Complan vs Horlics Advertising Ethics

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This case is about the advertising war between two popular health drink brands Horlicks and Complan in India. The war for supremacy between these two brands started as early as in 1960s and had continued ever since. Over the years, the brands were involved in aggressive comparative advertising in print and television over attributes such as ingredients, protein content, growth, and flavors. However, in late 2008, the makers of Horlicks, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare (GSK), and the makers of Complan, Heinz India (Heinz), came out with advertisements that directly compared the brands using the competitor brand's trademarks. Industry observers felt that in their bid to outdo each other, the two companies had ended up denigrating the competitor brand.| | Usually issues related to disparaging ads by rival companies were resolved by the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). But with constant mudslinging at each other, the two companies decided to solve the issue in courts. In September 2008, Heinz moved the Bombay High Court objecting to the Horlicks ad , while in December 2008, GSK approached the Delhi High Court against the Complan ad. 

Experts felt that the latest tiff between GSK and Heinz had brought to the fore the issues and challenges involved in comparative advertising and the legal/ethical issues involved in such kind of advertising. -------------------------------------------------

Issues:
» Analyze the advertising strategies adopted by Complan and Horlicks over the years.

» Understand the issues and challenges faced by companies while using comparative advertising.

» Examine the efficacy of comparative advertising in enhancing brand image and sales.

» Study the implications of the advertising war between Complan and Horlicks.

» Discuss and debate the legal/ethical issues involved in the case. -------------------------------------------------
Contents:
 | Page No.|
The Fight for the Indian Health Drink Market Turns Ugly| 1| Background Note| 3|
The Health Drink War| 6|
Backing up the Claims| 7|
Courting Trouble| 9|
Exhibits| 11|

"Hard times call for hard, and sometimes blatant, strategies. The recent Horlicks-Complan 'spat' has once again brought comparative advertising to the fore. This time, competing brands seem to have almost come to blows." 1 - BusinessWorld2, January 6-12 Issue, 2009.

"Comparative advertising, when tastefully executed, can be an example of successful advertising. Brands are built on competitive spirit, but there has to be a long term strategy in building brands and the proposition should be unique enough to make it convincing. Else it's akin to salesmen fighting among each other proving their brand to be better, which ends up actually mocking the product."3 - Manish Bhatt, Vice President and Executive Creative Director, Contract Advertising4, in 2008. "The law allows you to say that your goods are better, but stops you from saying that your competitor's goods are inferior. But the moment you say that you are better, by implication you are saying that others are inferior. So, it is a question of saying whether the glass is half full or half empty." 5 - Anuradha Salhotra, Partner, Lall Lahiri & Salhotra6, in 2008. -------------------------------------------------

The Fight for the Indian Health Drink Market Turns Ugly
In late 2008, a legal battle broke out between GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare (GSK) and Heinz India (Heinz) over the advertisements of their respective health drinks Horlicks and Complan (Refer to Exhibit I for a snapshot of GSK and Heinz). 

The advertisements talked about how their respective brand was better than the other and showed the competitor's product in bad light when compared to the company's products. In September 2008, Heinz moved the Bombay High Court7 objecting to advertisements of Horlicks which highlighted the nutritional content and price gap between the two brands, and showed Horlicks as...
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