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Advertising’s biggest night of the year takes place during Super Bowl Sunday. A time where advertisers pay up to $5 million for a 30-second spot. In return, they receive an expected 110 million viewers worldwide, giving companies the opportunity to make an impression. At Think Profits, we noticed many advertisers decided that their impression would be political – one of cultural acceptance and a direct opposition to the recent political narrative in the United States. Previously, politics was a taboo topic for corporate America. So, why the sudden partisan switch, and what implications does this have for the future of advertising?

Why are companies getting political in advertising?

Academics everywhere are chiming in to give their opinions on the Super Bowl advertising narrative. A Virginia Commonwealth University marketing professor said, “brands used to worry about whether their ad could be interpreted as right or wrong…Now they have to worry about whether it will be interpreted as right or left.”

Politics in advertising is certainly a polarizing topic, in every sense, but what it does do is get people talking. Those who disagree will often share their opinion, online or aloud. However, if you agree with the message, and your ideas align, then you will have a stronger connection to the brand – and, by extension purchase their product or use their services. This year’s political ads certainly swung to the left side of the political spectrum including messages of acceptance and equality.

Implications for the future

Recent studies from psychology at the University of Southern California have shown that political views are linked to a sense of identity, something we always knew but can now quantify. With the current state of American politics dividing the nation, corporations and small businesses alike have taken to represent their values in the hope of drawing themselves into the fiber of consumer identity, which can provide an unparalleled sense of loyalty.

Businesses have decided now is the time they are willing to speak politically, even if it means losing those who disagree. It is a simple question of standing on middle ground or risking joining the conversation.

What this says about advertising is that so long as tensions remain high, there will be areas for businesses to capitalize on the passion of consumers. Expect advertisers to continue using their influence to both garner loyalty and spread a positive message for as long as people care to continue the discourse.

What do you think? Is it worth the risk to engage in politics when advertising?

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