Do Attack Ads Work?

Burger King is finding creative ways to showcase their competitive advantage against competitors.

Burger King uses flame grilling to cook their burgers, unlike other burger chains which use a flat grill. The fast-food chain is highlighting their flame grilled patties by using attack ads that show a grill in the backyard of former McDonald’s executives. In other words, not even their competitor’s top management can resist Burger King style patties.

Burger King is part of a saturated industry, meaning they have many competitors and price competition is intense. Rather than competing on price, where the lowest cost always wins, Burger King is finding a way to illustrate why they are better for consumers.

Have you wondered if attack ads were the right choice for your business? There are significant factors to consider before promoting an ad that goes after the competition.

Essential questions to ask before running attack ads:


Does the message align with your brand voice?

You may have never considered the voice of your brand. A brand voice is a guide when writing advertising copy. It conveys the feeling that you want connected with your brand. For example, The Honest Company’s brand voice is Mom’s.

If you are creating an attack ad, it is essential that the message still align closely with the feeling you want consumers to have about your brand.

Are you in a highly competitive market?

Attack ads are typically useful when you are in a competitive market. One way to evaluate if you are in a competitive market is to evaluate your competitors. If you have many competitors, it is likely price competition is strong. Attack ads might be a creative way to break through the clutter and display your competitive advantage.

Are they smart or derogatory?

Derogatory messages are typically not received well by consumers. It is important that attack ads are clever or funny without a derogatory or bullying type message. There are degrees of attack ads. For example, Burger King’s ads are direct and state their competitive advantage. Wendy’s digs a little deeper with their attack ads. Wendy’s instigates interactions between themselves and competitors online. You’ll see in the example below that they call out their competitor and show images of McDonald’s soggy burger for National Frozen Food Day! This is more intense than Burger King’s ad.

If you throw the first punch, it’s likely your competitor will fight back. When you choose attack ads, remember the message you are trying to convey and stick to it. We do not recommend going down a road that ever compromises the integrity of your brand. Remain clever and use messages that ingeniously show your competitive advantage.