It is always tempting for brand owners to thumb their noses at their competitors with a bit of comparative advertising, but this strategy must be handled with care as illustrated in the recent case of Rockwool v Kingspan.
Things had already been heating up between the two manufacturers of fire-safe insulation materials, leading to a number of ASA adjudications. So Rockwool were perhaps pushing their luck when they took their fire-reaction test on tour, using videos and road-show demos to claim superiority. Kingspan responded with all guns blazing and the two re-kindled their dispute in front of the High Court.
Campaign turns to ashes
In its judgment the court put a real dampener on Rockwool’s comparative approach, finding that the videos and road-show demos were misleading and failed objectively to compare features of the products, and that Rockwool had infringed Kingspan’s trade marks. The decision confirms that flouting the conditions laid down in the Misleading and Comparative Advertising Directive can be a sure-fire way to get your fingers burned.
In an innovative move, Kingspan also asked the court to grant declarations of fact about whether Rockwool’s campaign satisfied the requirements of the Directive. The court confirmed that it would be willing to do so in cases where a declaration can “resolve an issue of real substance between parties” – perhaps a useful new weapon in the brand-owner’s armoury?
The kid-gloves are off
By contrast, Sky was adjudged to have played by the rules in its recent press ad which showed a Billy goat “trip, trapping” into a 2-year fixed-term contract with BT, rather than opting for Sky’s own 1-year TV/broadband/call package. Despite BT’s bleating about misrepresentation, the ASA decided that Sky’s “trip, trap” reference did not impute any dishonesty in BT’s business practices, which must have really got their goat...