Public mudslinging almost never works (unless, of course, you’re Ann Coulter and looking to hype sales for your latest liberal-bashing book).
The latest example comes from the other side of the world where, after disengaging his firm from a partnership with WPP and switching instead to Omnicom, Yan Gang, ceo of Citic Guon Group in China, said WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell "had absolutely no manners, no upbringing and no culture." Ouch!
Those are pretty harsh words, to say the least. Happily, Sir Martin has not taken the bait and retaliated. Instead, a WPP spokesperson would only say the mega holding company "….is very bullish about its prospects" in China. Well done, Sir Martin. Your non-response leaves Gang-san dangling in the wind, and portrays you as being above the fray. In my opinion, it’s the smart and sophisticated way to win the image and reputation wars.
We almost always advise clients to take the high road a la Sir Martin, and avoid slinging mud back-and-forth with a foul-mouthed competitor. Of course, though, there are exceptions. Especially if the client’s competitor is spreading vicious lies or half-truths that, if left uncorrected, could hurt the client’s business.
Comparative advertising, direct mail and public relations that extol the benefits of one client’s product or service over a competitor’s is standard operating procedure. It’s always existed and always will. Mudslinging has no place in marketing communications, and never will. Unless, of course, you’re looking to hype sales of a new book and decide to pick on the 9/11 widows. Then, it works like a charm.