Most Ad Execs Eschew Political 'Activism,' What Happens When You Can't Avoid It?

At a time when some brands are beginning to take more aggressive political positions on volatile subjects, the results appear to be mixed.

The majority of ad executives surveyed in February by Advertiser Perceptions felt political “activism” has no impact on their performance, while those that believe if helps (22%) or hinders (25%) were about evenly split.

That’s nice in an ideal world, but as we’ve seen in recent weeks a number of brands have been forced to take positions -- pro or con -- on politically sensitive issues due to news events, social media campaigns, and grassroots activism by consumers.

Perhaps none has been caught in the crosshairs more than Delta Airlines, which dropped a promotional discount program for members of the National Rifle Association following the #BoycottNRA movement that started after the lobbying group’s hardline stance against gun control in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting in Parkland, FL.

According to this morning’s Morning Consult tracking study, Delta Airlines “net favorability” actually jumped on Feb. 24 when it announced its decision to drop the NRA discounts, but then it fell following Georgia lawmakers’ decision to punish Delta by removing a favorable tax break for the airline, which is headquarter in the state.

Dick’s Sporting Goods, meanwhile, saw its net favorability jump among Democrats and falter among Republican voters, following its announcement that it would stop selling assault weapons.

By at least one meaningful KPI -- foot traffic in Dicks’s stores -- the move was a net positive.

“We saw a 7.59% increase weekend over weekend (Feb. 23-25 & March 2-4) foot traffic visits to Dick’s Sporting Goods in Blue states, and 2.84% increase in Red states,” notes Julian Paolino, spokesperson for Reveal Mobile, which analyzed its opted-in mobile location data from smartphones to measure the effect.

Here are a few select state-by-state breakdowns:









For your reference, “blue states” voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

“Red states” voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. Each are listed below.

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