Personalize an Issue through Storytelling

Storytelling creates a powerful bond between your campaign and the voters. It is what is lacking in so many campaigns today where flat, one- dimensional ads all begin to look alike. Storytelling has the power to transform a ballot issue from an abstraction into a reality that’s unique, personal and moving for voters

In late December of 2012 the Michigan Legislature voted to eliminate the burdensome “Personal Property” tax, establish a new tax, and rearrange the Michigan tax code. Normally, that would be the end of things. However, this time the Michigan Constitution required a vote by the public to enact the bill the Legislature passed.

We needed a YES vote in order for the measure to pass. Our greatest enemy in this process was the extremely complicated ballot language. Our first poll showed that the ballot language alone resulted in only 46% of the people supporting the initiative – far below where you normally start a “Yes” campaign.

We knew from research that our voters needed to know this proposal meant jobs would be created in Michigan. But, by itself, job creation wasn’t enough of a message to win. Democrats needed to hear how the ballot proposal would stabilize local funding for fire, police and ambulances without a tax increase. Republican and Independent voters needed to hear that the proposal would provide immediate tax cut to small businesses. We had to target our all our media to bring the right message to the right voter at the right time.

The principal goal of the “Endurance” ad was to tell a story about what the Personal Property Tax actually was and how it affected real Michigan families. Most voters had no idea what a “personal property tax” was nor did they understand who paid this tax (hint: it was a small businesses tax on old equipment).

In this spot we detail how the personal property tax hurt a specific Michigan small business through several generations.

On Election Day, nearly 70% of voters approved the ballot measure. We were able to effectively communicate a unique message to unique groups of voters. We leveraged the latest technologies with cable targeting micro-zones, set-top box data for TV targeting, addressable satellite targeting, and voter file matched, & cookie-targeting digital video. We turned new media and traditional media into a unified strategy that was more than the sum of the parts. And most important – we made sure that all of the elements sang together in a unified and sophisticated message strategy that demanded attention.

One Michigan-based pollster predicted in the Detroit News that “Proposal 1 will go down 2-to-1.” And it would have had we not been able to simplify the message through story telling. Instead, it won with 70% voter approval.