The concept was clever, simple and attention- grabbing: encourage punters to check out products in bricks and mortar retailers, but to actually buy them from the advertiser’s website. Harrods was not amused although it was not named, but have its legal rights been infringed? Rupesh Chandrani reports.
Topic: Comparative Advertising
Who: Dixons vs Harrods, John Lewis & Selfridges
Where: United Kingdom
When: From September 2009
Law stated as at: October 2009
Dixons recently launched a series of tongue in cheek ads in the London area targeting Harrods, Selfridges and John Lewis. The campaign invited customers to use these stores to take advantage of the customer service to research products and then buy them online at Dixons. The ads ended in the tagline “Dixons.co.uk – the last place you want to go”.
Although the ads shy away from explicitly mentioning the names of some of our best- loved department stores, the ads use their typography and brand colours and make fun of the stereotypes associated with the stores thus making the inference clear to ordinary shoppers.
Although John Lewis and Selfridges have been sanguine about the ads, the Harrods legal team has been sufficiently irked that it has reportedly written to Dixons owner, DSG International, asking it to substantiate the claims in the ad that implicitly refers to Harrods, namely the implication that Dixons is cheaper than Harrods and arguing that there is relatively little overlap between the products offered by both businesses.
Why this matters:
Although we are still a long way off the aggressive campaigns that are commonplace in the United States, comparative advertising has come a long way since the Trade Marks Act 1994 first liberalised the regime.
Indeed, brand owners and consumers are now familiar with knocking copy campaigns. The recent supermarket wars are probably the best example of a contemporary campaign with Tesco and Asda both running advertisements that have not been without their problems and ASA adjudications.
As for Dixons, it would be interesting to see whether or not there has been a material increase in the web traffic to Dixons.co.uk or the number of Google searches for Dixons following the launch of this campaign. Its campaigns have been cleverly put together to try to avoid any viable claim relating to passing off, copyright infringement or trade mark infringement. However, Dixons will have to persuade Harrods’ legal team that the basis of the comparisons used in the ads are fair and, as the ASA has reportedly received some complaints about the Dixons ads, Dixons may find that the ASA Council is the last place it wants to go.
Watch this space…
Senior Legal Counsel