Brands use humour, ply causes to keep politics out of election pitch

McDonald’s tells people to exercise their choice or suffer the consequences
How does one keep the brand chatter active and buzzing in election season and yet steer clear of controversy? Check out the brands that are doing just that. McDonald’s campaign #MakeYourChoice has a bunch of irate customers demanding what they ordered instead of being dumped with the choices made by the restaurant staff, only to be told that if they don’t vote, they lose the right to choose. KFC has twisted the brand’s tagline of ‘Finger lickin’ good’ to ‘Finger inkin’ good’. 

Smart lines, humour or wrapping a cause around the message helps keep the narrative neutral say experts. But is this effective, they ask. “Consistency is key when you take up a cause. Brands may use a topical ad as a means for a brand refresh, but increasingly, brands are making an effort to stand for something. So to jump onto a topic just to grab eyeballs, or win an award is not effective,” said Sandeep Goyal, founder Mogae Media.

Brands need to stay topical to be present in customer conversations online and stay relevant amidst the daily din of political campaigning. Hence the use of satire and humour. Take the Berger Paints ad, for instance, which uses satire to drive home the political incompetence and cynicism around us. 

“There are three ways to get into election themed advertising. One way is to urge people to vote. Another way is to stand up for causes and a third way is to use election as a backdrop for a humorous ad. The first one is the safest and most effective since the brand isn't seen as taking a side, and at the same time is doing something for the consumers' benefit. On the other hand, the most dangerous strategy would be the second one as the brand may be seen taking sides in an election, which may not sit well with its audience. Humour, while effective as a means of communication, may not be the best option for an issue like election since it adds an element of frivolity to the whole message,” said Harish Bijoor, founder Bijoor Consults.

Berger Paints takes a dig at political incompetence


In the recent bunch of ads around elections, some brands have attempted to stay as close to real life as possible.  For instance, the McDonald’s ad is based on an on-ground activation in one of its outlets. The ad also drives home the apathy that Indian voters show during elections and the dangers thereof. It ends with a line that says that in 2014, 280 million Indians gave up their right to choose, followed by the message, “We all want a government of our choice. But we don’t want to go out and choose.”

Apparel brand Benetton has a campaign, #UnitedByVote that focuses on how real power does not lie with the political parties but with the public. In the ad, as politicians rage against each other and make wild promises, an inked finger slips into frame and shuts them up. The tagline runs, ‘Show them who has the power’.

Titus Upputuru, creative head, Taproot Dentsu that conceptualised the ad says, “We were really excited because we wanted to bust the myth about power. The typical farce is politicians claiming that they can do this or that for the public; they seem to portray that they have the power to give us what we need and decide what we should eat, wear and believe. Power actually lies in the hands of the voter, because he or she decides who should govern and serve the country.” As for the brands, it lies with the consumer.

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