Politically Divided USA Is Also Challenging Brands, McCann Finds in New “Truth About America” Study

Research Unveiled at 4A’s Transformation 2017 Also Uncovers “Common Ground” American Values

Los Angeles – April 3, 2017 – The bitter divisiveness and partisan disputes about truthfulness that have come to characterize today’s political environment are also affecting other aspects of American life, including attitudes about brands and core values. And there is hardly any form of cultural expression—whether songs, TV shows or ad campaigns—that isn’t being closely parsed for political meaning.

These findings about the expanding divisions in the U.S. were among those from McCann Truth Central’s “The Truth About America” study unveiled today at the 4A’s Transformation conference in Los Angeles. The new study is the second released jointly by the McCann Worldgroup intelligence unit and the 4A’s as an exploration of American trends influencing advertising, the last being “The Truth About Advertising” in 2013.

“America’s increasingly pervasive polarization is creating a new kind of challenge for brand marketers. They have to decide how much to align with values favored or opposed by one constituency or another,” said Steve Zaroff, Chief Strategy Officer of McCann North America. “But what we found in our Truth Central study is that there are also areas of common ground with regard to positively viewed values and institutions.”

The “Truth About America” study found, as expected, that there is broad distrust of politicians. About 70 percent of Americans say that politicians today are less truthful today compared to those 20 years ago. More surprising is that 42 percent of Americans also say that brands and companies are less truthful today than they were 20 years ago.

“To be effective, advertising needs to be in tune culturally with the mood and trends of the country. This research shows how critical it is for advertisers to get out and speak to consumers; data is not enough on its own,” said Nancy Hill, President and CEO of the 4A’s. “While there is a divide—which we are all aware of—there are also shared viewpoints that can be uncovered and leveraged to reach target audiences.”

The sharp divide between conservatives and liberals runs across all categories in which they were asked about nationhood and cultural identity with regard to values, institutions, brands, foreign countries, American symbols, or news sources. But the study identified the American “glue” as well as the “gaps.”

  • For example, when asked about the “most trusted U.S. institution,” NASA emerged as the common-ground answer, while conservatives favored the U.S. Army and liberals the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • If a brand was going to be in charge of the U.S., which would get the vote? Amazon was the common-ground answer, while conservatives otherwise favored Walmart, and liberals answered Google.
  • What’s most American? Baseball as well as burgers, fries and soda was the shared answer, while conservatives named bald eagles and liberals jazz and blues music.
  • Which country besides America has the best political system? Canada is the glue, while conservatives named the U.K. and liberals Sweden.

McCann Truth Central, a global intelligence unit, is dedicated to unearthing the macro-level truths that drive people’s attitudes and behaviors about life, brands and marketing. The “Truth About America” study was based on an online quantitative survey of 1,000 nationally representative adult Americans aged 18 and over.

About 4A’s Transformation
Transformation is a world-class production where thought leaders, visionaries and C-level executives from various disciplines within the marketing, media and agency businesses come together to share knowledge, insights, experiences and success stories to navigate the rapid transformation of those industries. This year, the conference—bigger and better than ever—took place in Los Angeles, April 2-5, and drew more than 1,000 industry players.

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 www.aaaa.org.

About McCann Truth Central
McCann Truth Central is McCann’s global intelligence unit, with representation in more than 100 countries around the world. The group is dedicated to uncovering human truths to help brands make their mark in the world. For more about Truth Central or to access Truth Studies, visit: http://truthcentral.mccann.com/studies/

About McCann Worldgroup:
McCann Worldgroup, part of the Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG), is a leading global marketing services company with 24,000 employees in more than 100 countries, comprising McCann (advertising), MRM//McCann (digital marketing/relationship management), Momentum Worldwide (total brand experience), McCann Health (professional/dtc communications), CRAFT (global adaptation and production), UM (media management), Weber Shandwick (public relations), FutureBrand (consulting/design), ChaseDesign (shopper marketing) and PMK-BNC (entertainment/brand/popular culture).

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Samantha Wolf
Havas PR
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Jeremy Miller
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