5 Brands That Won the U.S. Presidential Debate

6 Brands That Won the U.S. Presidential Debate


Posted: September 29, 2016 | Modern Marketing

Stateside, it’s election season, and this week viewers were treated to the first presidential debate between candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. There was a lot of sniffling happening on screen, but even more happening on other screens: it was the most-watched and most-tweeted debate in American history!

Naturally, brands from every industry were watching–and responding–to capitalize on #debatenight issues and antics.

Missed the debate? Couldn’t care less? Want a good laugh? Eureka! I’ve captured some of the best examples of brands who jumped into the conversation.


I’m a planner. I believe it’s important to leave room to be nimble and react as issues arise, but plan your strategy around big events and make solid message arcs that you can map your campaigns against. That’s precisely what some brands did for this election year, creating high-production ads with an election theme to draw attention.

Bud Light started this trend around the Super Bowl, with tongue-in-cheek spots featuring Amy Schumer and Seth Rogan as the “Bud Light Party,” tackling important issues like equal pay and labels. And Bud Light’s message arc was strong, with spots announcing the party and others that mapped to election events like the debate. On a scale of 1 to presidential, I give this campaign a 9 because it’s well-thought out, multi-faceted, multi-channel, and effectively leverages star-power, something that not all brands do correctly.

For the week of the debate, two notable car brands took a similar approach, but with standalone spots. First up, we have Jeep, which is using the election as a chance to remind people that no matter how different Americans are (vegans vs. BBQ-lovers, Republicans vs. Democrats), everyone is “free to be,” and drive a Jeep, of course. I give this one 1.5 votes out of 3. I’d also like to see the real political breakdown of Jeep car owners…kidding.

Next up was Audi. From a creative perspective, the German automaker really knocked it out of the park, just as the two valets in the commercial tried their best to knock each other out. They’re fighting over a valet parking ticket (Get it? Like the presidential ticket. Isn’t symbolism the best?), urging consumers to “choose the right driver.” This gets a 6.5 on the presidential scale, due to artistic creativity.

And don’t forget beer-maker Tecate, who chose to pre-make its commercial but air it during the debates on major news networks. The concept? Turn Trump’s proposed wall between the U.S. and Mexico into something that actually brings people together. I give #TecateBeerWall 1.5 votes as well. The wall feels a little tired and highlights one concern of pre-planning themes: make sure you choose a topic that will still be evergreen once it goes live.

During the Debate

There was plenty to laugh (or cry) about over the course of the evening. One of my favorite moments came during the discussion on cyber security, during which Trump alleged that a “400-pound person” could be behind some of the recent computer hacks.

The folks over at Bark Box, a monthly subscription service for dog owners, responded with this gem below. This is proof that brands from all industries were not only watching, but responding with their best paw forward. Social rating on the presidential scale: 8.5.

Final Question

No matter which candidate you support, brand creativity around a heated election cycle is something we can all get behind. Everyone needs a little humor and a reminder to put it all in perspective.

Did you see any other brands capitalize on debate night in an interesting way? Has your company done anything to get in on the action? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Marissa is the Senior Manager of Corporate Communications at Marketo. A former journalist, she previously worked on Ogilvy PR’s Media Influence team in New York, specializing in multimarket campaigns. Marissa is a Bay Area native and holds a BA in Print Journalism with minors in Spanish and International Relations from the University of Southern California. Fight on!

Read Marissa's Blogs

Monday's debate was the most-watched and most-tweeted in American history. 5 brands that got in on the action:

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