Cary Hatch, CEO of D.C.-based MDB Communications, is quoted in a TIME.com story about advertisers producing ads for products that look like political ads.

The TIME piece, in part, features Roger Berkowitz, president and CEO of Legal Sea Foods, discussing ads that were meant “to leverage interest in a historically unpredictable presidential contest to drum up sales for the Boston-based restaurant chain.”

The TIME story added, in part:

““Are our ads a little provocative, are they a little edgy?” Berkowitz said in an interview. “Yes, they are, but the way I look at it, fish is brain food, and smart people—the people I want to attract—understand what it is I’m trying to do, and they understand the humor behind it, and they understand it’s not mean-spirited. But it’s also meant to elicit a response, and I can’t pretend to believe that one size fits all.”

“Legal Sea Foods is just one of many commercial brands that have elected to dance around controversy this year and engage in an irresistible political conversation. The notoriously divisive election—which is only getting more bitter as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gear up for battle this fall—has captivated the country and opened a window for companies seeking a moment in the zeitgeist.

““These are just spoofs trying to make the contrast that people can agree on some things—the really important things, like beer—but they can’t agree on candidates and issues,” said Shanto Iyengar, a Stanford University political science professor who has studied the relationship between political and commercial advertising. He said product advertising in general can benefit from the revulsion people feel toward campaign advertising because it looks more attractive and engaging by comparison—especially given the often negative tone of political ads.

““These are all themes that are playing out in a very visceral way on our political stage, but [brands] are looking to capture their share of that conversation to be relevant and cool and garner their part of the attention to this cultural phenomenon,” said Cary Hatch, CEO of the ad agency MDB Communications. While consumer product ads mimicking political ads is not a new practice, Hatch said the fierce level of competition this election season has inspired more brands than usual to give their ads a political twist.

““It doesn’t come without peril, but done well, the upside makes them relevant and clever and part of the conversation,” Hatch said. “Empathy with consumers over the penetration—or some would say pummeling—of political messages always makes people feel good about that brand because if you’re mocking it, it says you get me, ‘I feel your pain.’ If you can do it smartly with a smile and say, ‘we’re suffering along with you,’ or ‘we get you,’ that’s never a negative.””

(Photo of Cary Hatch is by Cade Martin and is part of Capitol Communicator’s Up Close and Personal profile series.)

 

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