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Romney's Guy: No Apologies

Mitt's creative director Jim Ferguson on the thrills of being on the campaign trail

Jim Ferguson was selling the candidate every day, just like hard-core retail.

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Jim Ferguson has a newfound appreciation for the rigors of presidential politics, having just spent a year as a full-time creative director on Mitt Romney’s campaign. Along the way, the former creative leader at DDB and Young & Rubicam worked long days, produced hundreds of ads and endured the brickbats of online critics, including his brethren in advertising. Now that the election is over, the 59-year-old Texan has kicked back and tuned out, but he’s still thrilled to have danced on such a big stage.

Adweek: How many ads did you create?
I wrote over 200 commercials in the course of the year. In May, we probably did 60 to 80 new commercials. We were making commercials every day. We would test everything. We’d see what resonated with people and would pick a commercial or two to get ready for broadcast.

You told me that in terms of the volume, it’s like working on a retail account.
Oh, yeah. This was hard-core retail. I mean, we were selling something every day, and something new was happening every day. You’d listen for a slipup from somebody, and then you’d jump all over it. [I haven’t worked this hard] since I was 14 working in the chicken houses to gather eggs.

Which ads are you proudest of?
We did a man in the coal mines in Ohio that was really nice. It was talking about the coal miners—what’s going on there. It was shot so well, and it was a great message. And there was one about why people raise the flag.

What was the toughest political lesson that you learned?
I was really bothered by the lies, the way they made up stuff. I mean, when [Nevada Sen.] Harry Reid is sitting around talking about how Mitt Romney hasn’t paid taxes in 10 years. Or the [Priorities USA Action ad] basically accusing the governor of being a murderer. Where was the outrage from people?

What did you miss most about your regular job?
Nothing. The thing I loved about the campaign was we were all in it together. We came to work every day. Worked 14, 15, 16 hours a day, seven days a week. We had good days, and we had bad days. But everyone was in it together. And it was a really dysfunctional family. But I liked it.

What will you miss most about the experience?
It’s an adrenaline rush. I mean, you’re slugging it out for the biggest prize in the world. The first ad I did was pretty well-received. It was called “A few of the 23 million.” There was a kid I found in a [newspaper] story. He didn’t have a job. He was digging graves in the middle of wintertime, trying to make ends meet. Then we found some other people. Well, we put that together. I was on the Internet that afternoon. There must be 500 stories written about it. Just the overall hugeness of what would happen, the microscope they would put these spots under.

Is there a book or a script in this experience?
I don’t think so. Every day I would write [in a diary]. Sometimes it would only be a sentence, just a little bit of what we were doing or what happened that day. I thought it would be fun for [my daughters] to read it some day. If there is [a book], it would be about the difference between consumer and political advertising. It’s not going to be a dirt book or anything because everybody just worked too hard. I’m not going to shit on anybody.