Becoming Political

“If you want to understand how a lion hunts, don’t go to the zoo. Go to the jungle.” – Jim Stengel

Besides the sports side (because I do enjoy American football), watching the Super Bowl has always left astonished. Considering the size of the event (everything is big and glorified), the amount of media, celebrities, lights, technology, and of course ADS, the Super Bowl is a kaleidoscope that is quite overwhelming and difficult to digest. Maybe it’s because I was not raised in an American household and don’t have the American factor in me, or maybe because I found it tiring that less than 10 percent of the broadcast is dedicated to the actual sport.

Yes, only 10 percent of Super Bowl LI was the actual game and ads represented twice as much time: 24 percent! No wonder why everyone is excited to watch the commercials and companies pay fortunes ($5 million per 30 seconds – no wonder why people are mad these days) to air during America’s night.

I have to admit that watching the ads is a fun and interesting exercise. With big budgets, companies produce very short films that can be very compelling. And, observing the ads, one can acknowledge and understand the current trends in society.

For obvious reasons, some of the ads decided to get political. With a vast number of Americans still ruminating about the most divineness presidential election in the last decades, firms needed to get on the political bandwagon. But the question is where do companies want to stand?

To begin with, firms adjust their marketing strategies to the real world, and today we live in an unprecedentedly political uncertain world. Consumers want to be associated with a brand that is connected to their reality, and today that reality is along the political context. Marius Luedicke, a marketing professor at City University in London, explains that this type of cultural branding is aimed to position the brand “either as an ally to solve a functional problem, evoke emotions, or solve a cultural problem”.

And, the political Super Bowl ads received tons of free publicity. Budweiser, Airbnb, and even an unknown company, 84 Lumber, got tons of buzz during several days. According to attention analytics company, all of the political ads garnered at least a 61% “positive” sentiment.


I have my doubts when mixing politics and private companies, especially in the US with the lobbies, fundraising, or the Citizen United case vs FEC. In the end, behind every layer, a company’s unique goal is to make profits. The usage of a political message is to get a reaction from the public and potentially increase their sales. Super Bowl ads aren’t acts of activism; I would have preferred the $9.8 million dollars spent on the Budweiser ad to go to a foundation or an NGO. Here is a great parody of SNL about companies wanting to use a political message in their ads disregarding completely the product.

But, as I mentioned before, Super Bowl ads are a reflection of the society, and if Budweiser, Airbnb, and Coca-Cola take a political side it’s because they know where the majority of the consumers stand. The majority of older voters (ages 65 and over) supported Trump, unlike Clinton who won the majority of younger voters (ages 18-29) and the popular vote by over 3 million votes on November 8th. Younger generations tend to be more progressive and are more inclusive to diversity, companies will logically side with the future or stay quite. Just ask the CEOs of Uber and Under Armour.



Ago, Douglas Quenqua Added 28 Hours, 2017 February 13, and 2017 February 10. “SNL Mocks Political Ads from Super Bowl LI with Bruising Cheetos Sketch.” Campaign US. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.

Berg, Madeline. “The Internet Loved Those Political Super Bowl Ads.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 06 Feb. 2017. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.

“Now Under Armour Has a Trump Problem, Too.” N.p., 10 Feb. 2017. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.

Savransky, Rebecca. “New Nike Ad: ‘Equality Has No Boundaries’.” TheHill. N.p., 13 Feb. 2017. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.

Tyson, Alec, and Shiva Maniam. “Behind Trump’s Victory: Divisions by Race, Gender, Education.” Pew Research Center. N.p., 09 Nov. 2016. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.

“Why Are Adverts Becoming More Political in the Age of Trump and Brexit?” The Irish News. N.p., 10 Feb. 2017. Web. 13 Feb. 2017–928438/


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6 Responses to Becoming Political

  1. labbasi says:

    Many good points brought up. The SNL clip does hit it on the nose. There is a line of does it make sense for a company to given do a political ad. I think it applies and makes sense for some companies and who they are wanting to target. The Audi commercial does appeal to many younger activists; however, not many can buy an Audi at the moment. The message is strong but the true buying audience is missed. Also, it is a possibility that companies feel they must put out a political statement now as if it is a requirement from consumers who need to keep a moral shopping code. Nordstrom, who has usually been very quiet on their beliefs in the past, has been very public lately.

