September 30th, 2016

Viewers Vote Jeep the Winner of the Politically Themed Brand Ad Debate


Ace Metrix

This week’s presidential debate saw several brands electing to take advantage of the anticipated large audiences by releasing new, politically themed creative.  While it isn’t necessarily unusual for marketers to create politically themed ads during an election year, there is nothing ‘typical’ about this election. We were curious to see how consumers felt about their brands becoming political in nature (to any extent), and found that most brands were able to capitalize on the broad audience, while some squandered the opportunity by being a bit “too” political.

Here’s a look at four brands that took the (expensive) risk, and an assessment of how it paid off.  In the table below, we report each ad’s results across a variety of performance criteria relative to the brand’s competitive category norms:

Brand Ad Title Ace Score Attention Likeability Relevance Desire Information
Jeep “Free to Be” Above Above Above Above Above Average
Audi “The Duel” Above Above Above Average Average Below
Tecate “Beer Wall” Average Above Average Below Below Average
GoDaddy “The Election” Below Below Below Below Below Below

Brands that were able to make a clear connection between their politically-themed message and their brand specifically, while treading lightly into the political arena, enjoyed the greatest success from the spend. Emotionally stirring ads (inspirational and humorous) worked within these parameters. Those that dove into controversial, politically charged topics within the ad, even with attempts at humor, or merely “used” the election as a hook, fared the worst. Some further insight by ad:

GoDaddy: “The Election”

GoDaddy, a brand that has both offended viewers and hit it out of the park with its offbeat humor and at times controversial creative, used the debate to debut a new election-themed campaign. The ad airing on Monday night, “The Election,” features a cartoon “GoDaddy Guy” stumping on the campaign podium, encouraging people to be the ‘president’ of their own ideas (seemingly by using GoDaddy).

“The Election” was the most polarizing (this ad was more polarizing than 93% of brand ads) and least successful among the branded, politically-themed ads of the debate we studied. Attention was not widely achieved, nor did viewers find the ad captivating enough to be relevant, informative, or even likeable.  Across genders and ages, viewers rated this ad poorly. The problem? Viewers found the political angle superfluous, with others expressing a strong dislike of the political bent, despite liking the deal/information offered:

  • “I am so tired of seeing media associated with the election. I get that it’s a great event for companies to capitalize on, but honestly it’s all tiresome and, at the bottom line, lacks true creativity.” (Female 21-35)
  • “I am so sick of politics, and by equating your company with the lying dirty rat politicians, I would run away from this product” (Female, 36-49)
  • “For some reason this ad didn’t really excite me or get my attention because it was basically like a jokingly election ad.” (Female 16-20)
  • “It was an annoying advertisement. The overlay on the face makes the ad look cheap and childish. Focus more on how great the price is to host the domain for 1$ for a whole year…that’s good. Not the political reference and stuff, people are tired of hearing that.” (Male 16-20)

Tecate Light: “Beer Wall”

Tecate Light aired a spot that featured a “Beer Wall” on the border of the U.S. and Mexico (actually filmed in the beer’s namesake town of Tecate). Quoted in Ad Age, brand VP Felix Palau indicated the debate placement was aiming for broad reach, but claimed the creative had no political intent; rather, it was merely “a story where people from two bordering countries are united by beer.” However, this spot was the most politically charged of the four we analyzed because it featured the highly charged issue of immigration.

“Beer Wall” grabbed attention, with viewers finding it watchable and entertaining, as indicated by the emo cloud below – viewers used “great” and “humor” words to describe the ad most commonly:screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-10-20-00-amThe ad’s best performance was seen among 21-35 year-old males, a key target for the brand, and received a relatively better reception among beer drinkers. However, there was some viewer disagreement on the creative with some objecting to the lighthearted take on a serious topic facing America, while others enjoyed the spoof.

