- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 17, 2017

The influential advertising-trade association 4A’s released earlier this year a survey that found that 58 percent of Americans frown when established commercial brands “get political” and take sides on complicated issues.

“Consumers are not looking to brands to take a position on political or social issues. In fact, there’s typically more risk than benefit,” said Alison Fahey, chief marketing officer for the organization. “Brands taking a negative approach risk backlash, and only a small percentage of consumers are moved to buy from positive messaging.”

Nevertheless, big names like Nordstrom, Coca-Cola and Expedia have entered the fray with gusto following President Trump’s election — and the gloves are off. A new advertising genre has emerged.

“It’s clear 2017 became the year that corporations shed their reservations about stepping up on the soap box. In overwhelming numbers, America’s largest and most influential brands made their positions on a range of socio-political issues clear — at times brutally so,” writes Adweek senior editor Robert Klara. “While companies have taken controversial stands in years past — Walmart taking a stance on sustainability 12 years ago or Disney adding domestic-partner benefits as early as 1995 — this year was clearly different in another respect. Not only did brands take highly public policy stances, but most of them took the form of active and direct opposition to the President of the United States.”

He tracked the momentum of outspoken advertising motivated by policy, including the White House travel ban on certain Islamic countries and the president’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accords. It remains to be seen whether the new breed of “socio-political ads” is inspired by true activism, or the protest theme — which lends itself to compelling drama.

It is also complicated. Political strategists and pollsters overlooked the huge population of heartland patriots who rose up to be counted in 2016. Will the advertising community do the same?

Meanwhile, the 4A’s poll also asked several hundred ad agency professionals to elaborate on marketing lessons they learned following the presidential election. Six-out-of-10 said that understanding the demographics and values of a brand’s customers is more important than ever. Thirty percent now counsel clients to avoid engaging in “controversial sociopolitical issues” while a quarter tell their clients “to align with sociopolitical issues authentic to the brand.”

MOST PATRIOTIC, MOST LIBERAL BRANDS

A new poll released by the nonprofit, non-partisan American Culture & Faith Institute reveals that ideology, patriotism and marketing can indeed intersect.

“While most Americans consider themselves to be suitably patriotic, they do not have similar feelings about the patriotism of many well-known individuals or organizations — and the divide between liberals and conservatives once again revealed itself,” the poll analysis notes.

Among conservatives, 57 percent said the National Rifle Association was patriotic; 43 percent said the same of Chick-fil-A, 42 percent said the Republican Party was patriotic while 39 percent cited Fox News, and 36 percent Hobby Lobby.

Among liberal respondents, 39 percent said the Democratic Party was patriotic, followed by the Supreme Court (36 percent), Planned Parenthood (34 percent), the NFL (30 percent), and The New York Times (30 percent). More numbers in the Poll du Jour at column’s end.

KASICH AT THE READY

The still very active campaign website of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former presidential hopeful, has a big announcement.

“We just got in stock a small quantity of bumper stickers to support Gov. Kasich’s message about standing up to protect the honor of our country by rejecting candidates who are not worthy of the office they seek, as we saw recently in Alabama,” the organization advises.

The bumper sticker reads “Country Over Party. Always,” and are available for a $25 donation.

“The funds we raise go directly into spreading our message about working together to find common-sense solutions to America’s greatest challenges and to support honorable GOP candidates,” the campaign advises.

A MURDOCH MOMENT

There was considerable media hubbub over a remark attributed to Rupert Murdoch regarding sexual harassment at Fox News, uttered during an appearance on Sky News. Mr. Murdoch discussed the complicated Disney plan to acquire 21st Century Fox, a deal would include Sky News, but not Fox News.

During the discussion, Sky News host Ian King asked Mr. Murdoch whether Fox News had been damaged by recent allegations of sexual misconduct at the network.

Mr. Murdoch appeared to downplay harassment as “nonsense” and pointed out other networks like CBS and NBC were having problems as well — “going down the drain,” he said.

A 21st Century spokesperson released this statement to the Huffington Post, which reported that 10 former female Fox News employees were “disgusted” that Mr. Murdoch appeared to dismiss evidence of sexual harassment at the network. It also alludes to the impending deal, and what the network has done about sexual harassment:

“Rupert never characterized the sexual harassment matters at Fox News as ‘nonsense.’ Rather, he responded negatively to the suggestion that sexual harassment issues were an obstacle to the company’s bid for the rest of Sky [News]. Under Rupert’s leadership and with his total support, the company exited Roger Ailes, compensated numerous women who were mistreated; trained virtually all of its employees; exited its biggest star; and hired a new head of HR. By his actions, Rupert has made it abundantly clear that he understands that there were real problems at Fox News. Rupert values all of the hard-working colleagues at Fox News, and will continue to address these matters to ensure Fox News maintains its commitment to having a work environment based on the values of trust and respect,” the statement said.

POLL DU JOUR

• 86 percent of Americans are proud to be American; 96 percent of Republicans, 91 percent of independents and 90 percent of Democrats agree.

• 72 percent overall are “willing to die to protect our freedoms”; 82 percent of Republicans, 77 percent of independents and 70 percent of Democrats agree.

• 69 percent overall say they refuse to tolerate abuse of the American flag; 88 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of independents and 55 percent of Democrats agree.

• 62 percent overall believe America comes first “always”; 78 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of independents and 55 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: An American Culture & Faith Institute poll of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 1- Nov. 30 and released Friday.

• Murmurs and asides to [email protected]

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