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Super Bowl commercials in 2020 were an escape from politics –



Post Malone buys Bud Light Seltzer at a gas station. Winona Ryder goes to Winona, Minnesota. Lil Nas X and Sam Elliott have a dance battle showdown in the Old West.

These are just a handful of this year’s Super Bowl ads, and for the most part, they’re a pretty good summary of what viewers saw during the Big Game: practically no politics from brands. Celebrity cameos are nothing new for the year’s biggest advertising bonanza, but what’s notable about the 2020 Super Bowl commercials is that during arguably the most contentious election of the past two decades, brands decided to go escapist — literally, in at least three cases in which the dominant theme was “outer space.”

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There were notable exceptions: President Trump and Mike Bloomberg both had campaign ads, with the latter devoting his airtime to a mother who had lost her son to gun violence. Kia’s ad was a letter from Oakland Raiders player Josh Jacobs to his younger self as a homeless child (while also presenting the somewhat flawed theory that the solution to prevent youth homelessness is to become very good at football). The most affecting politically tinged ad came from the NFL itself, whose spot centered on Corey Jones, the cousin of a retired NFL player, who was shot to death by a plainclothes police officer.

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For the most part, though, this year’s Super Bowl ads barely had anything to say. TurboTax tried to make a TikTok dance. Planters murdered Mr. Peanut. The rest of the brands mostly just relied on puns. Why?

The 2020 Super Bowl ads are a far cry from the activist tone that many companies have tried on since 2016. Marketing experts have said that since protests and public outrage are constants in the media, it’s sometimes worth the immediate risk for brands to make a statement.

Perhaps the most famous example is Nike’s partnership with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the subject of controversy after kneeling during the national anthem to protest anti-black police brutality in 2016. For the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” campaign, the athletic brand cast him in a commercial with the slogan “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Though the ad predictably was a lightning rod for conservatives and led to a small boycott, it was ultimately a win for the brand, whose stock went up 5 percent over about two weeks, amounting to a $6 billion increase in value.

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“It used to be you didn’t want to upset anyone,” Jessica Li, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Kansas, told Vox in December 2018. “But studies show that the country is very divided, and if it’s divided politically, brands might feel like they’re able to take a stronger stand and get more support from their target market. It’s a way for them to get people talking about their brand.”

Shoppers are now increasingly making political statements based on how they spend their money. SoulCycle, Equinox, Home Depot, LL Bean, and other household brands have been the subject of boycotts from progressives due to their ties to Trump.

As Nadra Nittle wrote for Vox, “Since the dawn of the industrial age, corporations have battled the idea that they’re evil. While that perception hasn’t vanished, companies increasingly grapple with the notion that to do good, they must act. Today, greed and exploitation continue to mark businesses as morally bankrupt, but so does failure to speak out during an age when many refuse to tolerate silence, politeness, and thoughts and prayers any longer.”

In a time when young consumers care deeply about brands who champion social causes, why tiptoe around the most divisive presidential election in recent memory?

A few years ago, politics were everywhere during the Super Bowl. In 2017, instead of peddling its usual Midwestern ethos, Budweiser highlighted its immigrant roots, which many took as a rebuke of Trump’s immigration policies. In 2018, Toyota turned a joke setup — a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim get into a truck — to make a statement on diversity.

Much of this year’s Super Bowl ad content takes place in a world far removed from these issues, however: When Snickers promised to “fix the world,” what it really addressed were babies named Kale and adult men riding scooters. Multiple brands used surrealism and absurdism for laughs. Sodastream, Walmart, and Olay took their commercials to outer space, as though Earth is beyond saving.

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Part of this is likely because viewers don’t necessarily love it when their commercials get political. According to a poll from Morning Consult, most viewers think the Super Bowl is an “inappropriate” place for brands to make political statements, with Republicans 80 percent more likely to believe so. It’s also a risk: Plenty of brands have missed the mark by spending big budgets on clumsy or offensive ads, such as the use of Martin Luther King Jr.’s voice to sell Chryslers, or Kendall Jenner solving America’s social justice issues by handing a cop a Pepsi.

Of course, there’s also the sense that as politics continues to reach every corner of our lives, brands would rather see their products as a break from all that. Facebook, which would probably love us all to forget about politics, centered its Super Bowl commercial on the communities of Facebook groups. As Diego Scotti, Verizon’s chief marketing officer, told Variety before last year’s Super Bowl, “Creating controversy for the sake of creating controversy is not helpful for anybody. We are in a moment when positivity is something that we all need.”

