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Bill Eisner hopes his advertising for Steve Forbes' presidential bid will bring national attention to his suburban Milwaukee agency, William Eisner & Associates.

The notoriety, he believes, will bring additional corporate clients to the shop his father founded in 1959.

"For an agency from Hales Corners, Wis., it's an opportunity . . . a stage that if we perform well on, a few people will look at us differently," said Mr. Eisner, 44. "It will give us an opportunity to do something significant."

Mr. Eisner said Mr. Forbes' campaign officials strayed far from Madison Avenue in selecting his primarily retail-oriented shop as a reflection of its mandate to bring a middle-American sensibility to the campaign.


"You go to a traditional political ad [shop] and [Mr. Forbes] becomes a politician," Mr. Eisner said. "We look out at America, not down at America."

The shop has a garage that houses Mr. Eisner's personal collection of classic American cars: a 1940 Chevrolet, a 1947 Cadillac and a 1950 Mercury. Among the agency's clients: Coca-Cola Co.'s fountain promotion and advertising for Southland Corp.'s 7-Eleven convenience store chain; Koch Petroleum; Steinhaufel's Furniture; Shuster Marketing's Blitz Power mints; and the Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee. The agency has several technology clients at its Portland, Ore., affiliate.

But Mr. Eisner does come with political credentials. It was his campaign for GOP senatorial hopeful Mark Neumann-who nearly upset U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D., Wis.)

-last year that brought his agency to the Forbes 2000 campaign's attention.

The campaign ads for Mr. Neumann included some humorous executions making light of Sen. Feingold's votes for government research and helped turn the longshot into a viable contender.


Mr. Eisner, in Washington to present to a forum of candidates sponsored by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was paged by the Forbes campaign. Before that approach, he was considering an exit from the political arena.

In the end, he didn't want to turn down the request from Forbes campaign manager Bill Dal Col.

Initially, however, he did. The request made was for Mr. Eisner to head an independent team of ad executives to help with the campaign; that caused him to demur.

"I said I'd never seen a consortium work," he recalled.

After the campaign offered to let him use his own agency, Mr. Eisner accepted.

Four years ago, Mr. Forbes was criticized-especially in Iowa-for running a negative campaign. So the first Forbes TV commercials from the Eisner agency have depicted Forbes family members talking about Mr. Forbes or Mr. Forbes talking about his ideas.


Mr. Eisner said "negative advertising" hasn't even been discussed, though on the stump the candidate has been getting more aggressive in attacking Republican frontrunner Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

The Eisner agency isn't just doing TV commercials, but all advertising, including direct marketing.

Traditionally, some ad agency leaders have shied away from any involvement in politics for their agencies, fearing the time and attention such short-term political clients demand exact a toll the expense of long-term clients.

"It depends on the agency and how solid the client relationships are to know how much is doable," said Bob Gardner, president of Gardner, Geary, Coll & Young, San Francisco, and a Madison Avenue adman who has worked on several political ad campaigns, including some for GOP stalwart Bob Dole.

"If the stars line up, it's OK," he continued. "In many cases, the corporate clients think it is cool if you are working on a presidential campaign, even if they don't agree with the candidate. But it's not the size of the agency that determines it so much as the particular position. It depends on how much the [other] clients depend on [the agency chief's] being there."


Mr. Eisner's clients express no concern.

"The way I look at it is [that] talent is pretty pervasive throughout the organization and it is a tremendous opportunity for the agency," said Doug Christoph, customer marketing manager for Coca-Cola Co.'s 7-Eleven program. "I don't think that the work being done for me is in danger at all. I know that if there is a significant business issue, I would know where to get hold of him."

Gary Steinhafel, president of Steinhafel's Furniture, said he believes he will only gain from the agency's political association.

"I think it is good experience. The fact that he is representing a political figure means he has to understand where the general public is, and we are consumer focused. The discipline is similar so it's good for the agency and it's good for us," he said.


Mr. Eisner said the Forbes work already is reaping the agency some dividends-just three months after getting the Forbes assignment. He said the shop was asked to pitch an undisclosed package-goods account after the marketer read about Mr. Eisner's work for Mr. Forbes.

He also noted, wryly, that the "threat" of risking long-running relationships for a one-shot political campaign may be becoming less threatening because marketers increasingly are letting such long-standing relationships with their agencies wane.

Mr. Eisner said he's now looking past the primary season to determine whether to

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