This Description of Absolute Comparative is three times more informative than the leading brand.
Rather than tell us exactly how good the product is, advertisers often use slogans like
- The smarter way to shop
- The powder that washes whiter
- Now 50% softer
- 20% cooler!
- More "extreme."
These sound positive, but mean nothing. Smarter than what? How white does it wash? How are they measuring softness? Why do I want an "extreme" bathing sponge?
By omitting the standard they're comparing their product against, they've avoided making specific claims about their product and made comparisons with their competitors much harder than otherwise. One of the more common forms of Weasel Words in advertising.
Compare Parity Product Paradox, where legally indistinguishable competitors are free to tout their claims to be "the best". See also Asbestos-Free Cereal, where the feature is simply a normal trait common to all similar products, and 20% More Awesome, where the feature is a quality that cannot be objectively measured.
- Avis (car rental company) -"We try harder."
- Seeing as Avis took the quote out of its context themselves, it is an example. However, there was a comparison once upon a time: Avis was the second-largest car rental company behind Hertz. When that fact was mentioned to then-CEO Robert Townsend, he said, "Yes, but we try harder."
- Food packaging (Milk Duds are a concrete example that springs to mind) frequently includes a claim such as "50% more!" without specifying whether the comparison refers to a previous version of the same product, a competing product, or something else entirely.
- Sometimes, truth of advertising law will force these to put the actual basis of comparison in small print somewhere. It often turns out that the package you're holding has 50% more than... A smaller package of the same product.
- Billy Mays' OxiClean which with one scoop in every load will make your "whites whiter!" and "your brights brighter!"...than they were before you washed them?
- Pringles' tagline for its flavored chips is "bursting with more flavor!*" The asterisk: "*than before". The question: Before when?
- An old Super Mario World commercial once advertised the game by repeating "a bit more (adjective)" multiple times, using adjectives such "exciting", "challenging", "colourful", "realistic", "hotter", "cooler", "weirder" and "revolutionary". Many of these 16 bits don't really apply to Super Mario World at all. And of course, the real question is "a bit more (adjective) than what, exactly?" Super Mario Bros. 3?
- Tesco "Every little helps!" Every little what helps whom? Every little bit of your money you give them helps them become more filthy rich, possibly.
- Sort of gets a free pass, however, since it was a common saying before they adopted it for their slogan.
- Justified in the UK, where advertising rules prevent adverts making direct comparison with competitors. Persil may well love to tell you exactly what they wash whiter than, but even if they have scientific studies proving it they're not actually allowed to do so.
- More generally, trademark laws can make it difficult to include competitor's names and especially logos or images of any of their products.
- Finally, it's been shown many times that mentioning other products in your adverts often has the rather undesirable effect of making the audience remember that in addition to, or even instead of, your own product. For example, the Energizer bunny was a direct copy of the earlier Duracell bunny (originally done as a parody), both attempting to sell the idea that their batteries lasted longer. Energizer sales actually went down after the adverts first aired, likely because people were already familiar with Duracell and simply thought it was an advert for themnote .
- The Placebo Effect is a case where this trope is in play; if a Randomised Controlled Trial of a treatment - whether it's a drug, a surgical procedure, or anything else - shows that the treatment performs better than placebo, all it has actually proved is that it is better than doing literally nothing. Which is actually an important thing to do, given the number of treatments that actually turn out to be no better than placebo.
- Sometimes, there is no existing treatment, so you can only compare to placebo, and sometimes the difference between the treatment and control groups is so vast that it's clear just from the RCT that the treatment is effective - as was the case with the vaccines that were developed during the COVID pandemic. In cases like these, this trope is justified.
- But, if there is already a treatment for the condition, a more useful trial would compare the new treatment to the current standard; the new treatment is (usually) the more expensive option of the two, so your trial had really better show that it works better than the older, cheaper one.