New 4A’s Survey Finds Majority of Consumers Dislike When Brands Get Political

Agency Professionals Believe Brands Are More Inclined to Take a Social Stance Than a Political One

NEW YORK—May 24, 2017—Today, the 4A’s, the leading trade association representing the advertising agency business, revealed findings from two surveys monitoring consumers’ and ad agency professionals’ beliefs about brands taking political or social stances.

Detailed Survey Results

The full survey results are available for download — for 4A’s Members only.
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Two-thirds of agency professionals (67 percent) believe that changing American values are causing brands to become more interested in corporate responsibility and values-based marketing. Agency respondents saw a distinction in brands taking political stances versus social ones: 33 percent believe brands are more afraid to take a political stance than a social one (14 percent); likewise, they are more compelled to take a social stance (26 percent) than a political one (7 percent).

A complementary consumer study fielded by the 4A’s and research partner SSRS found the majority of consumers (58 percent) dislike when brands get political. Further, consumers are more likely to avoid brands that take a negative position (e.g., those that are perceived to be racist, anti-LGBTQ or sexist) than to support those that take a positive position (e.g., those that are perceived to be inclusive, pro-LGBTQ and feminist).

“Consumers are not looking to brands to take a position on political or social issues. In fact, there’s typically more risk than benefit,” said Alison Fahey, chief marketing officer of the 4A’s. “Brands taking a negative approach risk backlash, and only a small percentage of consumers are moved to buy from positive messaging.”

When agency professionals were asked what they thought was the most important marketing lesson learned from the election, 57 percent cited that understanding the demographics and values of a brand’s customers is more important than ever. Since the election:

  • 34 percent of respondents have counseled or required that more diverse perspectives were needed in creative or planning
  • 30 percent of respondents have counseled clients to avoid engaging with controversial sociopolitical issues
  • 25 percent of respondents have counseled clients to align with sociopolitical issues authentic to the brand
  • 24 percent of respondents have considered sociopolitical issues in media buys

When it comes to political endorsements of brands, more than half of consumers (51 percent) reported that President Trump’s policies have made companies and brands more vocal and inclined to take action; however, his endorsements are not impacting their purchasing decisions. When the President gives a brand or product a positive endorsement, almost one-quarter of consumers (22 percent) say they are less likely to purchase the product. Regardless of whether he tweeted a positive or negative endorsement, about three-quarters (74 percent) of respondents said it had no impact on their purchasing decisions.

The 4A’s member survey was conducted in April and May 2017 via email; 329 4A’s members responded. The consumer survey was fielded by research partner SSRS; surveys were completed from March 29, 2017, to April 7, 2017, among a nationally represented sample of 1,056 respondents aged 18+. The margin of error for total respondents is +/- 3.6 percent.

About the 4A’s
The 4A’s is the catalyst for bringing together the right people in the right places at the right time to address the advertising industry’s most critical business issues. It provides leadership, advocacy, guidance and community to its members and the industry at large, with proprietary access to the people, information and tools needed to make smarter management decisions. Its mission is to help agencies become more successful. Visit the 4A’s at

About SSRS
SSRS is a full-service market and survey research firm managed by a core of dedicated professionals with advanced degrees in the social sciences. Service offerings include the Omnibus Survey, Probability Panel and other online solutions as well as custom research programs—all driven by a central commitment to methodological vigor. The SSRS team is renowned for its multimodal approach, as well as its sophisticated and proprietary sample designs. Typical projects for the company include complex strategic, tactical and public opinion initiatives in the U.S. and in more than 40 countries worldwide. SSRS is research, refined. Visit for more information.

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Havas PR
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