Last week saw a rare phenomenon in the Netherlands. The University of Amsterdam (UvA) started a campaign in all major Dutch university cities trying to draw the attention of students to their offerings in MSc degree programs.
That in itself is nothing new as all universities do that, but this campaign used comparative advertising which is “not done” in the Netherlands and sometimes even results in legal action.
In Groningen UvA posters claimed that “there are things above Groningen” where the university’s slogan says “nothing above Groningen”, and near the VU building UvA posters said that at UvA you could really look further, making fun of the VU slogan “Looking further”.
The campaign gave rise to numerous reactions, most of them about the corny humour used but hardly any about the comparative advertising aspect. Probably the negative connotation of comparative advertising does not stem from ethical objections but from considerations with regard to the effectiveness of promoting one’s offerings at the expense of those of the competitor. Next year’s MSc enrollment at UvA will tell us more about this effectiveness.