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A deeper dive into Philip Levine AS Miami Beach Mayor reveals some blunders that could undermine his accomplishments.

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The anti-gun effect: Simple ads, big returns

Thanks in part to retweets from high-profile Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg, Democratic gubernatorial candidates Philip Levine and Gwen Graham went viral through quick digital shorts that were conceived and produced in less than a day. 

Levine was the first to strike, releasing an ad Wednesday in which he provides his answers to a candidate survey distributed by the NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida.

Graham shortly afterward tweeted a more succinct version of Levine’s idea.

Both ads were shared by Hogg’s Twitter account, transmitting the candidates’ messages instantly to his 829,000 followers. Levine’s ad is floating above 222,000 views and Graham’s ad (shared first by Hogg) is just below the 140,000 mark. Both ads do not appear as sponsored content, though it’s unclear whether the campaigns used any money to boost them.

Even so, in a race in which millions of dollars are spent to reach voters on television, a viral ad is priceless and rare; the return on investment can be enormous, but there’s no step-by-step method for creating something that hundreds of thousands of people will voluntarily watch.

In hindsight of its popularity, Levine’s ad demonstrates the campaign’s ability to create something casual, clever and entertaining within a timely manner — all of which seem like a few good steps in the right direction toward creating something viral. As news media across the state caught word of an NRA questionnaire on Tuesday that vetted candidates on their pro-gun ideologies, the former mayor from Miami Beach’s team saw an opportunity to create something that would mesh well with the day’s minutiae and resonate with potential voters.

The production isn’t spectacular, but it doesn’t need to be. In the ad, Levine approaches a whiteboard that very plainly lists the NRA’s stances on gun issues in the state and explains that he stands opposite each position. The creative direction of the ad is what draws viewers in.

The clip is also unlike any other ad that candidates have produced this cycle — even Levine. The typical pan shots, music, and supportive headlines are absent, and Levine appears on camera in one rolling shot, with the exception of a few cuts to his dog and zooms on the whiteboard.

Graham’s bit came well after Levine’s, and took the idea of being casual and ran with it. It likely took all of 10 minutes to throw together. The quality is similar to what’s produced by an iPhone camera, and Graham simply uses a red marker to write “NO NRA MONEY” across the questionnaire in one shot while talking.

Hogg retweeted the clip with a quote, “The young people will win.” And with minimal effort, Graham got her message out. 


On Facebook, the ads haven’t picked up the same traction, but the reach still is noteworthy for Levine. A new database recently made available to the public shows that the mayor’s grabbed around 25,000 views with the ad on Facebook and anywhere between 50,000 to 100,000 impressions, or the number of instances an ad is on-screen for the first time for a user. It’s backed with anywhere between $500 to $999. The data is presented in ranges.

Graham hasn’t promoted her video with money on Facebook. It had around 3,100 views as of publishing.

The testament to the power of social media likely won’t be forgotten by either candidate. And It could lead to politicians across the board, in any race, producing more timely campaign ads, sacrificing overall production value for getting the message out quickly — especially when there are influencers online who’ve demonstrated they’re willing to boost ideas friendly to their causes.

Written By

Danny McAuliffe is a Tallahassee correspondent for Florida Politics. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as the editor of the FSView & Florida Flambeau. He is a lifelong Floridian and indulges in swimming, hiking, running and memes when the news cycle permits. Reach him at

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