By Matt Smith

One of the unique aspects of our creative community here in the Mid-Atlantic region is that we do more work for political campaigns than most agencies outside the area.

The reasons are obvious; D.C. is all about politics, and the kind of work required in the field is highly specialized.  So it stands to reason that the most accomplished political shops would be based here.  But doing truly excellent, creative work in this category is tough because agencies are forced to deal with egos and political consequences on a grand scale.

These challenges are never easy, and the level of an agency’s creative thinking has to be epic.  One of the unique aspects of this kind of work is the client needs to be positioned as a leader, but one who is not too self-important or arrogant to understand the value of working with a team.  The agency is part of that team,  and as such has to bring all its skills to bear to make sure the client is positioned just right—not too aggressive, yet displaying the kind of strength and leadership skills that voters can respect and—perhaps more importantly—trust.

A terrific example of this kind of work can be found in a three-plus minute video from last year’s midterm elections created by D.C.-based Putnam Partners for a U.S. House of Representatives candidate from Texas.  Putnam is no stranger to high-level political advertising—the agency has created national TV spots for five presidential candidates, including Barack Obama.

Last year Putnam totally nailed it in a spot called “Doors” for Mary “MJ” Jennings Hegar, a Texas Democrat, U.S. Air Force veteran and former Air National Guard rescue pilot in Afghanistan who challenged longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. John Carter, a Republican.  Take a look: https://www.putnampartners.net/case-study/mj-hegar-congress.

This spot is well-written, smartly produced and truly inspires viewers to like (and vote for) Hegar.  It’s the age-old David vs. Goliath story told with a fresh, timely approach that is not only engaging, but totally relevant to the current political climate. The ad went viral shortly after its release, garnering almost two million views in five days, and Adweek described it as setting “a new bar for high-impact storytelling in campaign ads.”

Hegar narrowly lost her bid against Carter, but this spot helped put her on the Texas political map, and now she’s mounting a new challenge against GOP Sen. John Cornyn, who is up for reelection in 2020.  Wisely, she has chosen Putnam to help her again, and the agency has created a new video which basically talks about the success of “Doors.”  Putnam described it to Adweek as “both a sequel and a new beginning.” Here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIYHz6fPAgo.

With this kind of impactful, thoughtful and on-message advertising supporting her, don’t be surprised if she wins.  And if she does, Putnam can take more than partial credit.

Matt Smith is founder of SmithGifford, and has close to 40 years’ experience as a creative and agency leader at the nation’s top agencies.  SmithGifford is a Capitol Communicator sponsor.

You can find Matt Smith’s earlier columns at Oh, That’s Good.

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