Proposition C was written by the tobacco industry as an attempt to roll back the e-cigarette ban passed in the Bay Area in 2019. We were brought in to defeat it, but started our opposition campaign weeks after our opponent, the e-cigarette company JUUL, had started spending millions of dollars running misinformation ads and using deceptive marketing tactics. On this shortened timeline, we took advantage of one of the few natural advantages we had — a negative media environment for JUUL. We did that by making clear that JUUL and Big Tobacco were behind Prop C.
We aimed to defeat Proposition C by designing a program that could compete with JUUL’s expenditure while maintaining the flexibility to respond to breaking news regarding the national e-cigarette crisis. Our research showed San Francisco voters overwhelmingly saw Big Tobacco unfavorably, so we made the campaign a referendum on Big Tobacco.
In response to changing news cycles, we tested more than 100+ pieces of creative across digital channels — refreshing our creative in real-time to keep engagement high and turn a drip of negative stories nationally into a chorus in SF. Finally, we designed our media program to meet voters wherever they looked for information, ensuring our ads appeared on 90% of JUUL/Prop C searches.
We blanketed the city with a strong and sustained digital campaign, reaching more than 1 million people in the Bay Area by election day, on average 5-6X per week. Our digital program showed voters that JUUL was behind Prop C, drove measurable impact, and resulted in an unprecedented win on Election Day (81% NO).