Company ad campaigns get political

Folks who’ve had their fill of political ads for President Obama and Mitt Romney are being subjected to another onslaught of politically themed ads from consumer product giants selling something more concrete than the political promises: stuff.

  • Liquid votes: 7-Eleven's cups have prediction power. 

There’s bourbon (Maker’s Mark). There’s coffee (7-Eleven). There’s chicken (Boston Market). And there’s office services (FedEx).

But these marketers may be taking a risk by getting cozy with politics in an emotional election. “This is a tight election with massive polarization,” says Daniel Howard, marketing professor at Southern Methodist University. “This is not something I’d want to associate my brand with.”

How marketers are voting:

•7-Eleven. For the fourth-consecutive presidential election, the chain is asking its customers to help predict the outcome. If you’re an Obama supporter, you’re being asked to buy coffee in blue cups. If you’re a Romney supporter, it’s red cups. The chain keeps a running tab on the purchases and updated results will be posted daily on a micro-site. For four elections running, 7-Eleven’s “poll” results have virtually mirrored real election results.

“This program is meant to be a bright spot amidst political campaigning,” CEO Joe DePinto says.

Regular cups are available for undecided customers or those who don’t want to tout their vote.

•Maker’s Mark bourbon. What are James Carville and Mary Matalin doing in a bourbon ad instead of on Meet the Press? Shilling, of course. The political party they both support: The Cocktail Party. “Maker’s Mark has always been interested in creating conversation, and we knew that this would do that,” says Jason Dolenga, U.S. brand director.

•Boston Market. A micro-site with a voting function allows folks to vote for turkey or chicken to determine which Market Bowl “candidate” is their favorite. Voters can get a coupon valid for a free Market Bowl with any Market Bowl purchase and a fountain drink, says Sara Bittorf, chief brand officer.

FedEx Office. In a TV spot, two local politicians agree to a clean campaign. But one candidate, whose last name is Taylor, discovers his rival has printed signs that say: “Honk if you’ve had an affair with Taylor.”

That sign almost didn’t win out in the ad, says Steve Pacheco, director of advertising.

Other signs considered for the ad: “Taylor is a cannibal,” and, perhaps worst of all, “Taylor hates puppies.”