A secret to the viral success of Louisiana Senate candidate Gary Chambers’ first ad may be that it didn’t come from a traditional campaign consulting team.
While his communications consultant, Erick Sanchez of United Public Affairs, has Capitol Hill experience and was on two presidential campaigns last cycle, the filmmaker who helped create the spot doesn’t have the same political resume. But Erwin Marionneaux, a YouTube creator, has been working closely with Chambers since before his Senate run. He previously worked with the Democrat on a vlog video about a trip to California that included Chambers rolling a joint with pot purchased from a dispensary and talking about legalizing the drug in Louisiana. That video got less than 500 views.
Fast forward to January of this year when the Democrat is a candidate and Sanchez and his team are on board to pair Marionneaux’s creativity and filmmaking with a crafted political message. The “37 Seconds” ad has some 284,000 views just on Chambers’ own YouTube channel in addition to millions of views across Twitter and Instagram. It also sparked national media coverage, cable news commentary and late-night comedy references.
“It’s important for those of us who are working with candidates to consider interests beyond what is seemingly popular in the mainstream and try to extract those to the benefit of raising awareness for the campaign,” Sanchez told C&E.
An ad like the one Chambers released comes with risk, but the potential fundraising upside is enormous. The Democrat, who finished third in the March ’21 special House primary in LA-02, now has five fundraising events scheduled around the country to support his run, and just received a high-profile endorsement in the race.
“In order to raise awareness for this race, we felt like we really needed to make a bold statement and I don’t think we couldn’t have gotten any more bold than the approach that we [took],” said Sanchez, who worked for Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) on the Hill and on his short-lived presidential as well as Andrew Yang’s run in 2020.
Sanchez, who’s now based in Louisiana, said he met Chambers last year through a friend. He called the ad a marriage of a “perfect message with a perfect messenger.”
“Using and highlighting the disparities in the Black community [on marijuana arrests] really spoke to Gary a lot. This is the right message, these are the right visuals. That 37-seconds concept really helped to anchor everything,” said Sanchez, who credits an ACLU report for that statistic about how frequently someone in America is arrested for possession of marijuana.
“From time to visuals to script to execution, we were able to pull something together that was really special,” he said.
But while Sanchez delivered the concept, he also gives credit to Marionneaux, who filmed, shot and edited the ad. The filmmaker’s contribution also included the striking leather chair that Chambers is seated in in the spot, as well as knowing the shooting location from working on an earlier production. The atmospheric overcast sky, though, was just luck. And if you were wondering, the weed was real.
“You generally see the same thing” in campaign ads, Sanchez said. “There’s an argument to be made towards [reexamining] the way we think about our messages in campaigns ads, our visuals and what people respond to.”