The sudden resignations of Don Sipple and Mike Murphy left somewhat in limbo the agency the two hired, Fallon McElligott Berlin, New York, and its chief, Andy Berlin, and their role in the New Century Media Group handling Dole campaign advertising.
THUMBS UP FOR BERLIN
Even as Mr. Berlin was saying he hadn't heard anything, campaign executives told Advertising Age they were delighted with the response to Mr. Berlin's first commercial, a 5-minute spot cut from his biographical film that preceded Mr. Dole's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.
"It was very successful," said Gary Koops, deputy director of communications. "We will continue to use 5-minute segments and longer segments to talk about Mr. Dole's vision and agenda, while using 30-second ads to compare the two candidates."
Mr. Koops said the campaign internally viewed the segment very favorably and hopes Mr. Berlin will stay on.
By a strange coincidence, the Berlin spot broke the same day Messrs. Sipple and Murphy resigned. People close to the Dole campaign say that while Messrs. Sipple and Murphy hired Mr. Berlin, Mr. Sipple was reluctant to bring in anyone from Madison Avenue and acted only when prevailed upon by Dole advisers including Paul Manafort, then Mr. Dole's convention manager and now a strategic adviser.
Campaign officials suggested Mr. Berlin's role could expand now, especially if the campaign at least temporarily switches its focus toward more image advertising for Mr. Dole and less comparative advertising vs. President Clinton.
The departure of Messrs. Sipple and Murphy came slightly more than two months before the election and at a point where Mr. Dole had aired only three spots, Mr. Berlin's and two others, created by Messrs. Sipple and Murphy, comparing the candidates' tax plans.
The two advisers left rather than accept stronger control from top campaign administrators, including campaign manager Scott Reed.
Alex Castellanos, a principal in National Media Corp., Alexandria, Va.; Greg Stevens of Greg Stevens & Co., Alexandria; and Chris Mottola, a Philadelphia producer, will join the campaign to replace them.
Mr. Castellanos, a veteran political advertising executive, had handled a number of earlier campaigns, including Phil Gramm's presidential bid; Mr. Stevens has done work for the Republican National Committee.
Ad executives and GOP sources say the shake-up so close to the election indicates the depth of Mr. Dole's problems.
"When you are 21 points behind, it's not time for internal disarray," said J. Brian Smith, president of Smith & Harroff, an Alexandria ad and political consultancy. "It should have been worked out long ago."
However, there was some disagreement on how much the two will be missed.
"It sounds the death knell for a dying campaign," said a Republican consultant who spoke on condition he not be identified. "Those two have the only strategic smarts in the campaign. They've proved it with upset victories around the country. To lose them is like throwing gas tanks overboard."
But an executive at a shop that handles GOP candidates suggested the departures reflected the campaign's unhappiness with Mr. Dole's advertising.
"The ads are not good," he said, referring to the two non-Berlin spots that have aired and those produced but yet aired.