McCann Uncovers 'Truth In America'

New research from McCann North America concludes that a transformation is taking place in America -- one that is social, political and economic. Values are changing and splintering between two polarized groups divided largely along political beliefs. McCann’s "Truth In America" research, revealed during the 4As Transformation Conference in Los Angeles, is designed to help agencies and brands better navigate the new America.  

About 70% of Americans say that politicians are less truthful today compared to 20 years ago, and 42% of Americans also say that brands and companies are less truthful today than they were 20 years ago. 

Two in three Americans (68%) have read news about the government or politics within the past few hours of responding to the survey. "Politics are everywhere. People talk about them more than work. People watch political news more than sports," says Steve Zaroff, chief strategy officer, McCann North America, adding that the study originally sought to query Americans about topics outside of politics, but found that "politics have moved beyond election cycles and has risen to popular culture levels."  



Most Americans also say they are “fine,”  but feel the broader society is not. "I'm fine, but we are not. There is an opportunity but do I speak more broadly or do I speak more personal?" asks Zaroff. The vast majority of Americans (84%) say brands have more power than the government or individuals to make the world better, and 48% say brands need to have a strong identity and clear role in politics. That said, 44% do not want brands to make political statements.  

"You can't pander," says Chris Macdonald, president, McCann North America. "There is a fine line," he added, asserting that the UK’s exit from the European Union happened because there was a culture of fear in the country. 

Brands themselves are navigating these matters on a case-by-case basis. MGM Resorts International's Lilian Tomovich says her company publicly supported the Supreme Court decision approving gay marriage, but keeps away from endorsements.  

Microsoft's worldwide consumer base makes it more challenging to be everything for everyone.  "We have a billion consumers. We can't choose. It is positioning by default," says Microsoft's Kathleen Hall. The tech brand recently posted a video showing ethnic women working as scientists and while the clip received a lot of positive and supportive comments it also attracted an abundant number of trolls. 

“Does this mean I will have second thoughts when we do it again?” asks Hall. No, she says. Ultimately she recommends brands learn to navigate these turbulent cultural changes by staying true to their values. Microsoft, for instance, celebrates social issues rather than more straight-forward political ones. There is a balanced approach.  

"That doesn't mean brands can't have a purpose," adds McCann's Zaroff. He recommends brands choose the culture arena to express views, not politics. 

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