Regardless of how you feel about him as president, it’s hard to deny that Donald J. Trump is a compelling figure. And while advertisers in the US may be struggling to incorporate his influence into their work, marketers outside our borders are showing no such hesitancy.
"For an American advertiser in America to go there is a real risk of alienating 40 to 50 percent of your consumer market," said John Matejczyk, co-founder of Muhtayzik | Hoffer. "In other countries, people are more emotionally removed than Americans."
Overseas, the same qualities that drive his US critics mad with rage and render him toxic to American advertisers make him irresistible to some marketers, especially those looking to make a social statement.
"Trump caught our eye for all the bad press he had received around comments about social minorities and women," said Dalatando Almeida, co-founder of Hateboards and an art director at BBDO Abbot Mead Vickers in the UK, in an email.
That led Almeida to place Trump’s likeness on one of the brand’s skateboards and launch a 55-second spot called "Women Against Trump" 10 days before the US election. He worked with Hateboards co-founder and London Grey copywriter Ben Buswell.
In it, women wear masks of politicians, including Obama and Hilary Clinton, and batter their skateboards, determined to scratch and tarnish Trump’s image. Overlaid on the scenes is a voiceover of Trump saying some of his most derogatory statements about women. "With the rise of ad campaigns empowering women, we felt the woman angle on the Trump board seemed a good fit," said Almedia.
While Hateboards’ ad may seem harsh, it’s hard to find a foreign ad about Trump that is anything but insulting. In Lebanon, nut brand Al Rifai and Beirut-based creative agency Republique chose a tamer, but no less clever approach to referencing the president. And they did so without even using Trump’s name.
On the day after Trump’s inauguration, Al Rifai placed an ad on the front cover of the only English newspaper in Lebanon, The Daily Star. Underneath a story and photo of Trump being sworn into office, the copy reads: "The world has gone nuts."
Fadi Mroue, managing director of Republique, said the ad was less of a political statement than a way to tap into an international moment. "Donald Trump is very controversial in the Middle East," said Mroue. "He is the news and we’ve always been the kind of agency to jump on a conversation that is happening."
For many brands, Trump presents an opportunity to connect to a worldwide conversation. Indian brand Tea-a-me saw its Trump-themed ad go viral, raking up more than 1.4 million views on YouTube. Sumit Shah, executive director of Tea-a-me, said, "If a brand is a challenger, it cannot just ignore the facts if it’s in the personality of the brand."
Airline Aeromexico worked with Ogilvy & Mather to create a 1:14 spot that indirectly nods to Trump’s Mexico wall proposal, depicting emotional scenes filmed in black-and-white of war and protests. "Borders ... Has anything come of them?" the spot asks.
This past Saturday, Dove unveiled a two-page ad in the UK that took jabs at "alternative facts," the euphemism coined by Presidential Counselor Kellyane Conway to explain the falsehoods spoken by Press Secretary Sean Spicer at his first official press encounter. It was a bold move, and admirers were quick to praise Unilever and Dove’s agency, WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather, for their quick response time and clever wit.
Other brands have been less direct. Durex’s line of lubrication depicted Trump grinning in the Oval Office with the tagline, "Get in anywhere. Really. Anywhere" in a print ad in Georgia.
Ukraine Grocery chain Le Silpo worked with creative agency Tough Slate Design on a print ad for a Christmas campaign in December 2016. A chocolate Donald Trump is half unwrapped in this humorous creative with a tagline that twists Trump’s original campaign slogan.
Another print ad, produced in June 2016 by TBWA for cargo consolidation program Trust Cargo in Argentina, has fun with Trump’s reputation for spewing hot air. "Whatever becomes of the world," reads the ad, "your cargo will get there."
These ads represent a stark difference to those in the US where many brands are fearful of prodding the president, aware that they might invite criticism from consumers or Trump’s Twitter feed. For instance, when 84 Lumber introduced a wall in its Super Bowl spot, it was abruptly turned down by Fox for being "too political."
Already, taking stances against the president has brought boycotts upon several high-profile brands including Kellogg’s and L.L. Bean. Most recently, on Monday, Starbucks found itself being attacked by thousands of consumers online when its CEO Howard Schultz vowed to hire 10,000 refugees, protesting against Trump’s new immigration ban.
Though all US presidents find themselves starring in overseas ads (George W. Bush, in particular, was treated pretty roughly), the pace at which Trump ads are currently being produced would seem hard to maintain. But assuming the president doesn’t suddenly get in touch with his tender, diplomatic side, it’s a safe to assume they’ll keep on coming for a while.