Is It Over Yet?? Relief from Presidential Campaign Used as Theme of Product Pitches
By Sapna Maheshwari, New York Times
Hefty is “trashing” the campaign, Excedrin is curing headaches caused by the caustic debates, and Ringling Bros. wants to remind the public that it is the real circus, despite what the last few months may have seemed like.
In previous election years, it was not unusual for brands to create ads that lightly poked fun at the political process or went heavy on patriotism and optimism. Now, marketers have a new focus when connecting with voters: fatigue and disillusionment.
“Whether you’re completely conservative or more liberal, it’s kind of like everybody’s sick of this conversation and the low trashy depths that this election has gone to,” said Jason Peterson, chief creative officer of Havas North America, which oversees Hefty’s advertising.
People visiting the CNN and Fox News websites in the past few days may have noticed stark black banner ads with white letters declaring, “This political ad has been trashed thanks to Hefty.” Hefty, the trash bag maker, seized on the five days leading up to Election Day to run such ads across several major political news sites and politics-related videos on YouTube. Its hope is to curry favor with Americans by shielding them from additional political messaging after a long, vitriolic presidential race.
“People are almost demanding this kind of relief,” Peterson said.
It is perhaps harder now to make light of the election as businesses have during previous campaigns, as when JetBlue offered international trips to voters whose candidate lost, Pizza Hut stitched together debate clips to highlight how cheap its pizza was or Snickers ran cheeky “Don’t Vote Hungry” ads.
Tecate, the Mexican beer label, was seen as poking fun at Donald Trump with its recent commercial featuring a “Tecate beer wall,” a knee-high ledge to rest beers on, even though the brand said the ad was nonpartisan. Indeed, the appetite for humor seems low in an environment where both Skittles and Tic Tac had to issue formal statements within weeks of each other distancing themselves from untoward mentions by the Trump campaign.
So come the new tactics. Hefty said its digital campaign, which started Thursday and will run through Tuesday, was built on the belief that “Americans hate political ads.” Just last month, the American Psychological Association said that 52 percent of American adults cited the presidential election as a “very or somewhat significant source of stress” in a survey conducted by Harris Poll. And the final pre-election New York Times/CBS News Poll released late last week showed that more than 8 in 10 voters said the campaign had left them repulsed rather than excited.
Excedrin, on the day of the third and final presidential debate last month, promoted the hashtag #DebateHeadache on Twitter, saying, “Debates bring headaches; Excedrin brings fast headache relief.” The brand tweeted out statistics from a survey it conducted throughout the day, including one that said 73 percent of Americans would experience election-related headaches this year.
The product, given its focus on relieving head pain, doesn’t generally have the opportunity to “speak on a larger scale,” especially during a presidential election, said Scott Yacovino, a senior brand manager for Excedrin and the U.S. pain business at GlaxoSmithKline. This situation was a “perfect storm,” he said.
“Even during the first debate, there was a lot of organic chatter around people getting headaches and the election causing headaches,” Yacovino said. “We thought we could bring our benefit to folks no matter what their political affiliations are.”
Another ad campaign born out of election fatigue came from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey last month, which officially denounced the use of the term circus to refer to this year’s presidential race. Its social media tracking tool showed that between Oct. 15 and 24, the terms “circus” or “clowns” were used to describe the election or candidates an average of almost 4,000 times a day.
As part of its effort to “Take Back the Circus,” the company made a humorous video featuring several performers expressing their indignation over misuse of the terms. In one scene, a ringmaster turned to the camera and said, “People keep calling candidates clowns.” A clown by his side responded, “But we’re real clowns, and we take clowning seriously.”
Hefty’s banner ads have appeared on CNN, Fox News, AOL and the Huffington Post’s politics page. Hefty’s YouTube ads will be aimed at people tracking the election, especially in swing states like North Carolina and Pennsylvania. The company’s agency said its purchase guaranteed at least 40 million page views across the sites.
“We did pick out media buys based upon where more of the trashy politics are going on and more in the swing states where it’s getting heated,” Peterson said.
He added: “What I really love about it and what I think consumers appreciate in advertising is when you’re able to offer them a utility to what they’re feeling. And to me, people are sick and tired.”
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