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The ad format-strategy effect on comparative advertising effectiveness

Arti D. Kalro (Shailesh J Mehta School of Management, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai, India)
Bharadhwaj Sivakumaran (Great Lakes Institute of Management, Chennai, India)
Rahul R. Marathe (Department of Management Studies, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai, India)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 13 February 2017




Extant research on comparative advertising has focused only on “market leader” comparisons (a brand targeting the market leader), whereas in the marketplace, “multi-brand” comparisons are more prevalent (Kalro et al., 2010). Moreover, most research focuses on direct comparisons only. Hence, this research aims to investigate the interplay between comparison ad strategy (“market leader”/“multi-brand” comparisons) and comparison ad format (direct/indirect comparisons) on the effectiveness of comparative advertising.


This paper uses four 2 × 2 fully crossed factorial designs (comparison ad format: direct vs indirect and comparison ad strategy: market leader vs multi brand) with established and new brands in two categories: powdered detergents and smart phones. All studies were conducted in metropolitan cities of India.


By and large, the experiments indicated that direct (indirect) comparisons lowered (heightened) perceived manipulative intent and enhanced (reduced) attitude-toward-the-ad for multi-brand (market leader) comparisons.

Practical implications

Findings suggest that when advertisers use comparative advertising, they may use direct ads when using multi-brand comparisons and use indirect ones when using market leader comparisons. It could also be argued that when advertisers use multi-brand comparisons because of fragmentation in the marketplace, they may directly compare against these multiple brands. When advertisers need to compare against a market leader, they may do so indirectly.


This research is among the first to investigate multi-brand comparisons that are widely used in the industry and that too in the context of both direct and indirect comparison formats.



Authors would like to thank the editor, associate editor and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable feedback. Authors are grateful to Tanuja Awasthi, Shruti Trehan, Siddhartha Sarkar, Sunny Arora, Kalpak Kulkarni, Preeti Virdi, Vartika Srivastava and Vishwas Raichur for their support and useful comments. Authors acknowledge the feedback received from the audiences of the 2014 AMA Winter Marketing Educators’ Conference, 2012 Asia Pacific Association of Consumer Research Conference and 2009 NASMEI Conference on the initial versions of this manuscript.


Kalro, A.D., Sivakumaran, B. and Marathe, R.R. (2017), "The ad format-strategy effect on comparative advertising effectiveness", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 51 No. 1, pp. 99-122.



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