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Political Advertising with Soul, er, a Sole

Kenneth Cole is known as much for his (often outspoken) ads that cleverly turn a phrase as he is for his fashion design. In fact, his reputation for cleverness goes back to 1982 when he launched: he named his company “Kenneth Cole Production” so that he could get a trailer permit granted only to utility and production companies in which to display his new line outside the NY Hilton during Market Week. Saying he was making a full-length film called “The Birth of a Shoe Company,” Cole sold 40,000 pairs of soles in 2-½ days (while recording the beginning of his company for posterity). Cole’s latest news-making advertising antics? A billboard that went up on Manhattan’s West Side Highway late November 6 – before this nail biter of an election had been called, with headline: THAT’S TWO JOBS SAVED. CONGRATULATIONS PRESIDENT OBAMA (AND LONG LIVE BIG BIRD).

While it may seem that the American fashion house was jumping the gun (and @KennethCole was even tweeting about the billboard on election night), it’s nice to see a brand have some balls and make a call. If they had been wrong, A) it still would have gotten them press (and they’re not afraid of controversy), B) the billboard is in NY, which was leaning Obama anyway, and C) they could always have changed it the next day to the alternate they had prepared:

Turns out the Obama / Big Bird “2 Jobs” billboard (what about Biden? isn’t that 3 jobs???) received such buzz the day after the election, that Kenneth Cole issued a limited edition t-shirt bearing the phrase, with the profits going to “AWEARNESS” – the Kenneth Cole Foundation supporting charitable initiatives worldwide. Quick-moving Cole posted the shirt on his Facebook page and website in record time: on Thursday November 8.

Whether you voted for Obama, Romney, someone else or nobody at all, you have to admit this is clever – and gutsy. In one fell swoop, Kenneth Cole created an integrated campaign that seized the most tweeted about phrase from the first debate and parlayed it into public relations, advertising, social media and online executions resulting in charity-supporting merchandise. As someone who can’t stand political ads, this was a refreshing way to end the election. ~ @AdvertGirl


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