With the election closing in, agencies get politically active

Duncan Channon employees are calling swing state voters, while Cactus drums up votes for Democrats through a refreshed Trump impeachment a campaign.

Adland is mobilizing around the 2020 election in passionate and political ways. 

Employees at San Francisco-based ad agency Duncan Channon are calling voters in Arizona and North Carolina to encourage them to vote for the Democrat ticket. 

Meanwhile, Denver-based agency Cactus updated an ad it created during the impeachment hearings to call on citizens to vote Trump out of office this election season. The 30-second spot beseeches conservative and liberal voters alike to “remove from power the most disgraceful and dangerous president in our nation’s history.’

Passions are running high, and employees are pushing their agencies to join them in their personal electoral participation. 

About six weeks ago, Duncan Channon teamed up with Democracy Action, a group dedicated to electing Democrats nationally, to encourage employees to contact swing state voters during their Thursday lunch hours. The phone-banking effort was championed by Devin Hynes, a senior account manager who was devastated by the outcome of the 2016 election. 

Duncan Channon art director J. Moe, a poll worker during the 2016 election, also helped enstate a paid day off Nov. 3 to encourage employees to vote. The agency is also supporting a letter-writing campaign geared toward introverted employees, Vote Forward, introduced by finance assistant Kaycee Young.

Citizen Impeachment 2020 from Cactus on Vimeo.

“We're at an intersection of where we find ourselves as a country,” said Andy Berkenfield, CEO and partner at Duncan Channon. “The results of George Floyd and other murders provided an accelerant to our staff to really clamor for what can we do beyond cast our own votes.”  

In both the letter-writing and phone-bank campaigns, Duncan Channon employees are sticking to the respective advocacy groups’ established scripts instead of writing their own.

“This whole effort is really not about advertising,” said Berkenfield. “This is about our team coming together and partnering with people who can help them turn their feelings of helplessness into the ability to act.” 

Berkenfield is encouraging other agencies to join Duncan Channon’s activism efforts. The agency will connect agencies who enlist at least 15 people to make calls to swing-state voters with Democracy Action, and has created employee training materials for phone-bank calls. Acento, a multicultural marketing agency, has already committed to the effort. 

Creative agency Cactus, on the other hand, is leaning into its advertising chops to mobilize the vote. 

The agency re-launched its “Citizen Impeachment” campaign, which ran during the impeachment hearings earlier this year, with a focus on voting President Trump out of office. The campaign includes a 30-second ad running on Facebook and Instagram and targets women aged 18-40 in the battleground states of Florida, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. 

Cactus also bought billboards in Colorado and released a digital toolkit so people can upload visual assets to their social media accounts and print out signs. Cactus is posting campaign images, with slogans such as “Grab Him by the Vote,” to its social accounts, along with commentary. 

“We have a long history of using our innovative spirit and creative firepower to take on some of the world’s biggest problems. In this case, a guy named Trump,” one Facebook post reads.

Both efforts have a democratic bent, not surprising in adland. 

But for undercover agency Republicans, Berkenfield explained: “It’s not about Republicans and Democrats as much as it is about the Trump’s administration. We have been very conscious of recognizing we don’t know everyone’s political orientation, and we support everyone’s right to vote.”


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