Say goodbye to the days of advertisments simply promoting whitening toothpaste and luscious shampoo. The age of political ads has come, where companies take sides and consumers either stand behind them or abandon them. Before, it seemed people would buy products for their quality; in the current political climate, however, consumers purchase to further reinforce their own political beliefs.
The Super Bowl, one of America’s most watched television broadcasts, illustrated the beginnings of this trend. Brands began to position themselves on either side of the political landscape, advocating for anti-Trump campaigns or supporting him. One of the most striking advertisements revolves around the recognizable patriotic song “America The Beautiful” being belted out by young bilingual women in a Coca-Cola ad. As it promoted patriotism and diversity, many conservatives responded with tweets complaining that the ad was “un-American” or promised that they would “never buy coke again.” This harsh criticism provoked Coca-Cola to come out with a defense statement. In an attempt to ease the minds of these critics, they pointed out that the “It’s Beautiful” ad provides a depiction of the true variety of all Americans.
A number of other companies, namely Airbnb and Budweiser, recut ads that had already been aired to keep them as diverse and prominent as possible. A pro-immigration message came across in the Budweiser ad, depicting a german immigrant traveling and facing hardships in order to live the dream in America. Trump supporters stated that they did not want to be associated with such companies. Practically speaking, such companies can be expected to express such anti-Trump sentiment because a majority of their customers align with those same beliefs.
84 Lumber, a chain building materials company, created a particular controversial and moving ad that raised questions from many people on Superbowl Sunday and long thereafter. The advertisement displayed a young mother and her daughter trekking from the countryside of Mexico in hopes of creating a new life in America. However, they find themselves facing a massive wall at their destination. The ad ends with a truck carrying lumber and the words “the will to succeed is always welcome here” rolling across the screen. In the days following, the countless number of people watching the advertisement caused a crash of the company’s website, showing how far an ad can go to provoke emotions and opinions.
It is important to consider that Trump’s divisive policies may be affecting how advertisers position themselves. For example, if a company is directly affected by Trump’s policies, they may not speak their opinion as outwardly because of the risk. Other advertisers that don’t have to worry about Trump’s policies may use more controversial tactics to protest changes that could potentially affect human rights.
Audi takes a stand on this conflict, as they defend the women’s rights movement. In their advertisement, the company shows a young girl driving a racecar among many boys and her dad supporting her, motivating her to override any obstacle that comes her way. These types of ads that are consistent with the women’s movement could have aired at any point, but now because of Trump’s position, they are even more significant. The Audi ad, titled “Daughter,” reveals their support of equal pay for equal work; they use the hashtag #driveprogress in order to advocate that progress is for everyone. While political tension continually rises nationwide, advertisers are constantly looking for more opportunities to speak their minds.
Graphics: Jess Chang