Hillary Clinton needs no introduction.
That much should be apparent from her ads, some of which don’t even bother to utter her name.
The ad “Ready for Change,” which is currently airing Iowa and New Hampshire, starts with the roll of a marching drum surrounded by a whirl of muted trumpets. A single horn plays a soaring, heroic theme while a narrator refers to Mrs. Clinton as “her” or “she.” And then there she is, dressed in black then yellow then blue then turquoise then red suit jackets in a barrage of jump cuts. She gives thumbs-up, she points and she shakes hands at a flurry of different events spliced together to enforce the notion that she is an agent of change. The cuts slow only once, to linger on her face in a close-up as she nods meaningfully with her chin on her hand. “She has the experience,” intones the narrator.
The only mention of her name comes from the federally mandated disclaimer at the end of the ad. “I’m Hillary Clinton and I approve this message,” her voice says.
The media consultants and advertising executives tasked with selling Hillary Clinton—led by former Clinton-Gore advertising director Mandy Grunwald—have had the luxury, essentially, of skipping the tradition biographical material and of getting right to the point, targeting demographic groups, key issues and campaign themes.
And judging by the polls in key primary states and nationally, it’s been working.
“They’ve been absolutely effective because she has been able to skip the introduction phase,” said Evan Tracey, who tracks political advertising as chief operating officer for TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group. “She can go right in on issues and go right in drawing contrasts between her and the current administration. In much the same way McDonald’s rolls out a new sandwich, her campaign was right there with the rollout of her health care plan. And that’s a luxury.”
So while Barack Obama has spent nearly $3 million introducing himself to primary voters and Bill Richardson has spent more than $2 million, Mrs. Clinton has been able to go directly to Phase Two. When she finally rolled out her long awaited health care plan last week, for example, it was followed immediately by a 30-second ad boosting her plan.
According to Mr. Tracey, Mrs. Clinton has bought about $800,000 worth of advertising time so far in Iowa and New Hampshire for her three ads, mostly on local broadcast networks. In other words, she’s just getting started.
Her pitch goes something like this: Mrs. Clinton is a tough-but-caring woman who, alone among the Democratic candidates, has the necessary experience to bring about change from the Bush years. Since media consultants say it takes something in the neighborhood of a dozen viewings before a political message is absorbed, voters in early states can expect to hear a lot of it.
The ads are the work of a creative team headed by Ms. Grunwald, a longtime Clinton loyalist and well-established foothold in the media firmament. (She’s the daughter of the late Henry Grunwald, who edited Time magazine, and the wife of political journalist Matt Cooper.)
About once a week, Ms. Grunwald plots the campaign’s media course in a meeting with communications director Howard Wolfson and chief advisor and pollster Mark Penn. According to campaign aides, the media team is still developing, but currently includes Roy Spence, an advertising executive and longtime friend of the Clintons who coined John Edwards’ resonant “Hope is on the way” slogan in the 2004 election, and Linda Kaplan Thaler, an advertising executive who is known on Madison Avenue for successfully pitching shampoos and hairsprays.