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Is it right for brands to throw shade at their competitors?

15 July 2019
A screenshot from an eBay advert | Is it right for brands to throw shade at their competitors? | Neon

In the battle for eCommerce superiority, eBay has come out swinging against its competitor Amazon.

The brand’s latest ad campaign features a young girl (called Alexa and dressed in the smart speaker’s trademark black and blue) and her owner/father.

The father asks Alexa to explain Prime Day and she responds with some brutal feedback, saying that it’s a “holiday Amazon totally made up” featuring “deals on a bunch of random stuff nobody really wants.”

Ouch! You can check out the full ad below.

Confrontational promos like this are nothing new, but are they the right approach for brands or do they just make them look small and petty? Our Content Manager and Head of Content offer their opinions.

Stephen Marfleet, Content Manager

The approach is right, but it doesn’t go far enough

eBay took the right approach with this ad in trying to create a distinction between their brand and that of a competitor, but for my money, they don’t go far enough. All of this name-calling and whataboutery between brands is amusing to some people; however, in terms of making a long-lasting impact, I’d very much doubt anyone will remember this ad in a few years – or even months – time.

Firstly, this is because many brands have adopted this obnoxious tone of voice, meaning that although it’s “distinctive” in the bracket of this industry and perhaps distinctive compared to eBay’s traditional brand voice, it’s hardly groundbreaking. Secondly, although it may be amusing to a lot of people, it doesn’t mean that people are likely to stop using Amazon. What this campaign appears to be doing is riding on the coattails of a successful promotion in the hope that they’ll pick up a few scraps.

In my opinion, if eBay really wanted to make a splash that would reverberate beyond the Twittersphere for more than a few measly hours, there’s plenty they could do. The first thing that springs to mind is a Mac vs PC-style ad comparing the lives of eBay workers against those at Amazon, pointing out that the behemoth’s employees barely have time to piss, let alone think. You could go even further, profiling the day-to-day of the two sets of workers, with the person making a living from eBay simply closing their laptop from the comfort of their own home, while the Amazon workers return to their tents outside the warehouse because they can’t afford to rent an apartment.

Remember, it ain’t libel if it’s true.

Paul Bullock, Head of Content

It feels cheap and egocentric

In a way, eBay has already done its job. This, and the many other articles, tweets and LinkedIn posts that will be written about the ad, are proof of that. Ads are about grabbing attention and the ripples of conversation that will be taking place across the internet have given the brand exactly that. Attention by the bucketful.

That’s great, but awareness isn’t everything. What about reputation? Nobody likes to see bickering, and bickering between two fantastically rich multinationals like eBay and Amazon is particularly unsavoury. And for what? A sales day! Not customer service. Not value for money. A sales day. Ours is better, bigger, and more exciting than yours. It’s a pissing contest and it feels very egocentric.

Brands can get away with this if the ads are crafted with genuine humour and charm, but this one isn’t. The Alexa character is smug and the lines between her and her ‘father’ are poorly delivered. It’s a blunt concept delivered with little charm and even less grace. If eBay wants to show off how great it is, it needs to do so by offering positive proof of its superiority, not smug shade about a competitor’s perceived shortcomings.

What do you think about eBay’s ad? Do you agree with Stephen or Paul? Head on our to Twitter and let us know.

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