In 2019, Utah governor Gary Herbert announced his decision to not pursue an additional term. His Lieutenant Governor, Spencer Cox soon announced his intent to run for the position with Governor Herbert’s support. In early 2020, former Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. unexpectedly entered the race with nearly twice the name ID, a 90%+ approval rating when he last held the Governor’s office and an enormous fundraising advantage. Most internal polling suggested it was going to be a very tight race with no obvious path to victory.
Fluid began working with the Cox campaign in early 2020 to establish an overall campaign strategy. We were responsible for all messaging and brand positioning, including creative asset development and media placement. Our strategy transformed multiple times as COVID-19 and other factors fundamentally changed the nature of the race. In the end, Spencer Cox pulled off the greatest upset in Utah gubernatorial history in large part due to three key factors:
› Powerful Creative: Our goal was to produce positive assets that people would actually share with their friends (i.e., the opposite of political advertising). Over four months we produced five creative campaigns that anchored on Spencer’s unique positioning relative to the competition – namely that he was a proven leader who was endorsed by Utah. Proven leadership was a protection against candidates on the right who were perceived as far less experienced and endorsed by Utah was a contrast with Jon Huntsman who had been out of the state for nearly a decade. Our closing creative spot, a beautiful 30 second commercial of everyday Utahns endorsing Spencer Cox garnered over 200,000 views on YouTube alone in seven days. The most successful video asset of our nearest competitor had 2,000 views over the entire campaign.
› Grassroots Catalyzation: One of the keys to Spencer’s victory was his ability to mobilize everyday Utahns to support his campaign. To that end, our team conceptualized and built a unique integration with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest that enabled Cox supporters to publicly endorse him to their friends and family. Over the course of the campaign we reached 500 new endorsements each week, all of which were incredibly high value, organic, non-paid messaging to the people most likely to listen. A senior political analyst at Facebook said it was, ‘the most sophisticated use of their platform’ they had ever seen in a state race.
› Responsive Advertising: Finally, among the biggest challenges in a messaging campaign of any kind is knowing what is and isn’t working. Throughout the campaign, we ran a sophisticated survey on YouTube that allowed us to see within 72 hours of a video launch how effective it was in changing voters expressed affinity – and then optimized based on that insight. Google’s senior manager over US election accounts said our use of the platform looked like, ‘a campaign from 2024.’
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