I'm in the USA - in a beautiful city called Charlestown on the Atlantic coast of South Carolina. But I'm travelling, so last night I was in Cherokee which, although it sounds romantic, is actually a rather tacky casino town 300 miles north.
The beauty of an American road trip lies in the contrasts. New York City is a constant assault on the senses, while the endless forests of Virginia are balm to the soul. In a country of this size, it's impossible not to make comparisons. Perhaps that's why the advertising here is full of them.
Take an ad that's running on most networks at the moment. It begins with a young fellow walking into a pharmacy. To camera, he explains he has a hot date, but his sinuses are playing up (don't you hate it when that happens?). He says he's about to grab some Advil Cold & Sinus - so far, so ordinary. However, at this point, the voice-over cuts in: 'Actually, that won't help. What you really need is Sinusol ...' - followed by a list of bullet-points describing the advantages 'Sinusol' has over 'Advil'.
To the American viewer, this is business as usual. To the Brit, though, there's a surprised jolt as one realises what has happened. An ad for 'Sinusol' has not only featured a competitor brand, it has actually made the spot initially appear as though it is for that brand. Then it comprehensively rubbishes the competitor.
This doesn't happen with every commercial here. Indeed, many are as corporately safe as the clumpy nonsense which takes up far too much British airtime. But it does happen often enough to represent a clear point of difference between the ads over here and those back at home.
Speak of this to most people outside the UK advertising business (and some within it) and they will be convinced British regulations forbid this comparative approach to marketing. But that's not the case - and never has been. The truth is, we're just a bit too polite, and squeamish, to go for the competition's throat in such a blatant way. And I suspect that's wise. Something in the British psyche would encourage our sympathy. We'd be inclined to think 'Aw! Poor old Advil. Maybe I'll buy that one, just to give it a bit of support.' On our side of the Atlantic, we love to get behind the underdog , in the States they believe in backing a winner.
Politics represents an advertising arena in which comparative messages really do hold sway, in both nations. Only in the UK, political ads are tightly controlled and in America it's more or less a free-for-all. The enthusiasm with which one US candidate will assassinate the character, moral fibre and reputation of another, goes beyond gladiatorial to become bestial. It isn't unusual to see an ad which simply shows the face of a political opponent, over which a voice-over will list all his or her frailties and failings. The only clue as to the origin of the message comes with the compulsory disclaimer 'I'm (name of candidate), and I approve this message'. It's quite extraordinary, very entertaining and probably too combative even for Miliband and Cameron.
So, while the British tend to adopt almost everything America has to offer with unseemly haste, I doubt we'll see a Galaxy vs. Dairy Milk showdown in a single ad anytime soon. It would offend our innate sense of fair play, and that's nothing to be ashamed of.
Magnus Shaw is a blogger, writer and broadcaster