The Product Plus Politics Equation.

Mike Ozan 03.02.17

This year’s Big Game Ads Reflect Our American Mindset.

This year three Big Game advertisers demonstrate the power of making a values match with a target audience as they pair their products with our politics.

One for the dreamers-Budweiser: Born the Hard Way

Americans haven’t lost our sense of humor (yet) but let’s just say frogs, puppies and even big horses are out and immigrant struggles for the American dream writ large are in.

This year Budweiser will share with the Big Game’s 80 million viewers the origin story of its brand in a spot by creative agency Anomaly called “Born the Hard Way” a cinematic and poetic portrayal of the unwavering perseverance and struggle of Budweiser’s original brewmaster Adolphus Busch.

We follow a young Adolphus on his journey from Germany to the New World. Determined to realize his dream he survives a rough ocean crossing, overcomes immigrant prejudice and survives the numerous hardships and attitudes that seek to separate him from his commitment to his dream: to craft the world’s greatest beer. Is his story relevant to today? You bet it is.

You can’t have a proper American Dream story without an immigrant tale.

Budweiser may not have intended (well maybe a little) for their spot to be a commentary on the hottest political topic of the day, but to the 80 million watching the Big Game, that is surely how it will be received and that’s a good thing! Budweiser is not taking sides, but those who have a side will perceive this spot through the lens of their own world view.

Why this strategy works:

By telling their origin story the Budweiser brand gets to take credit for doing the hard work required to build America’s most famous beer (and ride a political wave of progressive sentiment). It wasn’t easy, this spot explains, and by doing so the Budweiser brand gets to reclaim its grit. Work ethic, dirty hands and self-reliance are as much in style today as they were in the late 1800s, especially with millennial audiences who seek to distance themselves from the “everybody is special” culture of their youth and replace it with authenticity and truth.

One for the progressives-Audi: Daughter

Audi believes they know where their audience stands on the political spectrum and they are not being shy or subtle with their brand message. The German performance car maker returns for a second year with their agency Venerables Bell & Partners to the Big Game spotlight with a feminist equality message.

Although a bit ironic (the Audi customer in the spot is still a man), the spot features a father and young daughter competing in a soap box derby race where all of the other competitors are boys. The spot is beautiful, sleek, smart and a true reflection of the style and quality of the product featured at the end.

The voice over is that of the father and begins with “What do I tell my daughter?” This opening line is no accident. By beginning with this, Audi is tapping into the big question that most progressive leaning men and women are asking in the wake of this election. The brand is saying “we are with you” and “we are for you”, and, it is also saying to others, “we are not for you.” The latter is what makes this such a bold and confident play.

Like it or not, agree or not, Audi shows its brand courage

I can’t tell you how many times I have been in a room with a client that makes and sells a mass consumer good that says “well, you know, we’re not for everyone.” No really, I can’t tell you-because its never happened. Knowing you are not only going to turn off but most likely anger a reasonable portion of the buying public is a bold move. I think it’s exactly the right move though, Audi is right, they do know their customer. You don’t need a market study. Just think about everyone you know who drives an Audi (OK, maybe not the A8 drivers).

Why this strategy works #driveprogress

This campaign is more than talk. Audi is integrating a feminist stance into their brand and their corporate culture. The centerpiece of their second screen component is #driveprogress and they have made a commitment to equality and equal pay, company-wide. Regardless of politics, consumers today demand that corporations live their values. Audi’s strategy works because they offer more than advertising. They are connecting their declaration to proof of action.

One for the Wall-84 Lumber: The Wall

The Pennsylvania based building materials supplier was forced to make last minute changes to its spot called “The Wall” after the network labeled the spot as too controversial. This is the first time 84 has advertised during the Big Game and the company, and their agency Brunner headquartered in Atlanta, had to make some quick changes to the spot.

The ad itself, like the Budweiser commercial, is an American Dream story. It follows an immigrant mother and daughter as they push North toward a better life. They come upon a giant structure that is under construction. We, the viewer see a wall, but as the angle shifts, we see that the wall is really a giant door. The message is that the politics of the day are not in opposition to the American dream, but rather are in support of them.

Why this strategy works

84 Lumber’s customers are tradesmen and women. They are the forgotten, hard-working, blue collar Americans who have taken center stage in the ’16 election. 84 Lumber, is saying we know our audience’s values, but we also know their hearts. The best strategy a brand can undertake is one of validation of their audience’s worldview. It says “we get you” it says “we are on your side.” Plus, having a spot that was rejected is gold for an advertiser as the controversy creates invaluable coverage by the press.

What bold actions will your brand take this year to demonstrate your values and validate your customers’ worldview?

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