5 brands that are going all-in on election year

Election season isn’t just time for candidates to get out there, but brands, too. With political engagement at its peak, politically themed messages can stand out.

Many brands don’t want to advertise around political news, lest they become associated with a polarizing topic like immigration or religion. And politically themed ads can risk being drowned out by the glut of political messages out there.

But ads that speak to the current mood can capitalize on the political conversation without picking sides, said AJ Feld, senior consultant at Interbrand New York. And a survey by the Global Strategy Group last year found that corporations that were seen as politically involved or attuned were viewed favorably — no matter which side of the aisle they were on.

Here are five brands getting in the election spirit.


Hotels.com’s spokesman, Captain Obvious, is “running” for president — literally. The ads feature Obvious literally running through every state on the campaign trail. In each one, you find the hotel he stayed in and can search for other places to stay if you decide to visit. He’ll also tweet during the presidential debates, starting Thursday. CP+B executive creative director Matt Talbot, who worked on the campaign, said the brand knew it would be entering a crowded space, so it decided to go the comedic route. So if Obvious tweets about immigration, he might say, for example, that “immigrants are people who originated from elsewhere.” That ensures he — and the brand — doesn’t get ensnared in hot-button topics.


Screen Shot 2016-02-25 at 1.49.25 PM

If Captain Obvious is funny, Netflix has made Frank Underwood, the main character of “House of Cards,” a very serious candidate. The brand set up faux campaign headquarters in Greenville, South Carolina, where a Republican debate happened. It includes an oval office desk and literature on why people should vote Underwood in November. (Gaffney, South Carolina, is Underwood’s hometown in the show.) At FU16.com, clips and teasers from the show’s new season, set to drop March 4, abound, as well as an explanation of Underwood’s platform.


Premiering during the Super Bowl, Budweiser’s “Bud Light Party” stars Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen and is part of a campaign that the brand’s agency, Wieden+Kennedy, says will run through election year. The idea is that despite all the things people disagree on, they agree on beer (although whether that beer is Bud Light is a separate question). The campaign website features shareable memes and merchandise, and there will be events throughout the country this year. Because Bud is such an American brand, the ad makes sense in the political climate, said Feld.


JetBlue is a fan of stunt-based advertising, and it shows in this latest gag, when it asked 150 unsuspecting passengers on a plane to “reach across the aisle” for a chance to win airfare to a cool destination. The catch was, they had to all agree on one destination before their six-hour flight ended.


Agency Droga5 is working on the Hillary Clinton campaign, but also on behalf of Zoe, a 1-year-old girl who is hoping to become president — in 2064. The idea is that Zoe can take advantage of all the opportunities the YMCA affords to kids if they one day want to be president, or maybe just something else. Zoe for President is “not political and does not promote a political agenda,” said Kevin Washington, CEO and President of YMCA USA. But, during an election year, he said, “the public is especially engaged with issues related to children, families and communities that have always been a focus of the Y. We are hoping to capitalize on this.”


More in Marketing

Cannes Briefing: What to expect out of Cannes Lions 2024

The Cannes Lions Festival’s evolution from a sun-soaked schmooze-fest to a hive of strategic deal-making, discussion and deliberation continues to unfold this year.

Inside Publicis Groupe’s closed-door Cannes AI push

Publicis Groupe plans to use the week to emphasize its AI expertise and entice its existing client roster to invest more heavily in the space.

Digiday Podcast at Cannes Lions: Why Hilton CMO Mark Weinstein says the ‘hot air’ AI hype cycle isn’t over yet

No doubt, marketers have found uses for gen AI beyond social copy and internal content creation, but it’s yet to be said if AI will reach an inflection point at this year’s Cannes Lions.