What it takes to make a great political ad

Political consultant Fred Davis has had no shortage of notable clients, from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Carly Fiorina to John McCain. Davis gives his Brief but Spectacular take on how to captivate and convince viewers with an advertisement they will always remember.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now to another installment in our Brief But Spectacular series.

    Tonight, Republican political consultant Fred Davis, who has created some of the most memorable television campaign commercials over the years, gives us his take on what makes an ad stick.

  • FRED DAVIS, Advertising Consultant:

    If I adore somebody, I hope I can make you adore them.

    When I get asked who our clients are, I try to start from one part of the country and move, so I can get them in a row, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carly Fiorina, John McCain, John Cornyn, Bob Corker, Lamar Alexander, David Perdue. And I know I'm leaving some out, and it isn't because I don't love you. I just — that's a lot of names.

    The ad that you probably would know, much to my dismay, one picked up the nickname demon sheep. Probably Carly Fiorina's demon sheep ad, that could have been well been a normal ad about this gentleman, who I will not name, who was running against her, who we felt was not as conservative in reality as he was saying he was. In other words, he is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

    When you're the candidate or you're in a campaign team, you don't want to hear that your best bet is putting some poor guy in a fake sheep's outfit. And you don't want to tell John McCain that his best bet for winning in 2008 was comparing him to Paris Hilton.

  • NARRATOR:

    He's the biggest celebrity in the world.

  • FRED DAVIS:

    That's not an easy sell, but those both worked fabulously.

    And here's the problem with most of the advertising you see. Over the course of the day, you will see, what, 500 ads. And you get home at night, how many of those do you remember? Probably this many.

    And so my job, I think, it should be the job of any ad guy, is to make that one ad that your client spent so much hard-earned — so much tough time raising money to pay for that ad to make it be something they talked about.

    When I was a kid, I was the guy in the neighborhood who put on the plays. I would build the little control panel. I would have the lights. I would do all this excitement stuff. And my poor little brothers and sister always had — and the neighbors had to be in my plays. That is not very different from what I do today.

    I'm Fred Davis, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on political advertising.

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