“We assumed it would be a mover spot, and it just wasn’t,” McIntosh said. The video had the adverse effect of pushing away not just moderate voters, but also many Democratic-base voters, particularly young people, who find politics tiresome and irrelevant to their lives. “The folks who are younger, they’re more skeptical. They’re oftentimes just kind of like, Oh, I haven’t had the best luck in life. They don’t make a ton of money. They haven’t got a college degree,” said Samarth Bhaskar, a consultant for the group. “So with those groups in particular, we’ve seen when you put something in front of them that looks like a political ad or a political video, they get turned off right away. And so we tried our best to find other ways to, like, talk to them about these topics.”
What did resonate? A spot called “Protest & Vote.” The video featured upbeat music, brightly colored graphics, and images of nonviolent protests, with former president Obama urging activists to both register to vote and take to the streets. The ad made no mention of Trump or Biden. The spot worked, its creators said, because it adopted a series of themes and images that have been shown to resonate among young people, African Americans, and a subgroup of disengaged voters they call “struggling skeptics.” It was optimistic, showcased diverse faces, tied current fights to historical struggles, and avoided the Beltway political debates that consume a news media growing ever more detached from the voting public. On Twitter the video about Trump in Lafayette Square received only 194 views. “Protest & Vote” got over 12,000.