California’s Prop 19

Prop 19: Winning by doing more with less

Early polling showed us California’s Proposition 19 would be a close race.

The proposition was a complex, multi-faceted measure. The ballot language limited property taxes for seniors, wildfire victims, people ages 55 and older, and Californians with severe disabilities. The measure also closed tax loopholes for wealthy trust fund heirs and increased funding for fire protection, emergency response, and schools.

Head spinning yet?

To add to our challenges, “Yes” campaigns are almost always more difficult to win than “No” campaigns.  And, Prop 19 was funded $40-60 million LESS than similar ballot proposals that were competing for voters’ attention.

To win a “Yes” vote, we had to tell memorable stories while targeting them at the voters that needed to hear them most. In other words, we had to do a lot more with a lot less.

Telling a story is the most powerful way to simplify a complex issue while making the uninterested, interested.

Because of Prop 19’s complexity, we needed to communicate in a way voters could understand.  That’s where the storytelling came in.  We framed the issue in stories that showed how individuals could be affected collectively – like the “framing” ad at the top of the page. We then created individual vignettes of each aspect of the ballot proposal where we told stories of people with disabilities, wildfire victims, and people 55 and older (examples below). These vignettes helped turn a complex issue into personal stories that were memorable.

Stories of Wildfire Victims

Californians with Disabilities: Cynde’s Story

Californians 55 and older: Pam’s Story

Utilizing trusted messengers

In ballot measures – even more than traditional candidate campaigns – trusted third party validators are critical to winning. In this case, we worked with California firefighters to help us communicate why Prop 19 would help their efforts:

Cutting through the radio clutter

Radio advertising can be an effective tool to reach specific audiences. In this case we targeted more conservative voters on radio stations throughout California. We leaned heavily into stories that we collected through phone recordings…. the end result allowed us to capture voters in their own words in spots that cut through the radio clutter:


Embracing cutting-edge technology to do more with less

To win, we had to embrace technology to help us deliver the messages to voters that mattered most.  We utilized the most advanced modeling and polling combined with extensive ad testing to show us what messages moved voters and in what sequence they need to hear the message.

In the end, Prop 19 won with a little over 51% of the vote while other California ballot measures lost despite spending $40-60 million dollars more than Prop 19.

We are proud to have been a part of the winning effort. Special shout out to Prop 19’s General Consultant Josh Pulliam whose highly disciplined campaign strategy charted the right course to victory at each step along the way.