Supersol, Blue Square Take Their War to the Web

Retail rivals get down and dirty on YouTube, portals.

Israel's two largest supermarket chains, Super-Sol and Blue Square, are using the Internet as a platform to attack each other and run ads that wouldn't meet regulator approval.

Super-Sol took the unusual step of placing anonymous banner ads on popular Web sites including Ynet, Walla!, nana10 and Tapuz, trashing Blue Square's discount chain, Mega Bool. The banners stated "bullshit," transliterated into Hebrew. (Think "bool" for the full effect.)

The banners, placed by ad agency Gitam BBDO, referred users to negative comments about Mega Bool in online forums, under the headline "Real people reveal." They include a message by "Yaeli," who complains that "Mega Bool's ad really annoys me, because I always buy at Supersol Deal and there are tons of deals, and in the end Mega Bool is cheaper? It's a very annoying ad."

The banner links to a YouTube video of a song criticizing Mega Bool without mentioning it by name, but using the brand's language.

"They think you'll buy their line. They change prices morn and night, in the end we pay dear, they scream that their prices are cheapest but you'll be bummed at the sight. It's all bullshit, all bullshit," the words of the song explained.

Using the Internet to attack rivals anonymously is a new tactic, and Super-Sol is the country's largest supermarket chain to boot, with a 37% market share.

Breaking the rules

Taking the campaign into cyberspace allowed the company to make an end run around the Second Television and Radio Authority, which supervises TV ads and would not have allowed this kind of ad to run.

The banner followed a two-week escalation in the Super-Sol Blue Square war.

The first shot was fired by Mega Bool, during the TV broadcast of the final episode of this season's "Big Brother."

The ad, featuring popular entertainer Avri Gilad, depicts two women who are given an identical 34-item shopping list. One is sent to Mega Bool, and the other to Super-Sol Deal, to buy the items. They later report that the same items cost NIS 582 at the former and NIS 642 at the latter.

With this ad, Blue Square broke the unwritten law of not mentioning a competitor's name expressly - and did so during programming with particularly high viewer ratings.

According to a survey conducted by TheMarker in the wake of Mega Bool's campaign, a list of 13 grocery items cost about NIS 8 more at Mega Bool than at Super-Sol Deal. The cheapest was Rami Levy's eponymous supermarket chain.

Super-Sol used the survey in a new television campaign, adding two additional surveys showing that Super-Sol Deal is cheaper than Mega Bool.

A figure close to Super-Sol said the company decided to respond to its rival's campaign after learning that last Wednesday, Mega Bool sent people into branches of Super-Sol Deal with microphones and video cameras to interview customers and check the prices of items in the stores.

Store managers threw the people out of their stores, and 48 hours later a video appeared on YouTube: "Super-Sol Deal is afraid, and hiding [the fact that] Mega Bool is cheaper." The video shows Super-Sol Deal managers throwing Mega Bool employees from their stores.

The "Bullshit" banner campaign was Super-Sol's response.