Brands seem to be taking that message to heart this year. In a world where even killing off a mascot can be seen as politically contentious — Planters had to pause its campaign in which Mr. Peanut falls to his death after a car accident in the wake of NBA legend Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash — many companies evidently feel that the safest road is the one where none of the earth’s problems are solved, only escaped.

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Kyiv mayor brushes off Zelenskiy's criticism as 'politics' – Reuters



KYIV, Dec 7 (Reuters) – Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko on Wednesday dismissed criticism by Ukraine’s president about his office’s preparations for a winter of Russian air strikes, saying he believed it was driven by politics and that it looked “strange”.

Klitschko was chided by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in one of his nightly video addresses to Ukrainians last week, when he accused city authorities of failing to provide enough shelters despite the energy system being pounded by Russian attacks.

Officials are rolling out special “heating points” to provide people with warmth and electricity in case Russian missile strikes on critical infrastructure cause sweeping blackouts.

In an interview with Reuters, Klitschko responded to the accusations by saying Kyiv had considerably more heating hubs than any other city in Ukraine.

“It looks strange when we are united against a single enemy, but we start to fight within the country,” he said.

“Our foreign partners say ‘you have a common enemy, but you cannot work things out among yourselves.'”

Klitschko, now in his ninth year as mayor, was seen as one of Zelenskiy’s highest-profile opponents before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

“I am convinced that politics is behind this, because representatives of one political group began to run around trying to find faults (in Kyiv),” he said.

Reporting by Max Hunder, editing by Tom Balmforth and Timothy Heritage

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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A look at years of political chaos in Peru – Al Jazeera English



Peruvian politics is marked by series of corruption cases and crises, the latest being removal of President Pedro Castillo.

Peru has seen a series of presidents removed from office or imprisoned on allegations of corruption over the past 30 years.

On Wednesday, Peru’s Congress voted to remove President Pedro Castillo in the third impeachment trial since he came to power in July last year.

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The move came just hours after Castillo had said he would dissolve the legislature by decree.

Here is a rundown of Peru’s recent political turmoil:

Pedro Castillo, 2021-2022

A former teacher and farmer, Castillo gained strong support in poor, rural areas of the country to win a divisive election campaign but his approval ratings fell quickly and he faced constant opposition from a fragmented Congress and accusations of “moral incapacity”.

He survived two impeachment votes before finally being voted out on Wednesday in a dramatic day where he had earlier tried to dissolve Congress, sparking allegations of an attempted coup.

Manuel Merino, 2020

A former head of Congress who led impeachment proceedings against his predecessor Martin Vizcarra and lasted less than a week.

He resigned after two deaths during protests against his government sparked an exodus from his cabinet and widespread calls for his removal. Lawmakers had said they would launch impeachment proceedings against him if he did not resign.

Martin Vizcarra, 2018-2020

Lawmakers removed Vizcarra after media reports alleged he had received 2.3 million soles ($640,000) in bribes from two companies that won a public works tender while he was a regional governor years earlier.

Vizcarra, who had long clashed with lawmakers, strongly denied the allegations but was voted out of office after a second impeachment trial in as many months found him “morally incapable” of governing.

Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, 2016-2018

Prosecutors investigated Kuczynski for favouring contracts with Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht while he was a minister under former President Alejandro Toledo.

Kuczynski initially denied any ties to Odebrecht, a company at the heart of a political corruption probe that swept the whole region. But he eventually acknowledged his consulting firm advised the builder on project financing. Kuczynski resigned from the presidency in 2018 amid pressure from Congress.

Ollanta Humala, 2011-2016

Humala is facing trial over allegations he received $3m from Odebrecht during the 2011 presidential election campaign.

Prosecutors have requested 20 years in prison. Humala denies the allegations.

Alan Garcia, 1985-1990 and 2006-2011

Garcia died by suicide in April 2019 with a gunshot to the head when Peruvian police arrived to arrest him over allegations he participated in another Odebrecht bribery scheme.

A charismatic political leader who served two terms, Garcia repeatedly denied the allegations of bribery.

Alejandro Toledo, 2001-2006

Toledo is accused of receiving a $20m bribe from Odebrecht during his tenure. He is free on bail in the United States but faces extradition proceedings to Peru.

The former president, who has denied the allegations, spent nearly eight months in a Californian prison.

