Won’t somebody think of the Republicans!?
It’s no secret that advertising tends to skew towards the moderate liberalism of the Democratic party, and the 2016 presidential election was certainly no exception. Agencies such as Droga5, VB&P and Burrell Communications worked with the Hillary Clinton campaign. Many others, including W+K, CP+B, barrettSF and, perhaps most vocally, GS&P, worked on anti-Trump projects at various points during the 2016 election cycle, criticizing the candidate for his policies, xenophobic rhetoric, misogyny and, in the case of the infamous Access Hollywood clip, bragging about committing sexual assault on tape.
Since Trump took office, many agency employees have launched projects in opposition to the president and his proposed policies. In November, Leo Burnett changed its website and employee LinkedIn titles in opposition to the president’s widely-criticized executive order on immigration. Many employees have worked on side projects like “Not This White Woman.”
But not everyone in advertising is a Democrat. As we’ve noted before, there are Trump supporters in the industry. And these pro-Trump sentiments do not necessarily come from the people—or the agencies—that you might expect.
In a story published today, some of them told Digiday that they find aspects of their workplace environment uncomfortable for this very reason. “It was always a backlash. Now, it’s a strong backlash,” one anonymous agency executive told the publication. “It’s almost like, ‘This is your fault now.'”
“They’re doing the opposite of what they think they want to,” added another executive who voted for Trump. “They’re not being diverse or inclusive. They’re being exclusive.”
While some might see a lack of self-awareness in statements like those, agency Trump supporters often feel the need to keep their political leanings secret. The story calls secretive meetings held in private to discuss political issues “a scene that resembles the McCarthyism period of the 1950s” to underscore the fact that such employees don’t feel comfortable expressing their views openly.
As advertisers and marketers struggle to understand middle America, agency Trump voters are also finding themselves called out and asked to weigh in on how to appeal to such consumers.
“I remember being asked my views on immigration, or refugees, when a client wanted to do some work that would be aimed at conservative Americans,” one such employee told Digiday. “I don’t pretend to be educated on the subject. I don’t have control over laws and rules of immigration.”
The contentious political climate clearly presents a challenge to agency leadership. Iris Chicago managing director Brennen Roberts, a conservative who did not vote for Trump, thinks political conversation is best left outside of the office and sent an email after the election asking employees, “to be understanding of emotion, passion and being respectful,” as Digiday described it.
“It’s like talking about the weather: It can become about climate change if you’re not careful,” he said.
So how can an agency like Huge, which sent a bunch of its employees (and an Adweek reporter) to the Women’s March in D.C., reconcile this conflict? U.S. president Kate Watts said she’s mindful not to alienate those with a difference of opinion like engagement director M.A. Moutoussis, who identifies as a Republican but declined to say whether she voted for Trump.
“I don’t think politics plays a role at work for me,” she told Digiday. “I didn’t come to Huge to work on political issues.”