A Fireside Chat with Charlie the Tuna, 2016's alTUNAtive Presidential Candidate

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Heather Taylor, Advertising Week

For one candidate, the 2016 Election race has been an upstream journey to the White House. He’s flying — or rather, swimming — solo and identifies as neither left nor right-winger, but an alTUNAtive candidate instead. For over 50 years, StarKist’s Charlie the Tuna has been an advocate for recipes and meals that matter, asking the question “What are we going to eat?” and answering it with change and great taste we can believe in. Now, it’s his turn to toss his red beret into the ring as the brand mascot makes his official Charlie® for President bid.

Joining me today in a fireside — more accurately, aquarium-side — chat is Andy Mecs, Charlie’s campaign manager and Director of Marketing and Innovation at StarKist, along with the esteemed tuna of the hour, Charlie. We’ll be discussing Charlie’s political #CharlieForPrez platform as an alTUNAtive candidate, along with his stance on being “pro-good taste” and search for a VP to join his ballot.

Advertising Week: It’s time for your 15-second elevator pitch, Charlie. Why should voters vote for you and your swim to the White House?

As America’s No. 1 tuna, I have an upstanding legacy of bringing delicious, quality and convenient products to the American people. I have a fresh take: Instead of getting caught up in the undertow of this year’s election, I am bringing a new perspective to America’s table with my #alTUNAtive platform. Plus, I have a passionate, loyal following that I won’t disappoint. To me, there is only one question worth asking: What are we going to eat?

AW: I think that’s a question we’re all asking ourselves. You’re coming into the race as a relatively last-minute dark horse. Who influenced your decision to run as an “alTUNAtive candidate” for President?

Andy Mecs, my trusted campaign manager and Director of Marketing and Innovation at StarKist®, really drove me to see my potential and how I could provide an alTUNAtive to the “same old same old.” Plus, the rest of the team at StarKist really supported me and constantly reminded me that everyone has a right to a better lunch and dinner and I am the perfect tuna to provide them with that choice.

 Your slogan is “Because America is Hungry for an alTUNAtive” — what inspired this M.O. for your campaign?

 At my core, I really believe in bringing alTUNAtive solutions to lunch and dinner. Americans are tired of the food establishment. Why should you settle for meal or snacktime boredom when I can add so much fun and flavor to any meal? That’s the inspiration — to seek flavor, quality, convenience, and change to the mundane meal.

AW: And that kind of inspiration makes up a big part of your “pro-good taste” stance. How will your good taste help support a nation in need of nutritious lunches for all ages?

Regardless of race, creed, color, age or even species, everyone has the right to great taste. Because StarKist tuna has so many flavors and convenient ways to enjoy them, everyone can find the taste that’s perfect for them while getting plenty of protein and Omegas 3s.

Most importantly, by working with StarKist, I have been able to donate to plenty of worthy causes, such as Feed the Children®, a non-profit organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger. I will continue this work during my presidency.

AW: Sustainability is a big part of the “Charlie Believes” platform. How will you work alongside StarKist to ensure there is plenty of tuna for the next generation of families?

I have learned a lot about sustainability through my work with StarKist, America’s leading tuna brand. We actively work to ensure that there is plenty of tuna today and for generations to come.

Together, StarKist and I were the firstcompany to adopt a dolphin-safe policy, and we are a founding member of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF), the world’s leading conservation organization, promoting science-based initiatives for the long-term conservation and sustainable use of tuna stocks. 

AW: Your search for the perfect VP is on! What are the qualifications for the role to join your ticket?

Charlie: I need a running mate that shares the same dedication to great taste, nutrition, fun and being a true #alTUNAtive.

Whether my Vice President is an expert on breakfast, dairy products, vegetables, nuts or snack foods, they need to be able to keep me up-to-date on fun, nutritious meal and snack opportunities. 

AW: Can the VP be another brand mascot or are ordinary folks from land eligible for your ballot?

I encourage Charlie for President fans to nominate everyone and anyone via social media for my VP; however, I am partial to candidates that can stand on the same fictitious podium as me.

AW: When you’re in need of extra inspiration on the campaign trail, what quote from a famous politician keeps you going?

John F. Kennedy once said:  “My fellow Americans, ask not what your lunch can do for you, ask what you can do for your lunch.” Or wait, was that me who said that?

AW: We know you don’t like to discuss other rival politicians, but how did you feel about the Pillsbury Doughboy’s infamous chef’s hat being tossed in the ring for theWhite House Pastry Chefcampaign in 2014?

I like ambitious mascots; they remind me a lot of myself. I fully supported the Doughboy, especially because I know his love for great alTUNAtives. Biscuits add a fun crust to traditional tuna noodle casserole or the Tuna Divan Crescent Squares. I see you, Doughboy. I see you!

AW: If elected, what would you like your first official meal in office to be?

As an actual tuna fish, I’m partial to crustaceans and crab larvae, but if I were to get past my moral code, I would devour Campaign Trail Ready Tuna Taco Salad or the Cut the Budget Herb & Garlic Tuna Wrap. But any of my Charlie for President recipes look delish— again if I wasn’t a tuna!  

AW: The tuna, the myth, the legend. If elected, what would your legacy be known forfrom now?

I hope to be seen as a President who o-fish-ally brought needed change to lunch, dinner and the White House.