McCain Institute

What role does human rights play in the lives of Americans across diverse backgrounds?

The McCain Institute (MCI) hired us to solve this communications challenge in a way that would galvanize Americans into action and inspire them to think differently, leading to a campaign called “Mavericks Needed.”

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It became our mission to better America’s relationship to human rights by building awareness, identifying pathways to advocacy, and inspiring young people to implore elected officials to stand up for human rights.


Our work commenced with an extensive design research project to better understand American public opinion on human rights across generations, demographics, and regions of the country. We focused on use of language, different audiences, and the connection between human rights and the community. Per the McCain Institute, “[Wondros research concluded] a significant lack of common understanding and support for the need to protect basic human rights and freedoms in the world, a strong preference for focusing on issues here at home, and no common language for discussing these issues – particularly among younger Americans.”

Our research informed the development of our debut, non-partisan campaign that launched in advance of the 2018 midterms. We named the campaign “Mavericks Needed” in honor of the late Senator’s legacy, to inspire and empower Americans to support and protect human rights at home and abroad.

We worked with MCI to define what it means to be a “Maverick”: a central feature to a microsite that we developed, asking “Mavericks” to make a virtual pledge to answer the call-to-action, which they could share across social channels. We also developed a creative campaign to build the Institute’s relationship with the world at large. Social media, video content, and live activations positioned McCain as the ultimate “Maverick” and leader who stood up for dignity and civility across partisan lines, and invited our audiences to do the same.


To date, we have built a community of nearly 11,000 “Mavericks” pledge signers, over 185,500 “sessions,” 28 million impressions across owned digital channels, and significant press coverage in such outlets as the Associated Press, The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, and more. “Mavericks Needed” was followed by the “We Hold These Truths” campaign to grow our audiences post-launch and Phase II of our earned and paid media plan to reach scholars and activists across the globe.