Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Asked Agencies Not to Feature Her in Later Ads

By Patrick Coffee 

We would all probably prefer not to revisit the interminable 2016 election season for various reasons, but today we do have a small tidbit worth considering.

Once Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, the Hillary Clinton campaign’s strategy became clear: attack, attack, attack.

Yes, there were ads focusing on the importance of voting and others directly addressing the African-American community, along with spots like Droga5’s debut summing up Clinton’s career as a public servant. But the ones that really stuck out were the spots that attacked Trump, like Droga’s “Role Models,” which is probably the one that the public will remember best.


The campaign reached out to several agencies beyond Droga including Venables Bell & Partners, and founder Paul Venables shared an interesting anecdote with us in a recent interview.

He said, “On many occasions the client suggested that we just take out the Hillary part and keep it as an attack,” adding, “I’ve never had a client remove their products from the advertising before.”

The VB&P team made several ads for the campaign, and it’s unclear which ones used this approach. As noted, most of the spots — especially those that aired earlier in the campaign — included some form of positive spin on Clinton herself rather than a singular focus on turning Trump into a toxic character.

In retrospect, the latter strategy did not work. And revisiting the matter is all conjecture at this point. Still, we found that particular aside to be fairly interesting given the growing consensus that “slay the dragon” was the wrong approach.

It also begs the question: how successful can “attack your rival” ads be, in politics or consumer goods? They must do some good, because a recent research piece by The Wesleyan Media Project found that political ads have, on the whole, grown considerably more negative over the last 20 years.