This article contributes to the emergent field of corporate activism by exploring how corporate advertising voices, or is interpreted by the media as voicing, Trump resistance – that is, sympathy with anti-Trump protests and dismay at the politics of the White House incumbent. In so doing, we first situate corporate activism in relation to the more established fields of political corporate social responsibility and corporate social responsibility communication, focusing on discussions concerning the interplay between talk and action as well as the potential of talk to lead to action. On this basis, we propose a conceptual framework that posits talk and action as operating conjointly on the ontological plane of s(t)imulation, a conceptual conjunction of simulation and stimulation that is inspired by Baudrillard’s notion of the simulacrum. Empirically, we conduct a qualitative analysis of 20 examples of corporate advertising that has been reported as anti-Trump in the media. We find that the advertising in our sample is characterized by the following three main distinctions: (1) humorous references to Trump, (2) favourable and highly emotional appeals to social justice and (3) dystopian visions of society. We argue that a postmodern perspective on signs and representation may not only nuance our understanding of corporate activism, but also contribute to the conceptualization of the phenomenon by pushing the explanatory framework beyond the dialectic of talk and action.
Bibliographical noteEpub ahead of print. Published online: July 20, 2020
- Content analysis
- Corporate activism
- Corporate responsibility
- Donald Trump