He spent years crafting advertising for Democratic candidates, produced the largest-ever non-political public policy ad effort and was a chief architect of former Vice President Al Gore's ad campaign.
What does Carter Eskew do next?
The 47-year-old ad executive has returned to the corporate world, this time with his own firm, Glover Park Group, named after a Washington, D.C., neighborhood. He's joined with former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart and Michael Feldman, who ran Mr. Gore's campaign traveling team, to form the new agency handling public policy ads and public relations.
Mr. Eskew estimates $1 billion has been spent on corporate advocacy ads in the past 10 years, and he expects corporations to make increased use of advertising to lobby. "Industry has expanded its use [of advertising] but I think there is still potential for much greater growth because corporations are beginning to understand that they are not unlike any other institution in society; they need to make their case directly to people," Mr. Eskew said.
He sees corporate advertising as decidedly different from political advertising. "The brand does matter and it's not just about Nov. 6. These companies want to be around for a long time. It isn't just scorched earth."
Mr. Eskew knows both sides well. After a bitter split with his mentor, the late Bob Squier at the predecessor agency to Squier Knapp & Dunn, which handled President Bill Clinton's advertising, he started and became CEO of Bozell Sawyer Miller Group's Bozell-Eskew division in 1995.
There, he played an integral role in Bozell-Eskew's 1998 campaign for major tobacco marketers that was led by Philip Morris Cos.
The effort pushed Congress to adopt a settlement of state tobacco lawsuits that would have imposed greater marketing curbs but limited tobacco-makers' legal liability.Funded by as much as $100 million, the effort marked the biggest spending ever for a nonpartisan public policy campaign.
But Mr. Eskew said that as the agency grew, he was increasingly pitching new business rather than doing what he wanted to do-making the ads. He left in 1999 to work on the 2000 campaign of Mr. Gore, but after the election he rejected the idea of going back to BSMG, since bought by Interpublic Group of Cos. and folded into Interpublic's Weber Shandwick Worldwide. Then, six months ago, he opted to form his own agency.
Already, the new shop has several notable assignments. Glover Park Group was tapped by Diageo's Guinness-UDV North America for the alcohol responsibility spot that launched the first acceptance of liquor advertising by General Electric Co.'s NBC, though both Guinness and Mr. Eskew characterize the ad as a one-time project. The agency is also working on a campaign by the National Association of Broadcasters that promotes digital TV.
Mr. Eskew portrays his return to politics for the Gore campaign as temporary and the return to the corporate arena more permanent. "When I left politics in 1994, I didn't think I was coming back. If I thought I was, I might not have done some of the campaigns I did," he said, pointing to the tobacco work.
Mr. Eskew also had a major hand in rewriting the rules for military ad contracts, joining GOP adman Mike Murphy, of Murphy, Pintak, Gautier & Hudome in preparing a report for the Department of Defense recommending that ad agencies be compensated in part by the success of their recruiting campaigns.
Mr. Gore's selection of Mr. Eskew as chief strategist of the 2000 campaign drew criticism because of Mr. Eskew's tobacco work. "Obviously the Philip Morris campaign was controversial. ... But I believed what I worked on for Philip Morris was good public policy. If [Congress and tobacco critics] had taken the settlement, they would have had twice as much money, the advertising restrictions and [Food and Drug Administration] regulation. Instead what they got [from a subsequent lesser settlement] was a patchwork thing with states."
While saying that this time he is in corporate business for the long haul, Mr. Eskew doesn't entirely rule out a return to a 2004 Gore campaign and will be working with Bob Shrum, a principal of Shrum, Devine & Donilonk, in the campaign of Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, next year. The Glover Park agency won't be directly involved.
"My plan is to build the business for the long haul," he said, adding, "That does not mean that if the Vice President asks me to help him in his campaign, I will not do it."
Name: Carter Eskew
Job: Partner, Glover Park Group
Focus: Public-policy strategy, advertising and public relations
Select clients: National Association of Broadcasters (digital TV), Americans for Gun Safety, U.S. Steel, E-biz Jets.