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Brief Published: 8 Jun 2016

Brands Get Political

Chrysler's Mr President ad

In a year that’s seen one of the most volatile and provocative US primary races in history, and daily debate over the state of the EU in Europe, it’s no surprise that politics is dominating much of the current cultural conversation.

It’s a subject most brands have traditionally avoided for fear of alienating audiences. But in the past six months, some have flirted with references to the political situation – US automaker Chrysler ran a TV spot called Mr President in February, with actors Martin Sheen and Bill Pullman reprising their Potus roles from West Wing and Independence Day. However, none have pushed the boundaries.

The first to really take a position is entertainment site BuzzFeed, which pulled out of a $1.3m ad deal with the Republican National Committee this week over objections to presidential nominee Donald Trump’s divisive rhetoric. This may seem a bold move to advertisers and marketers, but for consumers, it’s potentially galvanising to see a company take such a stand – many comments beneath the announcement praised BuzzFeed’s “integrity”.

Brands should take note: it’s becoming important to be passionate, if not overtly political, about causes that may divide your audience. Media blog Digiday highlights companies producing social justice documentaries, including global ad agency JWT, whose film Her Story: The Female Revolution explores female empowerment. But these are still, as analyst Rebecca Lieb from US research firm Altimeter Group says, “non-controversial causes”. It may be time for brands to be braver.

For more on risk-taking and passion in branding, see Marketing Imperfection – part of our Get Real Macro Trend.


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