CNN Donkey And Elephant Campaign Aims To Drive TV Viewership Through Social

AT&T’s cable news network CNN took a different approach for its recently launched social and political ads to drive viewership of its political coverage.

The ads use donkey and elephant imagery originating from single-panel political cartoons that have been part of American politics for years. In fact, the characters were first associated with Democrat Andrew Jackson's 1828 Presidential campaign.

“Classic political donkey and elephant cartoons inspired the series,” says Fig Creative Director Howard Finkelstein. ”The social posts harken back to literal political cartoons because we’re working with one static shot.”

The neutral messages in the ads do not pit one political party against the other. The theme highlights the relationship between two lifelong friends  — the donkey and elephant — who disagree about politics, yet find a peaceful and hopeful way to talk about it.

The social ads went live last week during the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Another will be released this week during the Republican National Convention (RNC). The plan is to release more social ads within the next few months up until the election, with one post per week for the next eight weeks.

The campaign is intended to convey an old-time quality to drive ratings and viewership, and people feel good make engaging with politics.

The social spots accompany a series of television spots. While the social posts describing topical events run on platforms like Facebook, the 15-second CNN television spots use stop-motion animation and run on CNN. They were designed by the team under Finkelstein and Fig Creative Director Ross Fletcher. The ads were produced by HouseSpecial under the direction of Aaron Sorenson.

The ads were created with 3D stop-motion animation — clay animation painted molds — requiring the team to photograph each action before advancing story, Fletcher said.

Getting people to tune in to the political coverage is critical. Election years typically drive higher ad buys and viewers.

The message at the end of the donkey and elephant rowboat ad, for example, tells viewers when to tune in to the first presidential debate.

The non-traditional ads might be helping, but the chaos around the two candidates seems to slow the process.

On the final night of the Democratic National Convention’s four-night event, TV viewership rose 8% to 24.6 million viewers, compared with the previous night.

CNN came in with 4.1 million viewers, behind MSNBC with 4.8 million, measured by Nielsen.

Fox News Channel ended the night with 3.5 million, ABC News with 2.6 million, and CBS News at 2.0 million.

“CNN has a surprising amount of Republican viewers,” Finkelstein said. “I say surprising because of the way Trump talks about CNN. They’re a reliable network to go for information on election night.”

Additional broadcast spots will come in the near future.

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