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Political Drama Spawns Commercial Parody

NEW YORK (AP) _ Most people following the legal and political battles surrounding the U.S. presidential election see a nation's future at stake. Advertising executives see a great opportunity to sell pizza.

That explains a new television ad from Pizza Hut poking fun at the uncertainty surrounding the presidency, one of a few recent efforts to promote products by casting them as part of the election drama.

In the weeks leading up to the election, M&M/Mars did that with commercials featuring a cartoon Elephant and Donkey bickering over who should be president. The ad touted Snickers bars as the perfect antidote for undecided voters.

The ad, which was only supposed to run through Election Day, has run infrequently in the days afterward as television stations and programs fulfill their obligations to the company.

The ads are part of Snickers' strategy of ``tying back to a current event that's already in the minds of consumers. That really resonates well,'' spokeswoman Michelle Weese said.

Pizza Hut has followed a similar logic since Election Day with a hastily produced spot for its Insider Pizza. The irreverent ad proclaims the pie as the one thing all Americans can agree on and is targeted at younger consumers.

``That's an important group of consumers for us, so our ads have to be timely and relevant for them,'' Pizza Hut spokeswoman Patty Sullivan said. ``Once we had some of the creative spirit going, we were able to take advantage of the fact that Americans were really glued to their televisions in hopes of hearing the outcome of the election.''

It's not the first time Pizza Hut has tried to jump on the political bandwagon. It has run ads for its New Yorker pizza with a character resembling Senator-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as ads showing former Soviet leader Mikhael Gorbachev eating a slice.

Both the pizza chain and the candy company say they are trying to associate their products with fun without offending viewers' political sensibilities.

Ads synched to the election are part of a broader trend of linking products to current events, said Sam Craig, a professor who teaches advertising at New York University's Stern School of Business.

He points to ads featuring the winning Super Bowl quarterback who, just minutes after the victory, appears in a commercial proclaiming his plans to head for Disney World. Commercials tied to the election may win advertisers similar attention, but there has to be something more to win consumer's business, Craig said.

``Linking (a product) with a big event grabs people's attention, but there's got to be a selling message in the ad itself if its going to be effective,'' he said. ``Unless they tell you something about Snickers that is going to make you want it after you see the ad, it doesn't make any difference that you paid attention.''
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