How are agencies and brands marking July 4 in the wake of abortion restrictions?

(Credit: Getty Images)
(Credit: Getty Images)

Just one week after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and stripped the right to a legal abortion from American women, the nation heads into July 4 weekend dripping with patriotism. How will brands toe the line?

For many Americans, it’s an odd and polarizing time to be celebrating Independence Day. 

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last Friday (June 24), millions of American women and their male allies are not feeling so patriotic about the state of the country. 

Meanwhile, half of the nation is readier than ever to don their American flag bathing suits and celebrate the new fate of our nation. 

Brands often latch onto the buzz of national holidays to promote products or major sales, and July 4 is typically a holiday associated with patriotism and summer fun. But this year, brands run the risk of sounding tone deaf to a good chunk of their audiences if they don’t read the room on political realities. 

Campaign US reached out to agency experts to ask: 

As we approach Independence Day in the wake of the Supreme’s Court reversal of abortion rights, is this expected to affect any planned activations from brands, or is it business as usual? How are you advising brands to mark the occasion?

Here are their responses. 

Stephanie Nerlich, CEO, Havas Creative North America

Our job is to advise clients on how they show up in the world and counsel them on how best to engage their audiences. Havas’ most recent Meaningful Brands study shows us that consumers are becoming even more cynical, losing faith in the traditional “sell” from brands. This continues to highlight the opportunity for brands to connect with more meaningful actions, and especially in a highly sensitive social climate, we recommend brands “read the room,” so to speak, and approach activations with extra care.

Lola Bakare, inclusive marketing strategist, CMO advisor, owner of Be/co

This Independence Day, brands have a unique opportunity to integrate cultural context into their messaging. Let consumers know that you see the disconnect between recent events and our nation’s stated aspiration to be a place where everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Affirm your commitment to doing the work in your brand’s sphere of influence to realize this aspiration for your consumers and their communities, by all the means at your disposal.

Morgan Whitten, associate director, paid social, CMI Media Group

As we head into Independence Day, many consumers are still processing what this decision means both personally and for the country at large and may find themselves conflicted about celebrating a holiday so deeply rooted in patriotism. 

Although I don’t think consumers expect brands to be silent, brands should consider this sentiment in their content strategies surrounding the holiday. This will be especially important on social media, where messages are likely to appear alongside opinions from friends and family about the decision. A seemingly benign message like “Happy 4th of July” placed in a user’s feed between polarizing opinions of what the decision means for the future of America may not be very well received. 

This is especially important for brands that may be considered more sensitive such as reproductive health/pharmaceuticals and products targeted to people trying to conceive or pregnant women. If brands do choose to continue holiday-specific messaging this weekend, community management teams should be prepared to act quickly if the conversation turns south. 

Amy Small, EVP creative, managing director, Media Cause

In the nonprofit world, when the ruling came down on Friday (June 24), we advised many of our clients to pause their social comms and take a minute to breathe. Except the ones in the reproductive and women's rights spaces, of course, which went into crisis mode. 

This week has been largely about pivoting and figuring out how to tie all of the other still critical issues into the biggest one that's on everyone's mind right now. Intersectionality has come up a lot. How can we create more collaboration across issue spaces, rather than everyone being heads-down in their own fight?

One of our associate social media directors, Janine Guarino, said that a lot of her clients "have steered clear of Fourth of July messaging for a couple years now, given the constant crises our country has been facing. I haven’t heard of any particular statements being planned for this year yet." 

Another member of our team, Kjerstin Laine, said "I've seen informal conversations saying that anyone using red/white/blue or other patriotic imagery are not responding to/acknowledging the present moment, and I'd personally expect anyone celebrating patriotism is going to have a bad time on social media this weekend." 

It's a really complicated time for brands. There will be backlash either way. It's a little bit less contentious in the nonprofit world. Even though everyone is in their own issue spaces, most of the organizations we work with are all like-minded and share the same values. No one expects an animal rights organization that works to stop factory farming to have content or messaging around Independence Day. It's just a different climate. 

The general sentiment from our team, though, is to steer clear. 

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