It took me some time to actually believe that HUL was directly comparing Rin with Tide. Digged the ad out of youtube to see it again and then today's ET had a new item on the same. Link
Not that sort of comparison has not been done at all , Complan vs Horlicks ad controversy is still fresh in our minds. Many years back it was pepsodent versus colgate ads (but even then no direct mention of brands), and it is said that it took the marketing heads of both the companies to sit together to end the money being wasted on comparative ads.
But at a very fundamental level, marketing as an activity which is 'relative', firmly anchored against competition , be it USP or differentiation the point of reference is competition. And what has been happening till now is that companies avoided directly naming the competing brand , but use a similar coloured or looking product in their ads. But in the Rin ad the line has been crossed and HUL has very clearly shown the competing product. And people like Harish B who writes a popular blog on Indian brands, observed that by naming Tide in the ad directly 75% of the time in the ad was devoted to Tide than Rin. Link for more on his post on the issue.
On the legal front praveen , points out the small disclaimers during and at the end of the ads, should help HUL's case in the courts, but then raised the question of why such an ad in the first place. Now that P&G has gone to the court against the ad, other resort would be to go to ASCI , the body which looks into these kind of issue, but it is more of recommending agency, with no regulatory authority..
On the issue of whether it is right or wrong, ethically yes, we question the ad, but then how right or wrong is it to use a similar looking product without actually naming the competitor? or other forms of comparative advertisements that we have been seeing. But as they say too much of anything is bad, even too much of attention or focus on competition is also bad as in the process you might lose focus on your own customer???
Lastly an observation on the maturity of the blogsphere in India, there are more than 5-6 blog posts on the issue , since the ad was aired, so I thought I should also jump into the discussion :). There are discussions going on the issue on facebook, twitter and other social networking sites ...