President George W. Bush talking about leadership; Sen. James Inhofe walking down a road to show stubbornness. These are images that have been ingrained in minds of Americans and Oklahomans. They are the images from one of the most successful political advertising producers for more than a decade ” who also happens to be from Oklahoma.
Fred Davis has created winning impressions from Bush to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to his Republican uncle James Inhofe. His name may not be as familiar to the public as some of his clients, but Davis’ work would cause most people to sit back and laugh remembering those television ads.
See if this description recalls memories: Former Oklahoma congressman Dave McCurdy speaking at the 1992 Democratic National Convention to second the nomination of Bill Clinton for president. McCurdy’s speech is edited to repeat the name “Clinton” while the song “Big Spender” blares through the television speaker. It was one of the ads that propelled Inhofe to an upset victory over McCurdy to win a U.S. Senate seat in 1994.
“That one, I mean, is a two-by-four right in the forehead,” said Bill Shappard, who worked with Davis on Inhofe’s 1996 re-election campaign. “That one was great.”
Davis has gone on to create election commercials for several senators and governors. He produced four Bush ads in the 2004 campaign.
SENSE OF HUMOR
His sense of humor popped up again for Inhofe in 2002 in a campaign ad against former Gov. David Walters. In an ad titled “Forget,” an actor portraying Clinton gives a lecture to a Walters stand-in about people forgetting scandals. One scene has Clinton giving Walters a noogie on the head.
This year, Davis is helping Republican presidential nominee John McCain and the ads are already being talked about. The first to make media noise, known as “Celeb,” depicts Democratic nominee Barack Obama as a celebrity. Shots of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton appear alongside video of Obama with the narrator calling Obama the biggest celebrity in the world, but asking if he is ready to lead. The ad gained so much attention, it prompted Hilton to respond with her own ad.
The latest from Davis is causing another stir, this time on a more serious note. The ad is called “The One” and is intended to question whether Obama is ready to lead the nation. Laced throughout the 94-second Internet-only ad are scenes from the popular movie “The Ten Commandments” including footage of Charlton Heston as Moses parting the Red Sea.
Time magazine recently wrote about the ad and stated the commercial “taps into a conversation that has been gaining urgency on Christian radio and political blogs and in widely circulated e-mail messages that accuse Obama of being the Antichrist.” Hari Sevugan, Obama campaign spokesman, reportedly described the ad as “juvenile antics.” Meanwhile, Time quoted McCain advisers calling the ad “creative” and “humorous.”
It’s just the description Shappard uses for Davis.
“I think Fred instinctively knows that politics should not be taken so seriously,” Shappard said. “Humor is probably one of the most effective tools that a campaign has. He just has a knack for incorporating humor that people relate to. I think that is the reason his commercials are successful as they are.”
Attempts by Oklahoma Gazette to reach Davis through his firm in Los Angles and through the Inhofe campaign were unsuccessful.
ENTERTAINMENT AND CORPORATE CLIENTS
On his company’s Web site, Davis said he was 19 years old in 1972 when he took over his father’s public relations firm in Tulsa. By the Eighties, Davis said he moved his company to Los Angles to work on more entertainment and corporate clients. His first run at political campaigns came in 1994 when Inhofe called needing help with the U.S. Senate campaign.
Since then, Davis has worked on all of Inhofe’s re-election bids, with several more commercials poking fun at Inhofe’s opponent. This year, the Inhofe ads are more serious, showing the senator as a statesman who gets things done.
“We’re running a positive campaign to show Sen. Inhofe’s leadership and dedication to Oklahoma,” said Inhofe’s campaign manager Josh Kivett. “There will be time later in the campaign to point out the differences on issues.”
Davis is not only sought out by politicos, but business and entertainment clients as well. One of his projects is with rock super group U2 and lead singer Bono to advance their ONE Campaign to end worldwide poverty.
“He’s creative,” Kivett said. “He adds creative juice to a campaign.” “Scott Cooper