  • “humorous, relative to the current social issues, made me notice an otherwise unknown brand to me, engaging” (Female 21-35)
  • “It’s cool and originial” (Male 21-35)
  • “I like that Tecate calls attention to one of the most ridiculous political proposals and pokes fun at it in a way that garners cooperation as opposed to bigotry and fear. Congrats to this commercial, I really enjoyed it!” (Female 36-49)
  • “In bad taste. Making light of a serious, dangerous, oppressive situation. Really doesn’t make me want to buy the product and even tell others not to support it” “Female 21-35)
  • “I think the ad is poking fun at something that is very offensive to a great deal of people. It’s a touchy commercial that may not go over well with a lot of people.” (Female 21-35)
  • “I thought this ad made fun of a serious topic in America about building the wall on the southern border. I did not like it because it seems like this company had a political agenda. “ (Male 36-49)

More importantly for Tecate, the ad seems to have missed an opportunity given the spot’s wide reach, as only 56% of those viewing recalled the Tecate brand itself (unaided). Perhaps the integration of such a politically charged issue (immigration), distracted viewers to the extent that the wall pulled viewer focus away from the advertised brand. Despite these caveats, this ad was Tecate Light’s best performer since March of 2015.

Audi: “The Duel”

Audi, in contrast, debuted “Duel,” a highly creative, politically-oriented satire featuring a fight between two individuals replayed in reverse, with the cause of the duel only revealed at the very end of the spot – the chance for the two valet attendants to drive the Audi. In the spot, there are visual references to the current election environment, but the storyline itself was largely apolitical.

“The Duel” also took great advantage of the large audience but managed to keep the brand foremost in viewer minds – with viewer verbatims indicating that the creative effects made for a riveting and highly memorable spot, overtaking (in fact, seemingly discounting) any subtle political overtones present in the ad:

  • “I thought this ad was hilarious, and it surprised me because primarily I thought it was regarding voting and it was going to end up being about that, two people fighting over voting on different tickets. It was incredibly funny and it certainly kept me entertained and glued to the set. Its the kind of ad I would share on social media.” (Female 21-35)
  • “That was such a great ad! I loved the whole backwards thing. It was entertaining and captivating and I couldn’t wait to see how it all started. I was surprised when I saw that it was a car ad. Very unique and different and I think a lot of people will love the artistry in the ad. Very creative!!!” (Female 26-49)
  • “Very intriguing ad for Audi. I found myself riveted to the screen while the ad was playing wondering to myself “what is this about”. But the payoff at the end was amazing. The use of the reverse fight scene was incredible.” (Male 50+)
  • “Exciting and innovative ad. Like seeing the man and woman action fight scenes, looked cool. Also like how this car brand is fun to drive, exciting, a luxury vehicle, has great technology and safety features.” (Male 21-35)

“Duel” ranks third in its Luxury Automotive category for its attention-grabbing abilities year-to-date.

Jeep: “Free to Be”

The clear winner of Monday’s ad “debates” was Jeep – with a patriotic and inspirational spot, “Free to Be,” that successfully linked its message of unity despite diversity very solidly with the Jeep brand. The ad ranks in the Top Ten (year-to-date) Non-Luxury Automotive ads for overall performance, likeability, relevance, viewer agreement, and creating desire. Posting nothing but positive viewer emotions (see right), this ad featuring Cat Stevens music represents a true “seek and share” ad that viewers express a desire not only to seek out and watch again, but to share with their circles of influence.

Viewers not only bonded emotionally to the message, they also (importantly) clearly tracked the connection to the Jeep brand itself:screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-10-41-18-am

  • “What a great American ad by jeep.  Showing the jeeps and all the different people who might own them. Very modern, inspiring, American, relevant, patriotic and creative. Love it. Love the tag line at the end that we are more alike then different. The last year or so the Jeep ads in general have been great.”(Female 36-49)
  • “I like Cat Steven’s song and it describes well what is going on in the add in that you can be who ever you are an the Jeep is for anyone. It plays well with the opposites and that the car does not define you…you do.” (Male 21-35)
  • “I really liked the fact that Jeep went out of its way in this ad to show that Jeep brand can be used for anyone, in any condition, and I like that it said at the end that it is what unites us. Awesome ad.” (Female 36-49)
  • “Catchy Tune, Great Juxtaposition of values, and scenarios, injection of nostalgia and AMERICA. Clean, Very Nice Execution Jeep has a winner here” (Male 50+)
  • “I loved it! Slowly, the Jeep Brand has been really gaining my attention! Ads, like this only cement my interest in the brand. I loved everything about it. The music, visuals, everything.” (Male 36-49)
  • HOLY snickies batman…CAT STEVENS wahooo you guys rock!!!!! Jeep wow great ad i want to see again and again…”(Female 50+)



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