Nader Touts Exclusion Theme

Ralph Nader’s controversial ad campaign, which attracted a lawsuit from MasterCard last week, will continue to hammer away at its candidate’s exclusion from the presidential debates in a new TV spot in production.

“When people find out what is going on with these debates, steam comes out of their ears,” said Wil-liam Hillsman, founder and chief creative officer of North Woods Advertising in Minneapolis, the agency preparing Nader’s ads. “Ask people whether Ralph Nader and [Reform Party candidate] Pat Buchanan should be in the debates, and if the majority of people want to hear them, why not put them in?”

A sore point for Nader’s effort has been Republican and Demo-cratic party rules requiring a presidential candidate to have at least 15 percentage points in the polls to participate in the debates.

Hillsman said the ad team was “working on a number of concepts” to push the point in the upcoming commercial.

Nader’s first spot, which prom-inently featured the exclusion theme, became embroiled in controversy last week when MasterCard International filed a $5 million federal lawsuit against the presidential candidate for allegedly copying the company’s successful “Priceless” ad campaign. “Priceless Truth,” re-leased Aug. 6, parodies the work New York shop McCann-Erickson created for MasterCard.

Nader called the lawsuit “absurd” and a “clumsy abuse of cor-porate power in an attempt to suppress political speech.” The candidate said he will use the lawsuit to call voter attention to abusive credit-card industry practices.

Chris O’Neill, vice president of global marketing communications for MasterCard in Flushing, N.Y., said the company wants the ad withdrawn. “He is using it to promote his candidacy, and he is doing it by infringing on our copyrights,” O’Neill said.

The ad was scheduled to air through the Democratic National Convention, but can still be seen at www.votenader.org.