Five Brands That Used the Election and Won

While many of us are glad (maybe more like ecstatic) that Nov. 9 signals the end of what has been a dramatic and contentious presidential election process, there are some brands that are probably going to miss all of the attention that this lively political season has provided.

A few brave brands decided to take on the challenge of using this unprecedented election to their advantage. We looked at how they did it and what made their ad campaigns successful.


“Anything for America.” This was the motto of presidential hopeful Frank Underwood. During the Dec. 15 GOP presidential debate, Netflix launched the “FU 2016” campaign, again proving to be some of the best content creators in the game. Based on the hugely popular series House of Cards, the Netflix ads brought fictional President Frank Underwood to life with an elaborately constructed campaign that rivaled Hillary and Donald’s real ones.

The campaign was initiated to announce the drop of season four of the series. They put out commercials that aired on cable television and Netflix, print magazine ads, and they’ve created a campaign website that with all the bells and whistles you could hope for–interactive movement (no, you aren’t crazy, his eyes are moving), a downloadable media kit, and two CTAs where you can show your support for your candidate. An estimated five million people logged on to watch season four of the show and many now eagerly await season five. Would you call that a win?

Since his debut in 2014, Captain Obvious has been stealing the hearts of Americans everywhere with his after-the-fact advice and self-evident comments that always prove to be incredibly unhelpful. In his most recent appearances, Captain Obvious ran for president, literally, all across America.

In the series of short videos that followed his official announcement, Captain Obvious makes a stop in every state, giving a fun fact, or making the occasional deprecating joke (OK, they’re mostly deprecating jokes). The segments serve as a way for this international company to connect with a more local audience because, admit it: You went looking through the videos to see what the good ol’ Captain had to say about your state.


This JetBlue commercial was downright heartwarming. It was a way to tap into the basic human belief that despite all of our differences, and opposing wants and needs, through discussion and compromise, we can come to an agreement.

JetBlue has been taking their content marketing very seriously over the past year with other videos such as “Humankinda,” featuring “Veep” actor Sam Richardson, “Let’s Play Airport! The challenge: The security line!” and “Flybabies.”

We should all take a note from their playbook and explore the use of content that targets a range of emotions, from fun and lighthearted game segments to deeper and more personal ads, because everyone laughs and everyone cries—especially babies.

The Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus

Think about the last commercial you saw for the circus. It probably boasted “amazing sights,” “high-flying action” or “mind-blowing tricks,” in a loud, explosive way that many of us now tune out or turn off. But in this commercial, the Ringling Bros. target their audience in a different way, attempting to prove why their circus is actually far more serious than this presidential race, and that they deserve some respect.

Through the artful juxtaposition of circus acts and disparaging comments about the 2016 election, Barnum and Bailey “take back the circus,” and make a name for their good advertising. They’ve even started the hashtag #TakebackTheCircus, proving that they take their content and its activation just as seriously as the rest of us.


Initial reaction to this commercial: “awww.” Who doesn’t love an adorable, happy baby?! No one, that’s who. In this video, the YMCA makes us think about the future, the children who will be a part of it and what we’re doing to help them reach their full potential.

To drive this campaign, they use that same fundamental desire to help kids become all they can be that so many of us have, and guess what…it works. Well, at least it did on me. In addition to their commercials, they’ve developed a “Zoe for President” content hub where you can stay current on “what Zoe’s been gurgling about,” learn about what programs the YMCA offers to kids and what your donation can do to help them. I think it’s safe to say that this campaign was a content marketing win.


While dabbling in the world of politics can be difficult and sometimes dangerous, if you do it right, it can pay off big. Netflix’s “FU 2016” took home a top award in the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity’s Integrated category. In their third quarter report, JetBlue announced a 1.6% increase in revenue passenger miles (RPMs), bringing them up to 11.9 billion. And a spokeswoman for the YMCA said that since their campaign launched earlier this year, their website has seen an increase in site visits and there’s been a spike in engagement across their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Think about using some of these election-related tactics in your content marketing campaigns; you’ve got four more years to plan it out.

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