Attack ads have been a marketing staple for decades. The Whopper vs. the Big Mac. Coke versus Pepsi taste tests. And good luck sidestepping political candidates slinging accusations about their rivals during election seasons.
However, even against the background of all those negative ads, SodaStream (SODA) and Yum Brands' (YUM) Taco Bell are taking unusual steps in calling out the competition in new campaigns.
Time to Go With Something New
Taco Bell has been in the breakfast game for less than a month, but it has already taken two brazen shots at niche leader McDonald's (MCD). The first spot attacking the burger giant's breakfast menu coincided with the March 27 launch of Taco Bell's new morning meals that include waffle-shaped tacos and pressed flour tortillas stuffed with eggs, sausage and hash browns. Taco Bell lined up ordinary people named Ronald McDonald to endorse the new offerings.
Now Taco Bell is aiming at McDonald's signature Egg McMuffin in a new commercial that plays the sandwich off as an out-of-date 1980s-era relic. As a man sings about the Egg McMuffin to the tune of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," we see Taco Bell lumping the sandwich in with mullets, keytars and the Galaga arcade game. The marketing message: Egg Muffin's are hopelessly out of fashion. Try the new Taco Bell A.M. Crunchwrap or Waffle Taco, and get with the times.
A Different Kind of Cola War
SodaStream is more of a David in a battle against a pair of fizzy Goliaths. After all, SodaStream commands a market capitalization of less than $1 billion. The combined value Coca-Cola (KO) and PepsiCo (PEP) lands north of $300 billion.
SodaStream's latest spot tackles the environmental evils of bottled beverages. The marketing centers around the Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- a real formation where currents have swept trillions of discarded plastic items together to form a pollution zone that's twice the size of Texas. SodaStream's campaign is a tongue-in-cheek jab at the companies putting out bottled beverages, playfully suggesting this "Secret Continent" as a vacation destination.
SodaStream doesn't specifically call out Coke and Pepsi this time, as it did in its two Super Bowl ads -- but no viewer will fail to see the plastic soda bottles as proxies for the beverage giants.
Glass Houses Are Fair Game
Some critics believe companies should sell consumers on the positive attributes of their own products, and suggest that pointing out the shortcomings of the competition is bad form. But attack ads work.
These campaigns won't be considered failures if Taco Bell doesn't make a dent in McDonald's breakfast business or if SodaStream can't stop Coca-Cola and PepsiCo from growing. As long as Taco Bell's breakfasts and SodaStream's home carbonation systems gain in popularity, the ads will have succeeded.
Your mother may be right about the best way to deal with people you don't like, but there's something to be said for Madison Avenue's methods when getting noticed is the paramount concern.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of SodaStream. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola, McDonald's, PepsiCo and SodaStream. The Motley Fool owns shares of Coca-Cola, McDonald's, PepsiCo and SodaStream and has the following options: long January 2016 $37 calls on Coca-Cola and short January 2016 $37 puts on Coca-Cola. Try any of our newsletter services free for 30 days.