The Dole ads that never ran

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A b&w cinema verite scene of a drug deal appears on the screen. "A national tragedy," says the voiceover.

Welcome to the Dole campaign advertising that never ran.

"He cheated, he lied . . .," intones a singer in a spot from Sig Rogich's Rogich Communications Group, Las Vegas, Nev., in a variation of "You Cheated," popularized by The Shields. Instead of the original lyrics--"you cheated, you lied, you said that you loved me"--the commercial that never aired says, "you cheated, you lied, you said we could trust you" as visual shows newspaper articles about investigations of the Clinton White House.

Mr. Rogich, who last did presidential ads for George Bush, proposed the spot in September. But at the time, the Dole campaign wasn't prepared to make Mr. Clinton's ethics that much of an issue. Mr. Rogich's work also wasn't helped by the fact he was quoted in The New York Times about something Mr. Dole and the campaign viewed as critical.

The drug-deal spot was part of what was to be the backbone of the Dole ad strategy from New Century Media Group, Mr. Dole's media team until early September, when the group's leaders--Don Sipple, now head of Sipple Strategic Communications, Washington, and Mike Murphy of Murphy, Pintak & Gautier, McLean, Va.--left the campaign. The group was to include Andy Berlin, chairman of Fallon McElligott Berlin, New York.

Nearly two-thirds of Dole advertising produced by New Century Media was to be devoted to an attempt to change the context of the election from issues suggested by the Democrats to a theme about the moral decline in America, said Mr. Sipple.

They were to be political ads that looked more like little movies than political advertising, he said.

These spots featured gritty scenes such as a teenager breaking a car window or a man cutting cocaine--all interrupted with graphics and a narration accusing President Clinton of not doing enough to curb such acts.

The themeline: "Bob Dole: A better man for a better America." "They were visually arresting, terribly depressing, to show the country was on the wrong track," said Mr. Sipple, who adds that they were to be balanced by upbeat image advertising about Mr. Dole from Mr. Berlin and others.

Exactly two spots from the team aired following Mr. Dole's nomination, including one four-minute spot from Mr. Berlin. Then there was the stirring 90-second spot featuring Elizabeth Dole talking about her husband and his background.

That spot was prepared by Alex Castellanos, of National Media, Alexandria, Va., who with Greg Stevens of Greg Stevens & Co., Alexandria, and Chris Mattola, a Philadelphia producer, took over campaign advertising after Messrs. Sipple and Murphy left. The campaign decided the imagery should have been aired early and wanted to devote later time to other messages.

Mr. Castellanos and Mr. Stevens also prepared several spots accusing Mr. Clinton of being too liberal. Few of the spots aired as the campaign gave up on trying to brand Mr. Clinton as a liberal.

Finally, there were the spots from Norman Cohen of Normandy Film Group, New York, who at the campaign's close shot several commercials featuring a seated Mr. Dole talking about issues. Two aired; several others didn't.

"They used to refer to the [1992] Bush campaign as worst-run," Mr. Rogich said. "Now they have taken off us right off the page."

Copyright November 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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