The PR Coup of Friendly Rivals


It’s a PR war out there, and like in any war, enemies will be enemies. Smear campaigns, openly aggressive tactics, a win-at-all-costs attitude: you do what you gotta do to gain the advantage. However, even in the most brutal of wars, sometimes the unexpected happens. In the midst of the horrific craziness that was WWI, the winter of 1914 saw a break in hostilities that was to never be repeated. During the week leading up to the holidays, British and German soldiers started venturing out into no-man’s land. Eventually they sang and drank together, exchanged gifts, and even played a few games of soccer. When the generals from both sides found about it, they took steps to insure that such peaceful gestures would not be repeated.

Obviously, the world of commercial PR does not bear any of the significance of armed conflict. To compare the two in any real way borders on the ridiculous. However, the notion that peace can have a value should not be overlooked. And that’s true even in the cutthroat “my-client-is-king” arena.

There’s no dearth of companies, institutions, and individuals putting out PR pieces that snipe and cut away at their opponents. In certain arenas (such as politics) this has already been accepted as standard, if not self-destructive, fare. Occasionally, though, there have been flashes of rivalries which took a decidedly friendly tone.

Coke and Pepsi have been at the forefront of this movement. Here’s the latest contribution to the cause:

What’s surprising about this ad is the sheer lack of negativity. Cute, seasonal, just a tiny bit quirky, and apparently that’s all it took for the ad to appear everywhere on the internet.

Another great rivalry that went viral was that between Nandos and Santam. You can watch it here. They each spoofed the other’s commercials with the end result being a nice donation to charity. This exchange on Youtube garnered collectively close to a million views.

With these and others, the public relations takeaway is clear. You can go after your opponents, but do it in a positive way, and you can actually see better results.


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