web-video mobile-app creative-strategy

Independent Institute

web-video + mobile-app + creative-strategy

... min read


The Independent Institute is an Oakland, CA-based nonprofit research center that sponsors studies of critical social and economic issues. When their first mobile app, a tax calculator called MyGovCost, failed to connect with millennials, they asked our team to overhaul the app and create a branded content campaign to drive downloads and engagement.

Impact At a Glance

8.1 million

video views


millennial viewers


increase in app downloads


earned media mentions


media awards


Let’s start with the product. Independent Institute has been producing excellent scholarly articles and policy reports for 25 years, but intellectual rigor doesn’t necessarily translate to appealing UI/UX. Their first attempt at a mobile interface was hobbled by technical challenges. Furthermore, the app wasn’t connecting with Independent’s target audience, design-savvy millennials who expect every mobile experience to be as seamless as Facebook.

The team at Independent Institute had an important message for young voters, now they needed a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. Our challenge was clear: Produce and promote educational content that would make audiences hit the like button instead of the snooze button.


When our team of (mostly millennial) writers and producers analyzed our own relationship to government spending, we realized that it had a classical shape: Love at first sight, then a lot resentment. Bingo! The government is like a terrible boyfriend, one who steals your stuff, insults your friends, and runs up debt... on your credit cards.

We locked a team of writers in the conference room. When they emerged, we had a five part series: Love Gov, the story of an optimistic, free-spirited woman and her domineering boyfriend Scott “Gov” Govinkski.

To support the series and the redesigned app we also created a customized mini-site and robust marketing and communications strategy.


We also audited, redesigned and rebuilt the MyGovCost Calculator app from scratch. We gave the calculator a modern look-and-feel, overhauled the UX, generated new content for users that wanted a deeper dive into the issues, and built a custom mini-site to drive downloads.


Through a mixture of highly target media placements and strong social sharing, Love Gov earned more than 2 million eyeballs in its first week. More important, viewers were watching the entire series, all 30 minutes of it. Earned media mentions, including an entire episode of Stossel on Fox Business, help extend the tail, keeping Love Gov relevant for months.



4 million views (and growing) on the series

99% millennial viewers

54 earned media mentions including an exclusive episode of John Stossel

1,800 new subscribers

33% increase in app downloads


  • Entertainment > advertising

  • Highly targeted media placement makes all the difference

  • We don’t just sell the product, we improve it