Laying down the gauntlet: The Guardian's anti-Indy ad creative

There’s a grand old tradition among marketers that’s rarely ignored: never diss the competition. A corollary of the rule insists that you should never, ever, diss the competition if you’re the more powerful competitor.

Tony Blair observed this rule in his anti-Cameroon speech at Trimdon Labour Club today. Not once did he mention the Conservative leader by name.

Arguably, the Guardian doesn’t name Alexander Lebedev in this creative currently doing the rounds at Campaign, Marketing and Press Gazette.

Adam Freeman, director of consumer media at Guardian News & Media, describes the ad as “a bit of fun”. And yes, there’s a fine old tradition of nationals – mostly tabloids – poking ‘fun’at each other in this way.

Yet the ad folk who read Campaign couldn’t give two hoots about Lebedev’s editorial agenda. The hacks who read Press Gazette will raise a sceptical eyebrow. Everyone understands the purpose of The Scott Trust. And nothing has happened at Evening Standard to suggest undue proprietorial influence.

Points scored? Few, if any. By running this ad, the Guardian is signalling that it’s up for a fight. Fair enough. But it’s also signalling its concern about the Independent to an audience of advertisers. Perhaps that’s not so wise.

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