Alberto Fujimori, 1990-2000

Fujimori is serving a 25-year sentence in prison for human rights abuses, including commanding death squads that massacred civilians in a counterinsurgency campaign during his government.

He was later also found guilty of corruption in a large scandal.

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Has Pierre Poilievre’s social media output made him the first influencer in Canadian politics? – The Hub



Is Pierre Poilievre Canada’s first “influencer” politician? 

Influencers are online celebrities with large social media followings that promote anything from sneakers to lip gloss to hunting products, with the intent of convincing their audiences to buy them.

The products that influencers promote are often niche and appeal to a specific audience. Poilievre does not promote $975 sneakers, but he is certainly selling promises and principles. 

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Long popular with the Conservative base for his stern questioning and rhetorical attacks on the Liberal government, Poilievre’s brand skyrocketed during the party’s leadership race following Erin O’Toole’s ousting in February. 

YouTube is a favoured outlet for Poilievre. He has released dozens of short to medium-length videos on the platform and received millions of total views. The videos are marked by grabbing slogans like “Remove Gatekeepers” and “Justinflation”, targeting issues affecting Canadians like the rising cost of living, or more specific topics like delays at Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

Ginny Roth, who is the national practice lead for government relations at Crestview Strategy and who worked on Poilievre’s leadership campaign, says Poilievre’s audience is far too broad to be properly classified as an influencer. 

“Where influencers are looking to sell something to a niche group of people through a marketing channel…Poilievre is trying to build a movement that’s really broad,” says Roth. “He’s doing it through a variety of different channels, and he knows that a lot of Canadians are on social media, and they’re casual users…they’re not niche expert users.” 

Others have different opinions.

In March, Ben Woodfinden, Poilievre’s freshly-hired director of communications, and former Hub contributor, described the then-Conservative leadership frontrunner as having an “influencer kind of vibe”. 

“In many ways, yes, there’s an influencer part to his discourse,” agrees Vincent Raynauld, associate professor of communications at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. “But there’s also a populism part to his discourse, and I think this is where social media is really pushing politicians to become ever more populist in their approach to political communication.”

Poilievre is frequently described as a populist, an assessment Raynauld agrees with, but notes that the Conservative leader is not alone in his approach. 

“When you talk to folks, they often associate populism (with) your political ideology, but increasingly you can look at populism as a form of political communication,” says Raynauld. “An everyday, charismatic person talking about associating themselves with the people, and so making sure that they connect on a more personal level.”

In the recent U.S. midterm election in Ohio, Democratic senate candidate Tim Ryan released a video of himself throwing footballs at television screens showing the phrase “Defund the Police”, and politicians who Ryan accused of signing bad trade deals with China and selling out Ohio workers.

This contrasts with more conventional campaign ads from 10 years ago produced by other U.S. politicians, like Republican presidential nomination contender Rick Perry, who stood in front of a camera to outline his political principles in a 30-second, single-take monologue.

According to Raynauld, Poilievre is also bringing politics back to what Raynauld refers to as “kitchen table politics.”

Fittingly, Raynauld points out a Poilievre video titled “Breakfast with Justin”, where Poilievre eats breakfast at a diner while listing the rising costs of his meal due to inflation.

“He’s really trying to connect on a more personal level with members of the public and he’s trying to take a more informal way to reach out to the people,” says Raynauld. 

Raynauld mentions another video where Poilievre tours his childhood neighborhood in Calgary, and how his upbringing made him well-suited to become prime minister. 

“These are all things that I think are meant to be personal, they are meant to be, in some ways, private,” says Raynauld. “They are really meant to foster this sort of intimate connection between the social media user on one end and Pierre Poilievre on the other.” 

Poilievre is a controversial politician due to his promises to fire Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem, defund the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and most recently, his critiques of drug-addiction policies in British Columbia. 

Furthermore, Poilievre’s lack of engagement with members of the parliamentary press gallery in Ottawa, in favour of reaching out to smaller community papers read predominantly by Canada’s many immigrant communities, has led to additional criticism.

Writing in the Toronto Star, commentator Chantal Hébert asserted that Poilievre’s momentum has stalled due to his communications strategy of avoiding the press gallery and unfavourably compared him to former Conservative leaders who made more time for mainstream media outlets.

Poilievre is routinely criticized or praised in traditional newspapers, but Roth says those publications’ influence has declined since their heyday.

“People get their news and information and content from a variety of sources now, and they don’t inherently trust the mainstream media in a way that they used to,” says Roth. 

