Republican Adman’s Latest Gambit: Actual Crying Babies as Politicians

Fred Davis’s work can be controversial, but many of his candidates get elected.

Screenshot / YouTube
National Journal
Shane Goldmacher
Feb. 5, 2014, 5:54 a.m.

Polit­ic­al ad maker Fred Dav­is is back at it. The Re­pub­lic­an ad­man, with an eye for the un­usu­al and a pen­chant for the out­land­ish, has pro­duced a Web video cast­ing the op­pon­ents of a Sen­ate can­did­ate from Geor­gia as cry­ing ba­bies. 

Lit­er­ally.

There they are, in di­apers with shirts spelling out their first names: Kar­en Han­del, wear­ing pearls; Rep. Jack King­ston, hold­ing glasses; and doc­tors (and con­gress­men) Phil Gin­grey and Paul Broun, with steth­o­scopes. The scene comes about mid­way through a five-minute ad for Dave Per­due, who is run­ning against those four for the GOP Sen­ate nom­in­a­tion.

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The video is just Dav­is’s latest entry in the cat­egory of off­beat polit­ic­al ads that have, over the last two dec­ades, fea­tured con­victs in pink tu­tus, “de­mon sheep,” a gi­ant rat stomp­ing across Geor­gia, Christine O’Don­nell’s in­fam­ous claim that “I’m not a witch,” and an Asi­an act­ress speak­ing broken Eng­lish in a 2012 Michigan ad that was at­tacked as ra­cist.

He was also the ar­chi­tect of John Mc­Cain’s 2008 ad cast­ing Barack Obama as a celebrity, spli­cing him between pho­tos of Par­is Hilton and Brit­ney Spears. 

“If I picked what’s on my tomb­stone,” Dav­is says on his web­site, “it would be: ‘If you don’t no­tice it, why both­er?’ “

Dav­is gets no­ticed — and many of his can­did­ates get elec­ted. But he is also com­ing off the most try­ing elec­tion cycle of his ca­reer — mostly for an ad that nev­er aired. The New York Times re­por­ted in May 2012 that Dav­is had pitched a wealthy Re­pub­lic­an to fund a cam­paign ty­ing Obama to con­tro­ver­sial Rev. Jeremi­ah Wright and then sug­ges­ted hir­ing a black spokes­man to cast Obama as a “met­ro­sexu­al, black Abe Lin­coln.”

The de­nun­ci­ations and charges of ra­cism were swift, es­pe­cially after the earli­er con­tro­ver­sial Michigan ad. It was hurt­ful, Dav­is told the Los Angeles Times. “All men cre­ated equal, and that’s how I see the world,” Dav­is told the pa­per.

Here is a col­lec­tion of some of Dav­is’ best-known polit­ic­al ads:

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