2016 Election Results: A Reality Check for Advertisers

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Donald Trump’s recent win has advertisers wondering if they’re out of touch with the majority of consumers. Source: Google Images

Donald Trump’s win in the recent 2016 presidential election, the results of which came as a surprise to many, have advertisers questioning whether they are out-of-touch with their audiences. Just as polls underestimated the extent of the American people’s support for Mr. Trump, marketing agencies wonder if their data collection methods are misrepresenting the reality of their consumers. They also question if having a largely urban-elite advertising staff is misguiding their advertising efforts.

For several years, advertising has largely centered on the use of images of urban-elite lifestyles, as agencies believed this is what their consumers aspired to. However, as primarily rural-middle American voters elected Mr. Trump into the Presidential office, it seems that the New York and L.A. lifestyles may not be quite as applicable to consumers’ lives as advertisers once thought. Many advertising agencies, such as McCann Worldgroup, are coming to this realization upon evaluating the results of the election. According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, McCann Worldgroup has used the election as a learning opportunity, concluding that advertising has incorrectly assumed that U.S. consumers aspire to live the metropolitan lifestyles we so often find in advertisements and the media.

Advertisements, such as this one, may wrongly assume that the public majority aspires to an urban-elite lifestyle. Source: Google Images

To ensure they understand what drives consumer choice and that rural-middle Americans are correctly addressed, many advertisers, such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Y&R, are considering the use of personal interviews and ethnographic research instead of relying so heavily on consumer data. Marketers are also considering increasing the use of local advertising efforts, since lifestyle aspirations can vary significantly by geographic location. Subway’s CMO, Joe Tripodi, believes global marketers should do more local marketing and advertising to “reflect the concerns of specific communities,” according to the WSJ article.

Moreover, in order to stay in-touch with consumers, marketing executives are realizing the importance of having employees from various socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds – which includes hiring employees from rural backgrounds. In doing so, these advertisers believe advertisements will become more representative of such populations. John Boiler, chief executive of the agency 72andSunny, believes that “a diversity hire ‘can be a farm girl from Indiana as much as a Cuban immigrant who lives in Pensacola,’” according to the WSJ article.

This election has shed light on the importance of periodically examining consumer aspirations and the relevance of advertising efforts to them. By making these adjustments to consumer research methods, geographic marketing, and hiring practices, advertisers hope to better stay in-tune with their audiences.

From a marketing management perspective, here are some questions to consider:

  • How often do you believe ad agencies should re-examine consumers’ aspirational goals?
  • What are some pros and cons of local marketing?
  • Do you believe ad agencies should consider socioeconomic and geographic background when hiring employees?