Boeing Noses Ahead of Airbus in Pinocchio Ad Over Jumbo Claims

Airbus SAS suffered a setback in its bid to brand as misleading a Boeing Co. advertising campaign after a regulator threw out the complaint, saying the targeted audience was sophisticated enough to make a nuanced judgment.

Airbus challenged a Boeing ad promoting the 747-8 jumbo’s cost advantage over Airbus’s A380, which ran in trade publications including Flight International. The British Advertising Standards Authority, which rules on false advertising claims, struck down the complaints, arguing the professional audience for which the campaign was intended would understand the underlying assumptions.

The spat, which led Airbus to take out a competing ad showing a Boeing jet nose grotesquely elongated to resemble Pinocchio’s, comes as the rhetoric between the planemakers becomes more heated even as both enjoy record backlogs. Executives from both companies have exchanged public barbs about the inferiority of each other’s products and strategy.

In the case of the 747-8 advertisement, Boeing claimed its plane delivered a 26 percent cost advantage over the A380 and 8 percent greater efficiency under certain conditions. In both cases, the watchdog said the audience would not be misled and instead use the campaign as just one of many pieces of information required to make an investment decision.

Trading Barbs

“We are pleased that our advertisements underlining the advantages of buying Boeing products have been supported,” Boeing spokesman Matt Knowles said by e-mail.

Boeing is still waiting on a ruling from the standards board on ads taken out by Airbus, including the Pinocchio depiction and another campaign unfavorably comparing its 737 Max narrow-body airliner to the Airbus A320neo.

The two planemakers, which share a duopoly in the market for large commercial jets, have been known to trade the occasional jibe, accusing each other of making misleading performance claims, while shying away from battling over safety.

Tom Enders, chief executive officer at Airbus-parent European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. in May accused Boeing of using “rivets from Wal-Mart” on the first 787 Dreamliner unveiled to the public in 2007, as he sought to contrast Boeing’s struggles with its latest jet and the successful maiden voyage of Airbus’s A350 wide-body model.

Enders’s comment followed a claim by Boeing CEO Jim McNerney that Airbus would need a brand new plane to take Boeing’s updated version of the biggest twin-engine long-range jet, a task for which the European company doesn’t “have the appetite.”

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