Recent surveys suggest Canadians’ trust in the “mainstream media” has declined to historic lows of 42 percent in recent months. 

Susan Smith is the co-founder of Bluesky Strategy Group with experience working on Liberal Party campaigns. 

“People are influenced by their families and peer groups, and by others in the social media and news funnels that they live in,” says Smith. “The traditional media are just one voice in the cacophony that accompanies a campaign.” 

Smith says that if the endorsements of traditional publications do have an effect, it is only towards the end of the general election, and among older demographics. 

While Poilievre’s videos don’t necessarily attract millions of views on an individual basis like a celebrity or influencer, they are far more popular than the average Canadian politician’s media output.

For example, among Justin Trudeau’s twelve most recent videos published on the prime minister’s official YouTube channel, the most viewed video garnered less than 8,000 views. By comparison to Trudeau’s channel, Poilievre’s most viewed video among his last twelve released, titled “The Message”, has been viewed just shy of 100,000 times. Others, though, like his leadership campaign launch video, have reached numbers well into the hundreds of thousands.

“Poilievre is unencumbered from the responsibilities, realities, and the experience of governing so has more time to film rants on his topic-du-jour,” says Smith. “Less scripted is better for Trudeau. I expect you’ll see more of that in the weeks and months to come.” 

The Liberal Party’s official YouTube account’s videos typically garner a similarly low view count to Trudeau’s.

“I think people are now their own curators of what’s true, and what’s interesting, and that’s compelling to them,” says Roth. “The benefit of that is that people with a strong message don’t need to be filtered through those outlets necessarily, they can speak to people directly on social media.” 

Raynauld says the use of social media in political communication has radically changed over the last two decades, listing the campaigns of viral U.S. political figures like Howard Dean in 2004, Barack Obama in 2008, and Donald Trump in 2020 as exemplifying instances of this shift. 

Of those three candidates, only Dean never became president. Raynauld also singles out 2006 as a Canadian election year where personal blogs became prominent in Canadian politics, contributing to the change in communications. 

YouTube itself launched in 2005, providing a popular platform for video blogs, better known as vlogs.

“Campaigning has really evolved over the past years, and I really think that Pierre Poilievre probably is one of the few first ones in Canada that has adopted more of an informal tone when it comes to the approach to political campaigning online,” says Raynauld. 

Poilievre is not the only federal party leader attempting to harness the power of social media to grow their presence. 

New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh frequently uses Tik-Tok as a platform to try and connect with younger voters by taking part in dance trends, and also shared a Twitch stream with prominent American progressive Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

However, Singh’s strategy appears to have had little effect on his party’s fortunes, with the NDP making only marginal gains in the last election. 

“I think Mr. Singh is really mimicking trends and other people are innovating, and that gives him some reach, but not the same kind of reach as Mr. Poilievre,” says Roth. 

Noting that Singh’s Tik-Toks backfired, Smith says Poilievre’s strategy is effective at targeting politically conservative and youthful demographics, with some surveys suggesting the latter prefer the Poilievre-led Conservatives. 

Yet Smith says that by taking a non-traditional route, Poilievre, like Singh, is missing out on communicating with large swathes of the public who want to see him tested outside his bubble. 

“Poilievre is giving lots of voters an opportunity to explore on their own time whether they like or dislike him,” says Smith.

Raynauld says that people have different expectations for traditional print media and more modern mediums like YouTube. 

“When you open up a newspaper…you have different expectations than for example, when you are on the metro…and you open up your Facebook account, or you open up your YouTube account, and you start looking at videos that have been posted by politicians,” says Raynauld. 

Roth states Poilievre is not the first politician to utilize social media, saying the federal Liberals have successfully used targeted paid advertising on Facebook during general elections.

Prior to his ouster, Erin O’Toole also published videos on his YouTube channel to try and connect with voters but reached vastly smaller audiences. 

“What makes the Conservative leader (Poilievre) different is he, I think, has understood from day one that the kind of content that people engage with in a YouTube environment is just good content,” says Roth. “That sounds simplistic, but good communication [is using] compelling communications that actually deliver a message that people can connect with, and speaks to real concrete issues with real concrete solutions, and words and phrases that connect with people, that they can understand, that they could see themselves using.” 

Influencer or not, the biggest test of Poilievre’s communications strategy will be the next general election. Jagmeet Singh found little electoral success with Tik-Tok the last time Canadians went to the polls. Can Poilievre do better?

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