“Arkansas has become the first state in the Bible Belt to legalize medical marijuana.” – Associated Press
Framing an issue so voters understand how it affects their lives is imperative to winning campaigns. Explaining a complicated issue in clear and precise terms is an art. Defining one’s opponent, be it a candidate or ballot measure, is what we do.
Ballot initiatives are completely different from candidate campaigns and require a different strategy to win.
Too often campaigns fail to frame the issue on their terms and they lose because of it. It is critical to tell the voters what a ballot measure is all about – early in a campaign and consistently throughout.
Frame the debate, win the election.
Define the problem. Define the solution. Tell voters what is at stake.
If you do those things – with very straight forward information – you will set the stage for the reset of the campaign to be on YOUR terms.
Medical marijuana was on the ballot in Arkansas and the opposition was very clearly misrepresenting the facts. It was our job to explain how voting yes would help people who desperately need help.
In the case of Vote FOR 6 for medical marijuana in Arkansas, we needed to get across 4 important points:
- Doctors should be able to prescribe the best medicine to ease the pain of their patients.
- Medical marijuana should only be available under strict doctor supervision.
- Medical marijuana will only be available for people with debilitating diseases
- It’s already legal in 24 other states.
Every line of the spot above was poll tested. The strongest line is keeping politicians out of the doctor-patient relationship. This spot moved numbers and we won.
It was the first constitutional amendment to be defeated in Wisconsin in 26 years.
“No” ballot campaigns are very different than “Yes” ballot campaigns. They require different strategy and messaging to win. Successful “No” campaigns are able to present serious concerns about the long-term negative consequences of a particular vote. Often times, these consequences are unintended by the authors of the initiatives.
In Wisconsin in 2018, voters soundly rejected a bipartisan effort to eliminate the office of the State Treasurer 61% “No” to 39% “Yes.” We were able to help the “Save Our Fiscal Watchdog” campaign by first informing voters there would actually be a vote on their ballot. This simple, yet crucial, step is often overlooked in states where ballot measures and constitutional amendments are not a regular occurrence.
Once we established the fact there would be a vote, the campaign’s next duty was to ensure voters understood this was a change to the constitution – and not just a simple ballot question. Our polling showed that voters moved the most when they learned the Office of State Treasurer could provide a critical check-and-balance to the State Legislature with regards to fiscal policy – that language was the main driver in our television and digital advertising.
Tell a Story
In the “Protect Arkansas Values: Stop Casinos Now” campaign, we utilized a powerful storytelling format. Throughout the campaign we used people to voice their concerns about the ballot initiative a la Harry and Louise.
Polling showed our storytelling spots moved numbers.
The ad above, in particular, was watched to an 85% completion rate in the digital formats (gold standard for political campaigns is 60%).