Joke campaign is never going to give you up

Junior Bransen Tong’s “run” for ASB president pokes fun at student elections


Erica Dembrowicz

Joke ASB president candidate Bransen Tong flashes his stunning ‘presidential’ smile.

Shravya Salem Sathish, Opinions Editor

Every year, elections represent the ambitious aspirations of innovative students striving to make a serious difference.

Except for junior Bransen Tong, the fake ASB President candidate who was more motivated to rickroll the student body than lead it. 

That’s right – fake. Though lacking the necessary two years of leadership experience, Tong inadvertently created a cult of followers and skirted all post-electoral responsibilities. 

“To be honest, I was going to be the worst ASB President,” he said. “I do not have the leadership required to run the school, but I always liked the campaign portion.”

His campaign was inspired by several unifying symbols: bad puns, adorable dogs, and Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up”. One of his posters displays a motto—“the future is bright”—and adds a highly overexposed selfie taken with flash, as well as a QR code that “rickrolls” students by leading them to a link to Rick Astley’s hit classic “Never Gonna Give You Up”.

Tong’s friends were also eager to spread the word that their unique candidate wouldn’t run around and desert Cal’s students.

“I contributed by sitting behind him in math class and looking over at his screen while he was making his campaign posters, and I was like, ‘Hey, nice work,’” junior Raymond Chen said. “I printed out some posters and hung them up [as well].”

With such publicity, the gag seemed like it was never going to say goodbye.

“I expected it to be a one-off joke that some people would see on the first day and think, ‘OK, that’s funny’,” Tong said. “I did not expect the number of messages I got about it.”

His impromptu fanbase also made itself known under The Californian’s Instagram post regarding ASB elections. Among serious statements from actual candidates lie disappointed and dismayed comments of “where my bran tong???”, “no branseb [sic] tong smh”, and “No bransen tong?? Awful”, promoting the prospective Tong administration.

Throughout elections, Tong induced genuine laughs without using typical poster mottos and slogans. 

“Talk about what you want to do as ASB President, but throw a little humor in there,” Tong advised.

But some others were more skeptical of Tong’s jesting approach and concept. 

“The point of a campaign is for students to choose someone to represent them, and it’s part of the leadership body, and I don’t think [the campaign] embodied that mission,” sophomore Yitong (Fiona) Xie said. 

Likewise, the actual candidates for ASB president didn’t see the humor in Tong’s caricature version of their electoral work.

“The position itself is something that I personally took really seriously, just because of the role that you have within the community [and] also on campus and with other admin,” said junior Alyssa Villarde, who ran for ASB president. “I’m not a big fan of that just for that reason, but I also don’t see any harm in it.”

Such campaigns focused on equality and advocacy, and Tong’s lightheartedness was a stark contrast, for better or for worse.

“I think I would just want that person to be more educated on what they’re actually doing and why they’re doing it because it is a serious role to be joking about,” Villarde said.

Tong had decided to run for ASB as a joke because ASB elections happened alongside the pre-AP test study season and he wanted to replace student stress with a temporary moment of hilarity.

“It’s around AP testing, and everyone is kind of tired and [worn] out, so I figured it would be a nice little motivation,” he said.

AP tests aren’t a one-time occurrence, so Bransen has an absurd idea in the works to initiate joke campaigns as another annual tradition on campus. 

“I feel like props would go a long way,” Chen said. “If he walked around campus with a big ring light around his neck, that’d be pretty funny.” 

For now, future plans are supposedly going to be less going broke with the school printer to print campaign posters and more dumpster diving for three-day-old cardboard boxes.

“Something is going to happen next year, that’s all I’m going to say,” Tong said with a laugh.