"I'm a Texan and I'm proud of it. I'd like nothing better than to put another Texan in the White House," said the colorful creative known to friends as "Ferg." In true Texas style, he characterized the intensity of the race by noting, "It's going to get hotter than a pepper sprout pretty soon."
PARK AVENUE POSSE
Mr. Ferguson said he signed on to head the team of Madison Avenue volunteers despite qualms about demands the race will place on his time. In addition to heading Gov. Bush's so-called Park Avenue Posse, Mr. Ferguson has a full-time job as president and chief creative officer at Y&R Advertising, New York. He will also serve this week on the film jury of the International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France.
Since the call came from Mark McKinnon, the former Democrat and media coordinator who heads the Bush Maverick Media ad team, Mr. Ferguson has enlisted a core group of ad executives. The team has started weekly meetings, and Mr. Ferguson is in daily contact with the Maverick Media team, which also includes the veteran political ad executive Stuart Stevens, who is a partner with Stevens & Schriefer, Alexandria, Va.
According to Mr. Ferguson, the group he has gathered includes Bob Kuperman, president-CEO of the Americas, TBWA/Chiat/Day; Gary Goldsmith, vice chairman-executive creative director at Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide; Ed Ney, chairman emeritus at Y&R; and Janet Krause, Y&R managing partner-creative. Elizabeth Chang, a former Y&R account management executive, handles day-to-day coordination.
MAN WHO `LOOKS FOR A SOLUTION'
Mr. Kuperman said he met Gov. Bush 15 years ago and became a personal friend. "He is a terrific guy, an understanding, caring person," Mr. Kuperman said. "He doesn't take extreme views. He looks for a solution."
Mr. Ferguson also has traveled to Kennebunkport, Maine, to renew his friendship with the man who managed his college roommate's campaign for a student body post -- Karl Rove, now Gov. Bush's chief strategist.
"Karl is a smart mother," said Mr. Ferguson, with typically colorful candor. "I wish there were a lot more clients out there like Karl that understand their brand and mission."
He said he looks forward to having the Park Avenue Posse do the kind of work for Gov. Bush that the Tuesday Team did for Ronald Reagan. "We want to be known as a group that will do some talked-about advertising, the `Morning in America' advertising that will win this damn thing," he said, referring to a legendary Reagan spot.
A longtime Republican who grew up on a Hico, Texas, ranch, Mr. Ferguson said that as creative director of DDB Needham, Dallas, he watched Gov. Bush's rise as governor and was impressed: "The governor took some tough stands that weren't popular."
GOOD INSTINCT, COMMITMENT
Mr. McKinnon said he tapped Mr. Ferguson after hearing his name from numerous sources.
"I had been asking around, about who the good Young Turks are, and one name that kept coming up was Jim Ferguson," Mr. McKinnon said. "I talked to him and liked his instinct and commitment. He is 100% a Bush fan. Being from Texas helps, but he also has a skill at managing."
Mr. McKinnon wasn't always a fan of advertising all-stars. After he worked for Michael Dukakis' failed presidential campaign, he penned a magazine article that stated, "When it comes to a political campaign, [Madison Avenue] is as useful as bicycles to fish." But he said the Park Avenue Posse will succeed because it will not be expected to handle day-to-day advertising duties. Instead, it will offer ideas and be tapped to create overall image ads.
"What we were looking for is that we get good outside creative input," said Mr. McKinnon. "When properly managed, this is a communion of political and ad media that can produce good work."
Mr. Ferguson said he believes Gov. Bush is a man "who will bring dignity back to the White House."
"It is one of those deals where when they call, you have to get involved," he said. "It is that important to me. I am a Republican and I like George W. Bush. It is impossible not to get involved."