20 Years Later, Another Tuesday Team Takes Shape

The Tuesday Team, which worked on Ronald Reagan’s 1984 presidential re-election campaign, is one of the most famous ad-executive teams in U.S. political history. Now, some of its original members are considering convening a new version of the team to do advertising, strategic positioning and consulting on issues such as social security and stem-cell research, some members confirmed.

Last March, political strategist Ed Rollins, Reagan’s national campaign manager in 1984, set up a lunch meeting in Westchester County, New York, with Tom Messner and Barry Vetere. Messner and Vetere were both members of the original Tuesday Team and, until Vetere moved on recently, fellow partners in Havas’ Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners. At the lunch, the three talked about how few communications companies are considered leaders in advocacy issues. They recalled the power of the Tuesday Team, a group of advertising all-stars that helped keep Reagan in the White House with TV spots like “Morning in America,” “The Bear,” “Tax Vignettes” and “Mondalenomics.”

The meeting set in motion the idea of creating a new, for-profit venture that would tackle Republican-slanted issue advertising. Other people who are talking to the group about participating include businesswoman and author Georgette Mosbacher (the former wife of Houston oilman Robert Mosbacher, who served as commerce secretary under George H.W. Bush) and Jim Feeney and Joe O’Neill, partners at O’Neill Lifton Huffstetler Feeney & Barry, a new ad and venture-marketing shop in Pound Ridge, N.Y., where Vetere also now works.

“There just isn’t the quality of the Tuesday Team [today],” said Rollins, who is currently working on the campaign of Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., among others. “What often happens is [campaigns] hire political consultants that are not of the same caliber as the advertising guys. When you get talent to sit around the table and strategize, you get something quite dynamic.”

The details are still being worked out, but the name “The Tuesday Team LLC” has been incorporated in Westchester County, Feeney said. That may end up not being the final name. “I don’t think it is fair for us to even think of dealing with advocacy issues until we are absolutely sure about how we communicate about ourselves,” Vetere said.

Messner is on tap as an adviser. “It is a bunch of talented people, and they should do very well,” he said. “It is the right time for this.”

The team would not set out to do ads for George Bush or any other candidate. Feeney, former president of Trone Advertising in Greensboro, N.C., who was also at the lunch that day in March, said the intent would be to focus on issues and policy. “What the original Tuesday Team did was to create a heritage and a legacy admired by people,” he said. “If a policy group were to say, ‘Get me something like the Tuesday Team with such good strategic insights and execution ability,’ that would be a wonderful team to be able to offer. When you can put together guys who were there at the inception … why not do it?”

Rollins spelled out the possibilities. “It could be social security, healthcare, defending the war, selling democracy, Medicare reform,” he said.

Other well-known Tuesday Team members Phil Dusenberry, former chairman of BBDO North America, and Hal Riney, founder of what is now Publicis & Hal Riney, are not part of this effort.

Reagan’s decisive victory over Walter Mondale in 1984 was credited in part to advertising. Riney did “Morning in America” and “The Bear.” “Morning in America” was a feel-good spot, filled with images of a sunny day in small-town America. It presented the country as better and stronger than it had been four years earlier under Jimmy Carter.

“The Bear” offered an oblique reference to the nuclear threat posed by the Soviet Union. It opens with a shot of a bear as a voiceover says, “There’s a bear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it’s vicious and dangerous. Since no one can be sure who’s right, isn’t it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear?”

Dusenberry created two documentary films for Reagan’s 1984 campaign. One aired at the Republican National Convention; a second featured Nancy Reagan. Asked what he thought of bringing the team back, Dusenberry said, “The Tuesday Team name represented success politically. It comes with very positive overtones. I don’t know if anyone owned the rights to the name, but I doubt it. At the time, no one was concerned about it. It was not a group put together to be in business. It was an ad hoc group brought together to re-elect Ronald Reagan.

“It sounds like someone is trying to capitalize on the positive aspects of that name,” he continued. “There is nothing wrong with that. I wish them luck.”

On the original Tuesday Team, Messner and Vetere worked on spots such as “Spring of 1984” and “Tax Vignettes.” In 1986, both men, then two of the three creative directors at Ally & Gargano, left that agency to join Walter Carey, also an associate on the 1984 Tuesday Team, in starting an agency called Tuesday Team II. Their first client was Andrew P. O’Rourke, a Republican candidate for governor of New York. In 1988, members of Tuesday Team II went on to work for Roger Ailes, then a communications consultant handling advertising for the Bush-Quayle presidential campaign. Ailes also consulted on Reagan’s 1984 campaign.

Michael Deaver, who once served as Reagan’s deputy chief of staff and is now vice chairman of Edelman Public Relations in Washington, considers the latest effort “a sort of son of the Tuesday team.”

“There will be an interest in it, of course, and they will have to prove their worth,” Deaver said. “Messner and Vetere are very smart people with a lot of experience. The Tuesday Team has a resonance among Republican politicians. But you know, there was a magic to the Tuesday Team which can’t be recreated. You can’t go home again in that sense. There will never be a Tuesday Team like the 1984 Tuesday Team. And I’m sure they know that.”