The presidential debate got in the way of a whole lot of advertising.
An hour and a half of prime time on the nation’s biggest TV networks and it was all a commercial-free zone of political issues and barbs.
They had an audience that had the potential to rival the motherlode of marketing: the Super Bowl. Think of all the ads that could have tied in beautifully with the themes of the Clinton-Trump slugfest or the election season overall.
Donald Trump not disclosing his tax forms and blaming it on an on-going tax audit? Hello, ad opportunity for H&R Block.
Hillary Clinton feeling the heat over deleted emails and a private email server? Surely there’s a company that provides “confidential” email and house cleaning services, so you can get an email system for work that neither your boss nor anyone else gets to see until it’s been scrubbed.
Sure, the debates weren’t really commercial free: The candidates got to try to sell themselves.
But the pitches that could have been.
Joe’s Fence and Wall Building Emporium, for example, could have offered free estimates and promises to keep our backyards impenetrable by the neighbors.
Imagine ads for pant suits warehouses. Or for Depends, since the lack of commercials robbed us of time for bathroom breaks. “Don’t be caught at the next debate party without long-lasting protection.”
What about spots for ethics consultants. Charm school operators. Companies selling ipecac syrup. An anger management help line? Professional spin-meisters who will tell everyone you are a winner and your rival is, you know, the Devil, I mean, L.I.T.E.R.A.L.L.Y. THE DEVIL.
Trump again ripped into Carrier, the maker of air-conditioners and heating systems that shifted production to Mexico. But that just opens the door for counter advertising from the company, urging politicos to cool down.
He also suggested the stock market will crash because we are “in a big fat ugly bubble.” What better time to work with a stock broker!
The whole birther discussion created potential for commercials offering DNA testing services.
And maybe vacuum maker Dyson scored an opening over contentions that pulling troops out of Iraq created a power vacuum that led to the rise of ISIS.
Of course, there’s always space for gun manufacturers that want us to believe that at any moment a certain politician will try to curb the Second Amendment, stop all gun sales and maybe send the unarmed Army (because that candidate hates guns so much) to confiscate all our firearms. So stock up now! You can never have too many!
Maybe a couple ads from constitutional lawyers who can explain to us what balderdash means in a legal sense.
Actually, the presidential debate with its hour and a half of opponent-shredding made me wonder why the business world doesn’t use the same kind of programming tactic.
Imagine CEOs of big rival brands standing behind lecterns, fielding tough questions from a moderator and each other, explaining themselves in one glorious make-or-break round to win over customers.
I’m picturing the possibilities.
Wells Fargo CEO John “Not-My-Fault” Stumpf, he of the company that created 2 million unauthorized customer accounts, going up against maybe the CEO of an online bank and the president of a little community bank.
Or Delta Air Lines’ chief executive can take on his blood rival, the CEO of Qatar Airways. Just to make it more exciting, the head of the non-profit Fox Theatre in Atlanta can be positioned in between the two of them while trying to avoid flying spittle, punches, and losing still more corporate donations over accusations he’s being too nice to the other guy.
What’s not to love?
Good news: Two more presidential debates are on tap before November.
Kempner writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.