After serious political forays in 2017 and 2018, ads focused much more on levity in this year’s Super Bowl.
A recent Morning Consult poll showed that two-thirds of Americans don’t think political ads have any place in the Super Bowl. Morning Consult CEO Michael Ramlet said, “The Super Bowl is definitely the wrong place to make a statement.”
He goes on to say, “The biggest disconnect between the general public and [advertising] agencies and companies is this idea that you have to take stands to win Gen Z or millennial. That’s not what the data shows.”
And yet, in a broader sense, marketers are grappling with how and when to be politically and socially engaged in advertising. They’re experimenting with when to be light-hearted and when to be heavy-handed. Whether to take a stand and when to steer clear.
PR agency Edelman released a study that found that 40% of people bought a product for the first time for the reason they appreciated the brand’s position on a controversial societal or political issue. Founder Richard Edelman said, “Consumers expect brands to lead the movement for change and address critical problems.”
How brands navigate these opposing pressures will be interesting to watch.
Here are some other cartoons I’ve drawn about Super Bowl advertising over the years:
“Marketers’ Super Bowl Party” January 2003
“Super Bowl Advertising” February 2007
“The Social Super Bowl” February 2012
“Super Bowl Advertising” February 2018
2 CommentsJoin the Discussion
Hot potato this one, Tom. I can’t remember living in a more diverse political time than this, nor a time when so many people have been so engaged politically. With Trump in America and Brexit here in the UK, political issues are splitting countries down the middle, and feelings run very strong on both sides. It’s feels like a kind of bloodless civil war. Thin ice for advertisers. So my advice to brands would be to steer well clear of political virtue-signalling of any kind. Far from being the free hit on consumers they think it is, the risk with any kind of right-on posturing is you alienate as many people as you attract. At best, people see through it for what it is, an often cynical virtue-signal intended to build your brand and shift product. At worst, it can enrage a large part of your target audience. Take Nike’s Kaepernick stance, and the recent Gillette ad, for every million tweets saying ‘well done, good on yer’, there were a million or more saying, ‘I will never buy your product again’. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ on most of these political issues. Just differences of opinion. I don’t have any stats but I would imagine the chances of a brand gaining customers by taking political stands are far less than their chance of losing customers. And once lost, those customers will be tough if not impossible to ever get back again. Just MO.
I disagree that the Nike ad was misjudged – on broad demographics, the people that campaign were at risk of alienating are not Nike’s target customers and so the risk on the bottom line was minimal. They added $6billion and counting in revenue: (https://www.vox.com/2018/9/24/17895704/nike-colin-kaepernick-boycott-6-billion).
It comes down to the same stuff it always does, know your audience and who you want to target and talk to them about what they care about. If your audience is a politically active and socially conscious one, and you can engage with that authentically then go for it. If your target market isn’t that well defined, or you’re sitting pretty like Gillette was on a huge market share crossing many demographics, then be prepared to take a hit on sales. Time will tell whether the Gillette ad will eventually reap brand benefits. In the short term it hasn’t but then P&G isn’t necessarily playing the short game.