of these comparisons refer to the quality and benefits of the product, either showing a feature that one product has, while the other one doesn’t, or why your product does the same thing better than the rival product.

    So establishing superiority is the foundation of one of these ads, but it is worth nothing unless it is memorable. Brands often employ humor and wit in their campaigns, a strategy that has proven to be highly effective.

    Do you remember the savage Pepsi ad, where a kid bought 2 cans of Coca-Cola from the vending machine, so he could stand on them to reach the Pepsi button? If you have seen it before, you most likely remember it vividly.

    This ad, dating back to 2001, remains memorable more than two decades later, continuing to bring laughter. Humor, as one of the most positive emotions, is an excellent tool for creating lasting and positively memorable impressions.

    There are also other purposes of these Ad Campaigns

    Usually, brand owners don’t just wake up one day and think “Maybe I should launch one of these massive ad wars”. Maybe they do, but that’s not for us to decide. Anyway, these Ad Campaigns consume a lot of resources and also generate massive traction and return on investment. 

    For that reason, these are often scheduled around product launches or another massive milestone of a brand, to maximize the output of one of these events.

    How to popularize a product through an Ad War

    These ad campaigns are not only useful to boost the reputation and the traction of your brand but to also kickstart the launch of a product. Apple Macs became really popular in the early 2000s, however, PCs still made up the majority of that market.

    For that reason, Apple launched an Ad Campaign called Get A Mac that ran between 2006 and 2009 to let people know that PCs are the past and Macs are the future. 

    Just with the other popular ad campaigns, this too had a humorous approach to it, focusing on one specific superiority that the Macs had. An example is the Get A Mac - Viruses ad.

    Was it successful? That is debatable. PCs are still used on a much wider spectrum, however, the popularity of Macs increased drastically, and to this day, it’s still a rising trend.

    What are the other keys to their effectiveness?

    The foundations are now established for a successful campaign, but we need other key elements to complement these and make it a massive success.

    The most important point here is that the ad has to be engaging. They either achieve that by a short story, or with entertaining visuals. 

    Creativity is essential for whatever direction we take. Having a unique and from start-to-finish entertaining 30 seconds for someone to look at is going to leave a mark, a mark that is different and more intriguing than all the other ads out there. 

    Showing off the differences is also necessary for these campaigns to succeed. If someone goes to war, they need an upper hand in something to achieve victory. The same goes for ad wars. 

    If a brand fails to show the difference that makes it superior to the other brand, it makes the entire campaign worthless. Possibly even doing more harm than good, as it can serve as free advertising to the rival brand. For these reasons, it’s crucial to centralize the rivalry aspect and tell it in a way, where your own brand clearly comes off as the winner. 

    Every brand has its own touch of personality

    The relationship between a brand and their customers is crucial, and oftentimes brands create a personality that the customers and followers can relate to and connect with.

    Utilizing that, the ads are themed to match the personality of the brand, so that it’s recognizable and reinforces the relationship between the brand and the customer.

    Going back to the Coca-Cola Vs Pepsi Ad War, even though both brands are selling the same product, their brand personalities are stellar opposites. If you think of Pepsi, you think of upbeat, energetic ads.

    But if you think of Coca-Cola, then one of those Christmas ads comes to your mind. This is due to them reinforcing their personality over a long period, and this could be the deciding factor. Pepsi is of course aware of their biggest competitor, so they launched a creative ad a few years back during Christmas times, showing Santa Claus secretly drinking a can of Pepsi Max.

    Turning someone’s weapon against themselves

    Pepsi released another ad, which showed off a sense of superiority to them. It was a Pepsi can dressed in a Coca-Cola cape, saying “We wish you a scary Halloween”.

    Not long after Coca-Cola fans responded, with the exact same image, but the text said “Everyone wants to be a hero!"

    This is remarkable creativity from both sides. Pepsi’s ad was really creative and witty. On the other hand, the meme-like answer from the Coca-Cola fandom was just simply genius. They managed to turn an image to a use which was never intended yet it worked so well, that if you didn’t know the order of release, you couldn’t decide which one came first.

    In my opinion, this will go down as one of the best advertising wars ever, and again, both sides used wit and humor as their main source of engagement, despite a rivalry in place, it feels like two friends just messing with each other, and it works great.

    What happens when the conflict is one sided?

    There have been cases where a brand has launched an ad, without any other competitors in mind, just doing their business. However, that may present a great opportunity for another brand to add its own touch of thought to the matter.

    Take a look at this one for example:

    We can clearly tell which one came first. Then Kingfisher Airlines saw the opportunity to poach the entire campaign to their reputation.

    Their ad provides no value, no information, just a clear statement that technically says “We are better”. But ask yourself the question. If you were planning a holiday trip and before booking you saw that ad. Which Airline would you choose more likely?

    Did it end there? No. GoAir channeled the war tactics of ancient Roman generals, and let the two competitors scrap with each other so that they could go there and reap the rewards. Next time they’ll put these on skyscrapers so they can run this narrative for longer.

    Sometimes they really just want to compete

    Finally, let’s look at a witty chain of billboards between Audi and BMW. It all began with a rather average advertising by Audi. It didn’t take them long to think of something new, so they made some changes to their ad. The biggest change was a challenge to BMW, and much to our delight, BMW was game. 

    And with that a funny chain of ads between Audi and BMW has started, casually playing multi-million dollar chess.

    Fans of the brands were engaged in this as well, putting up their own versions of responses to each other on the internet. It would be interesting to see how the rematch would go down today.


    At this point, it’s safe to assume that ad wars are probably the most entertaining ads will ever get. With competition in place, it opens the door to new opportunities, and it also forces brands to take those opportunities, if they want to win.

    This can lead to new ideas, wild ideas, but in the end, they can fight all they want, the amount of entertainment it provides outweighs everything for the consumers.