Witches! Demon Sheep! Dang Fences! If you saw a political ad in the last decade or so that really made you scratch your head, there’s a good chance it came from Fred Davis.
His ads range from arresting to odd and are often controversial.
A proposal he devised to re-surface the controversial comments of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in attack ads against President Obama would have been all of those things until it was leaked to the New York Times.
Both the GOP’s current presumptive nominee, Mitt Romney, and its past nominee, John McCain, swiftly denounced the proposal. The Obama campaign quickly criticized it.
And while it’s rare for Davis’ work to get such a barrage of criticism prior to production, he is no stranger to outcry once his ads hit the airwaves.
Here’s a look at Davis’ long line of controversy-causing political advertisements.
After an old clip of Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell saying she “dabbled in witchcraft” surfaced during her 2010 campaign, O’Donnell called in Davis to create this head-on rebuttal to those allegations.
“I’m not a witch,” O’Donnell said, looking straight into the camera. “I’m nothing you’ve heard. I’m you.”
O’Donnell, a Tea Party candidate, eventually lost her bid to fill then-Vice President Joe Biden’s Senate seat, falling to Democrat Christopher Coons.
Facing one of his toughest primary elections in decades, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., enlisted the help of Davis to show his tough stance on immigration.
In this 30-second spot, McCain walked along the Arizona-Mexico border with Pima County Sheriff Paul Babeu. The senator blamed illegal immigrants for “home invasions” and “murders.” He then called for a strict immigration policy that will “complete the danged fence.”
Carly Fiorina ’10 - Demon Sheep
When former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina took aim at her California Republican primary rival, Tom Campbell, the attack on his lack of fiscal conservatism was far less memorable than the demonic sheep metaphor used in this ad.
As a herd of sheep ran through a green meadow and epic music played in the background, Fiorina described the “fiscal conservative leaders” that “we admire, aspire to be.”
Then, the ad turned stormy and for the next three minutes a narrator ran through a list of ways that Campbell was not a fiscal conservative and instead, just a wolf in “demon sheep” clothing.
In this horror-movie-trailer style ad for Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell, Davis portrayed her rival as “The Tax Man.”
“Hide your will, hide your lights, ’cause he’s taxing everything out here,” the ominous narrator said, parodying off the viral YouTube hit “Bed Intruder,” which was wildly popular at the time.
What do Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Barack Obama have in common? According to this ad from John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid, quite a lot.
“He’s the biggest celebrity in the world,” the narrator said in this ad as photos of Spears and Hilton flashed across the screen. “But, is he ready to lead?”
The ad showed massive Obama campaign rallies, while hitting him for his apparently novice policy positions.
Taking the same vein as the “Celebrity” ad, the McCain campaign released this 1-minute spot sarcastically comparing Obama to Moses. At one point, it even juxtaposed Obama with a clip of Moses parting the Red Sea in the movie, “The Ten Commandments.”
“He can do no wrong,” the narrator said in the ad. “Barack Obama may be ‘The One,’ but is he ready to lead?”
Jon Huntsman ’11: In 6 Days …
This ad for presidential candidate Jon Huntsman was not full of “Tax Man” doom or quirky “Demon Sheep” metaphors, but it was equally perplexing.
For 30 seconds, the only image shown was of a motocross rider quietly zooming through the desert while slightly-twangy instrumental country music played.
The words, “In 6 Days … Did not become famous for his band “Wizard,”" appear on the screen.
The ad was one in a series of nearly identical spots that were released as part of the lead-up to Huntsman’s official announcement that he was entering the 2012 presidential race.
This ad for Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra, which ran in Michigan during the Super Bowl this year, instantly ignited a firestorm Asian-American groups.
The ad featured a young Asian girl, who later turned out to be an American college student, riding through rice paddies and praising Hoekstra’s campaign rival, Debbie Stabenow, in broken English for outsourcing U.S. jobs.
While Hoekstra soon removed the ad, Stabenow used the spot to raise nearly $170,000 for her campaign.