Attack Ads That Never Were

Time’s Michael Scherer has a very amusing post-election profile of Fred Davis, whose Hollywood-based ad firm a big share of the McCain campaign’s 30-second spots.

The most famous one that Davis created was the “Celeb” ad — he just wanted to do many followups.

Scherer writes, “What if the McCain campaign had run ads using footage of Barack Obama dancing with Ellen DeGeneres to show his coziness with celebrity? Or followed up on its Paris Hilton ad with others featuring Donald Trump and Jessica Simpson? All of that was on the drawing board of Fred Davis III, the advertising whiz that John McCain has used for almost all of his campaign media and one of the most talented conservative political operatives in America. Oh yes, he also had an Internet ad up his sleeve that would attack Obama’s celebrity by associating him with Oprah. But in the end, he scotched that one. “We decided you don’t really fight Santa Claus or Oprah,” he says, “so we removed her.””

Davis was among the campaign’s most colorful personalities: affable, accessible and outspoken, and unabashed in his defense of spots that sometimes were criticized as juvenile or misleading.

Although such Hollywood figures as Jason Alexander have confronted Davis on his tactics (“He basically wanted to know how I sleep at night,” he tells Scherer), the admaker doesn’t seem to take McCain’s loss personally.

“You’ve got to look at it and say, my Lord, it was just Obama’s time. You know, his stars aligned right,” Davis says. “And I think he’s an incredibly gifted candidate. Let’s hope, and I do hope, and I hope I’m right, that he’ll be a very gifted President. And I hope he’ll rule from the middle. And I hope he’ll, you know, be inclusive of Republicans. And if he does those things, he could be one of the great Presidents in history.”

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