The Donkey and the Elephant enjoy a friendly rivalry in CNN's election coverage ads

FIG introduces a new look to the broadcaster's spots

Published On
Aug 27, 2020

Editor's Pick

In its brand campaign, CNN has favored spare advertising messages featuring simple typography and basic imagery like an apple or a mask. To promote its election coverage, however, the broadcaster and its agency FIG go the route of nostalgic ink drawings reminiscent of classic political cartoons. A series of spots centers on the rivalry between the Democratic and Republican mascots, a donkey and an elephant. But arguably, it’s refreshingly amicable compared to their real-world discord.

One spot, for example, shows the two creatures sitting down on a park bench. The elephant warns the donkey, however, that they have to remain six feet apart. “That’s the closest we’ve been in years,” Donkey says. 

Another ad shows the two together in a rowboat, and as each tugs his oars in opposite directions, they fail to go anywhere. “This is stupid,” Donkey says. “We’ve got to work together.” Elephant replies, “You’re right,” after which both continue as usual, not budging once again.

As the election approaches, more ads will roll out, and a new character will  even enter the picture.

Fig Creative Director Ross Fletcher says that while “Facts First” serves as CNN’s brand campaign, these new ads are tune-in messages specifically for CNN’s election coverage, from the conventions, to the presidential debates and all the way to election night. The coverage is geared toward all parties and “despite what Trump may say, CNN is a trusted source of election coverage for all Americans, Elephants included,” he adds. “The friendly antagonism between the Donkey and Elephant may feel a bit hopeful in such an ugly year, but it lets us all have a laugh while still reaching a larger group of viewers. When it comes to voting, we think the more people who tune in, stay engaged and informed, the better.”

As for the technique used on the spots, “We wanted to create a look that was reminiscent of classic political cartoons, while also feeling completely new and ownable for CNN,” says Creative Director Howard Finkelstein.  That meant, however, “doing it the hard way”—it was all stop motion. While we typically associate stop motion with colorful, three-dimensional characters, to achieve the hand-drawn cartoon look, the puppets and set were “painted with a very tiny brush to look like pen and ink,” he says. “They were lit and shot frame by frame on green screen, then brought into a hand-drawn 2D world.”

The campaign at the end of July and the spots are currently running on CNN and its social platforms, along with topical, single-frame comics on social media.