Poignant Campaign Ad Tells the Story of a Candidate Whose Family Could Have Been Separated by ICE

California's Kevin de León takes on Feinstein and Trump

What could have been for Kevin de León's future. De León for Senate / The Win Agency

As midterm election campaigning heats up, so does the creative supporting it.

One of this year’s standard bearers came from a special election in New York earlier this year, where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez created a powerful ad that swept her to victory over a long-term incumbent. Taking a slightly different tack, a congressional candidate in Minnesota used humor (and Bigfoot) to make its point. While both ads were on entirely different ends of the creative spectrum, their impact was noticeable.

In a similar fashion to Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Senate candidate Kevin de León from California tells his story. Where it differs is not so much just about his life leading up to this moment, but rather what could have been had the current government policy of family separation been in place when he was growing up.

The ad, created by The Win Company in New York, is stunning work and tells the tale of a young de León, raised by his hard-working mother who came to California from Mexico. At the beginning of the 3-minute film, she says: “I didn’t come to this country to be lazy. I came to make something of myself. To make a better future for you.”

De León says he imagined his own future: Living in his own house, not just a rented room; helping people like his mother who risked everything to come to America and people who “worked their fingers to the bone, to provide for the children they love.”

At that point, it feels like a seemingly standard ad of perseverance leading to a happy ending. But, halfway through, things change dramatically as de León wonders what could have been had the current policy of family separation been in effect when he was a kid. In a heartbreaking turn, as news clips play against the film, ICE agents come to the family’s door.

“How would my life change if they had taken her away from me,” he asks as the agents take the screaming mother from the house.

From there, de León puts his rival, Dianne Feinstein, squarely in the crosshairs, playing back previous comments from the long-serving senator about immigration that sound eerily similar to the current commander-in-chief, whose infamous 2015 comments about Mexican immigrants are also included in the ad.

In the last 40 seconds or so, the ad ends on an inspiring note as de León shares his vision for California saying that the state’s “greatness comes from acts of human audacity. Not congressional seniority.” He also notes that he is “not just a proponent for the California Dream, but a product of it.”

It’s a stirring example of compelling storytelling, and a call to action rolled into one. In fact, the ad feels more like a three-act play, with potential tragedy anchoring the middle yet ending on a message of hope.

The film’s execution is not surprising from The Win Company as their handiwork can be found in ads for New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Though Sanders and Nixon didn’t emerge victoriously, the work, in addition to this ad for de León, stands on it own and forces people to pay attention to not just the candidate, but what’s facing the country at this penultimate moment in its history.


Agency: WIN
Founder, Chief Creative Officer: Matt McLaughlin
Founder, Chief Strategy Officer: Bill Hyers
Head of Production: Devin Tusa
Principal: KC Boyle

Production Company: Acres
Founder, Executive Producer: Andrew Simkiss
Director – Shal Ngo
Director of Photography: Josh Kraszewski
Head of Production: Julie Hershan
Producer: Jake Ewald

@zanger doug.zanger@adweek.com Doug Zanger is a senior editor, agencies at Adweek, focusing on creativity and agencies.