What I Did on My Summer Vacation: Created Ads for the Romney-Paul Ticket

While Many Are Offering Up Accounts of What Went Wrong, Here's What One Adman Says Went Right

By Published on .

The pitch went like this: "Put your business on hold and move to Boston for four months so you can work 14 hours a day, seven days a week on the Romney for President campaign. By the way, the office is two blocks from a 24/7 cannoli bakery."

Say no more.

For a political ad guy, this was the equivalent of getting called up to the Yankees as they're heading into the World Series. The Romney campaign was battle-tested, well funded and in a good position to take on the nearly impossible task of unseating an incumbent president.

I believed we would win. (SPOILER ALERT: We didn't.)

And while plenty of folks are offering what they think we did wrong, I wanted to point out some things we did right and one thing I found hard to believe.


1. We reinvented political advertising.
The entire ad and production team was in-house. Creatives, media, production, editorial, everything. Our ability to create quality work in a hurry was historic. We turned an Obama gaffe into a TV spot in 90 minutes. Not a big deal, until you consider the 90 minutes started at 11:30 p.m. and we finished in time to make the spot a story on the morning news. At the campaign's peak, we were running ads at the same level as a billion-dollar account. Not bad for a group so small we'd barely fill a typical agency's conference room.

2. We made the Chinese news agency very angry.
The level of scrutiny a presidential ad receives from the press is hard to believe unless you've experienced it. They examine every single frame, parse every phrase, even source your stock shots. Detailed stories about our spots would be online within 60 minutes of release. That's why everything we did was buttoned-up and triple fact-checked before it left our shop.

It was no surprise that our ad about China passing the U.S. in manufacturing earned harsh words from the press. The difference was these fact-checkers were from the official Chinese Xinhua News Agency. They called our ad "false" and "foolish."

If you make the Chinese news agency angry, I figure you're doing something right.

3. The Obama campaign pulled a 'new Coke.'
Before I was a political ad guy, I was a brand ad guy. I believe in the power of brand, especially in politics. That's why I was amazed when the Obama campaign took a big, positive, thoughtful brand (Hope and Change) and tossed it overboard in favor of talking almost exclusively about fear and negativity.

Given the record they had to work with, they had little choice. The result wasn't pretty, but it worked.


The race was close, but close doesn't count. In brand advertising, second place is great. In politics, second place means a lot of people are suddenly unemployed.

How close was it? We lost Florida by 73,000 votes out of 8 million cast and Ohio by just more than 100,000 out of 5 million.

Every loss is tough. You don't get over the close ones.

Ten years ago, I left a cushy creative director's job at a big agency to join a micro-size political shop. Sometimes my candidates win and sometimes they don't, but I believe in the power of advertising to make our country better.

What's next? One last cannoli, then reload for 2014.


Vinny Minchillo is a strategic media consultant and principal of Glass House Strategy.


Most Popular