    In the end, I feel it is not as harmful. We can always flip the channel or mute the commercial if it is such a disturbance.

    • pfistere says:

      I disagree, and think it can potentially be harmful in attracting certain consumers. Regardless of political affiliation, not everyone wants their cup of coffee with a side of politics (sometimes literally). While it’s great that these ads promote discussion and hope to generate sales, they may also alienate clientele. To some, these types of ads may feel invasive and, again, personal. But, as we know, we live in a digital world and nothing is really private anymore. The two topics that people used to avoid at dinner parties, religion and politics are front and center nearly everywhere. Some companies may be willing to risk this in order to attract the target audience they want, however, they must also acknowledge the possibility of pushing away previously loyal consumers. The big question is, is it worth the risk? Only time will tell.

  2. giotta says:

    I think you bring up a good point. Is it really worth the risk for advertisers to take a political stance? I think it is worth the risk, or else advertisers would not do it. As we have talked about in class, communicating an organization’s values is important when positioning a brand. Therefore, I think it is important for brands to address current events in their marketing communications, even if the topic is controversial. However, I think it is dangerous for a brand to take a political stance just for the sake of being political. The decision must be calculated and resonate with beliefs of the company. For instance, if dodge had run an ad for environment advocacy (like the kia commercial featuring Melissa McCarthy), it probably wouldn’t have been effective, since many of its vehicles are trucks, SUVs, and sports cars, which are notorious gas guzzlers and polluters.

  3. Ashley Jiang says:

    In this highly uncertain and shaky political atmosphere we’re in, I feel it’s increasingly difficult for ad agencies to shun the politics as most of them used to do. Becoming political is not or whether or not, but a must for advertisers because they need to make their messages sticky. In order to make them sticky, according to the SUCCES model, these ads need to generate emotions and empathy. So speaking to people’s social justice soul is a powerful and effective tool in the time being.

    But this strategy is not applicable to all the industries. It depends on the target audience of the ads. For brands such as Airbnb, its main audience is really the younger generation, the Hilary supporters, and people who value equality, inclusiveness and diversity. So it’s a clever move for Airbnb to post such an inclusive piece. For obscure brand like 84 Lumber, it’s also a unique way for them to stand out. But for other “old” and established brands such as Kia and Toyota, they still speak the language for all generations — the humor, the celebrity. So I feel it depends on the target audience to decide the ad’s tone and strategy.

  4. jieqionh says:

    Becoming political for advertisers can be either an opportunity or a threat, it requires in-depth research and strategic decision-making,
    To the people who are not political savvy and have no strong say in the political debate, it may be an effective tool for creating buzz and attracting public attention, and therefore, getting people talk about it and be curious about the brand itself. The #lovethroughhate campaign in NYC on Valentines’ day can be a good example. Although there is no strong political stance embedded in that image, the controversy over Trump and Putin has already worked in catching eyeballs and the curiosity of people would lead to the search for the organizer behind it, which is the Hater app.
    However, sensitive things can easily go wrong. If the audience happens to be politically aggressive, they tend to have strong political opinions, and if the concept in the ads happens to be the opposite of their beliefs, they can relate the hate originated in political debate to the brand. Uber CEO drops out of Trump’s business advisory council and the failure of Starbucks’ Race together campaign are both strong evidence to this side of the story.
    Therefore, the knowledge about your target audience and how you design the political elements in your ads are essential.
    In addition, as Ashley pointed out above that, according to the SUCCES model of stickiness, it can be an effective method to get people emotional. In this regard, the ads itself may become sticky; however, being sticky is not equal to being effective in raising ROI and the ultimate goal for commercials is to drive purchase.

  5. anamrodr says:

    I agree with Ashley in that the target audience is the deciding factor when pursuing a political approach. It does mitigate the risk, but even thou it’s a matter of whether audiences are receptive and agree with your views, I think that companies are allowed to have an opinion. However this is not to say that all companies should implement the same strategy. It also depends on the company’s reputation and their business influence. For instance Starbuck’s Race Together campaign, although controversial, didn’t harm their sales because of the company’s high reputation and loyal followers.