Political Campaigns

Electing Environmental Leaders

League of Conservation Voters


01 / Background

In 2012, Democrat Martin Heinrich and Republican Heather Wilson competed for New Mexico’s open Senate seat in one of the hottest races in the country. Our client, the League of Conservation Voters, saw a champion in Heinrich and targeted the race, working in coalition with other environmental groups to defeat Wilson.

Public Relations / Creative Content / Advertising

02 / Strategy

Research showed that Heinrich and Wilson were running neck and neck, and the public dialogue was dominated by Obamacare and Social Security. But in our message polling, we saw an opening to weaken Wilson’s standing in the race by highlighting her record of letting corporate polluters off the hook. Water contamination from MTBE, a chemical found in gasoline, was a powerful local issue in New Mexico. Combined with Wilson’s record of taking campaign contributions from oil companies, we leveraged a powerful issue to define her early in the campaign. While environmental issues were not top-of-mind for voters, the research showed how powerful Wilson’s votes could be if they were introduced as evidence of her misplaced priorities. We launched our six-week campaign in June, flooding the airwaves with a devastating narrative about Heather Wilson, the money she took, the votes she cast, and the consequences for New Mexico’s families.


03 / Work

Our creative strategy was to develop a single narrative over the course of six weeks of heavy TV advertising. Because the issue was new to voters, we started with a simple production ad that laid out Wilson’s history of accepting campaign contributions from Big Oil and voting to protect polluters. Once we’d established the facts, we helped voters understand the stakes with a series of provocative, emotional ads featuring the children who could be harmed by polluted drinking water and prompting voters to ask themselves a simple question—who is Heather Wilson with? This award-winning work was rounded out with testimonials from New Mexicans, giving voice to the concerns that voters across the state felt about Wilson by the end of the campaign.


04 / Results

By the end of the six-week run, Heather Wilson was down nine points in the polls, with no sign that she could recover. Underestimating the power of the attack, Wilson and her allies had let the charges go unanswered for too long. Both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee canceled ad time that they had reserved in New Mexico, pulling out of the race. Heinrich ultimately won by 5 percent, racking up impressive margins in Albuquerque, where our advertising was concentrated.