Fast Company: This creative ad campaign helped turn five states blue in the 2020 election
Fast Company – September 21, 2021
By Savanna Bous
Political ads typically aren’t very inspiring. Instead, they’re full of mudslinging, ominous music, and tales of impending doom to frighten voters to head to the polls. Way to Lead, a political action committee (PAC) devoted to supporting candidates in underrepresented communities, wanted to do something different. The advertising campaign “What’s Possible,” released last fall, was designed to build hope for the future by urging voters to support Democrats in the 2020 elections.
The concept behind the campaign was, “What is the world we’re trying to create?” according to Jenifer Fernandez Ancona, chief strategy officer of Way to Win (Way to Lead’s sister organization). “What’s Possible” was a collaboration between Way to Lead and The Win Company, a political advertising agency. The single, short video features a unique fusion of stop-motion animation, mixed media, and narration that’s designed to blend hope with nostalgia to compel voters to “go blue” and make progressive change. It’s the winner of Fast Company‘s 2021 Innovation by Design Awards in the advertising category.
“There are some art collages you can pull out of it that are very symbolic to last year in the midst of the campaign,” says Matt McLaughlin, creative director of The Win Company. These collages depict current issues like police brutality, climate change, school shootings, anti-vaccine efforts, and political unrest. As the video continues, it juxtaposes a future that overcomes those issues if Democratic leaders are voted into office. “We were trying to take these elements that existed already and turn them into something that would represent a new idea of how the world could be and could represent the ideas Way to Lead was trying to put forth,” McLaughlin says.
For the 2020 election, Way to Lead focused on eight states where they thought they could make the biggest difference: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Here, they found concentrations of younger minority voters who hadn’t voted in every election, but had values that aligned with the Democratic Party.
“What’s Possible” was tested against a control group to determine how it impacted viewers. When surveyed, those who saw the ad said they were more likely to vote or talk to others about voting compared with those who hadn’t. It had the greatest effect on mobilizing black and Latinx audiences, white suburban women, and voters over 55 years old. “We also tested it against some other content, including some Biden content, and the What’s Possible ad continued to do better than other content that we tested against,” Fernandez Ancona says.
The ad eventually went viral on Twitter, after it was shared by Stacey Abrams, Ilhan Omar, and Chris Hayes. Five out of the eight states Way to Win focused their efforts went blue in the 2020 election, potentially influencing 66 electoral votes. Was the ad solely responsible? Of course not. But it shows the importance of reaching every voter, using every creative method possible.
“In advertising, you’re trying to get 5% to 10% of market share and in politics, you need to get at least 51%,” McLaughlin says. “At the end of the day, with us, either you win, or you lose and that’s [what determines the] efficacy.”