So how do make your candidate stand out in a special election field with at least 10 other candidates? How about filming an underwater TV spot? That’s what adman Bill Hillsman did in the race fill Rahm Emanuel’s congressional seat. His candidate is Democrat Charlie Wheelan, a political novice and economist, who was apparently a pretty good high school swimmer.
“When I found out he was a good swimmer I said, ‘how about talking underwater?’” Hillsman tells Campaign Insider. President of North Wood Advertising, Hillsman is known for some out-of-the-box spots. He has created ads for the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura and Connecticut Democrat Ned Lamont. Hillsman also worked for Ralph Nader in 2000. “The thought behind the ad was easy,” he says. “The economy is the biggest issue in this, or any, campaign right now. If people were ever going to elect an economist to Congress, it would be now.” The hardest part was actually finding a venue to film, and the logistics of shooting were a bit more challenging than the average 30-second spot. Most newer hotel pools in Chicago don’t go much deeper than 5 or 6 feet of water Hillsman found out. He needed a pool with a deep end. They eventually settled on the pool at Chicago’s famed Medinah Athletic Club where Whelan was in the water, in full suit and tie, for a good three hours straight. “Whatever chemical was in the water was turning his eyes red, so that was actually the hardest part of the filming,” says Hillsman. He wouldn’t put a dollar amount on the extra cost of filming the spot, but the added media and other attention on the ad will more than make up any of the extra cost. The primary for the 5th District is set for March 3. Shane D’Aprile is Senior Editor at Politics magazine. firstname.lastname@example.org