Advertising and Politics. A Winning Combo?

By Heather Rosenquist on April 21st, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 11.45.11 AMAn advertiser’s ultimate goal is to move you, the consumer. Move you to laugh. Move you to cry. Move you to feel. And, of course, move you to purchase.

You probably remember the first brand spot that did that for you. For me, it was Volkswagen’s 1999 Cabriolet Milky Way spot. There was a lot about that spot that spoke to me – it captured a feeling, a mind-set and a simplicity that was very appealing. If there were any politics at play in the making of that spot, I still can’t find them. Instead, I find simple messages of freedom, adventure and possibility. The spot possesses a unique ability to harness passion without dipping a toe into politics.

A quick scan of the advertising landscape today, and you see that’s no longer the case.

There are brands that inspire passion, sure. And brands that make you want to take part in their story, yes. Many times, however, those brands have borrowed interests folded into their messaging. The most recent of which, is the much-discussed Pepsi Kendall Jenner spot. The bottom line is that Pepsi tried to tackle too much. Had they just focused on the spirit of unity and celebration while leaving out the police line and imagery reminiscent of Black Lives Matter, it wouldn’t be chalked up as one of the biggest advertising misses, ever.  But Pepsi is certainly not alone in its borrowed interest.

Currently, there’s Audible’s 1984 spot, GE’s Millie Dresselhouse, and Delta Airline’s 4AM.

And, of course, we all remember the 84 Lumber Super Bowl LI commercial, The Journey Begins. I doubt many of us knew much about 84 Lumber prior to the Super Bowl. But for a few days after the big game, 84 Lumber set the media and social media ablaze. And while many people were up in arms about the spot, the exact message of the spot was hazy. Was it Pro-Trump and the wall? Anti-Trump and the wall? While the message was unclear, the reaction wasn’t. People were talking.  That’s because incorporating politics into your messaging can be wildly powerful. If a brand mirrors your politics, you’re likely to feel a kinship with them and support them with chatter, with cash and  your loyalty.

However, if you’re on the opposite side of the political aisle and you view a spot with differing ideals, you’re likely to feel alienated and angry. You may even decide to boycott the brand. There’s a lot to win by taking a hard political stance.  But as Pepsi recently learned, they may be even more to lose.

How do you feel about the advertising industry delving in political and social issues? Does it turn you off? Or does that make you more likely to engage with the brand? Please share your thoughts.