In June 2022, first-time congressional candidate Katie Darling launched an long-shot campaign against (former) Minority Whip Steve Scalise, the representative from Louisiana's 1st congressional district. At the time Katie was 7 months pregnant. Her goal was to make an impactful video that resonated with voters in her district - but also across the country, given the recent fall of Roe v. Wade. We pitched Katie the idea to use her motherhood as a source of strength by working her son's actual birth into the video. In addition to creating something that would be seen by a wide audience, the goals were to drive fundraising, followers, endorsements, and name ID for Katie.
Our production budget was tiny - $6214 total. We assembled a small team to capture Katie at home, on the way to the hospital, and in the delivery room during her son's birth. Katie was scheduled to be induced, but the baby could've come at any time. We had our cinematographer and director on standby, ready to jump into action if labor began early. Luckily it didn't, so the induction went right ahead on schedule. We were able to capture her beforehand with her family at the farm, then driving, and then the actual moment she meets her newborn son. It is the first time a candidate giving birth has appeared onscreen in a political ad.
With a marketing budget of $0, we asked friends with large Twitter followings to retweet it. The result was over a million views in the first 24 hours on Twitter and 5+ million views across all platforms (Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, Youtube, Cable TV, et al) in the first week. The video generated $100,000+ in grassroots campaign contributions from across the country. Katie appeared on MSNBC and CNN, generating the equivalent of $117,000 in earned media (not including online/print coverage in People, Bloomberg, Politico, Fortune, USA Today, Associated Press, New York Post, Today Show, Good Morning America, NowThis, Jezebel, The Independent, and more). MSNBC's Ali Velshi: “I don’t make it a habit to show full political ads on this show typically but that one is different in all the years I’ve been covering things.” CNN's Alisyn Camerota: "The best campaign ad you've ever seen." It was called "groundbreaking" (The New Yorker), "remarkable" (The Washington Post), "breathtaking" (The Boston Globe), and "the political ad women have been waiting for" (MSNBC). It netted Katie endorsements from the National Organization for Women and the Vote Mama Lobby. It didn't lead to a win (in a gerrymandered district), but prior to the video's release the candidate had $15,000 in her campaign's account, no social media following, no national endorsements, and no name ID. The video caused a 1000% increase in fundraising, led to thousands of followers, generated 2000% more than its budget in earned media, netted multiple national endorsements, and gave her national name ID.