Arianna Outraces Arnold in Flash Movie

LOS ANGELES The result of one California recall contest is in: Arianna Huffington has defeated Arnold Schwarzenegger in the race to create the first campaign movie ad.

The cheeky three-minute, South Park-style animation, which broke yesterday on, features a drag race between Schwarzenegger, driving a yellow Hummer, and Huffington in a gas-electric hybrid car. Schwarzenegger zooms ahead, mowing down trees and families along the way, but he has to keep stopping for gas, at one point supplied by President Bush himself.

The Flash movie was created in four days by Free Range Graphics, Washington, D.C., at the behest of Leda Dederich, Huffington’s online director, and Tate Hausman, online managing editor, both ex-employees of the news site. “We both knew we had to do something fun and edgy, use humor to highlight serious issues,” Dederich said. “We had it ready to go, but we delayed until today to let the smoke clear.” Last week, the SUV Owners of America accused Huffington’s Detroit Project ads of encouraging the eco-terrorism claimed by the Earth Liberation Front, which recently destroyed a Hummer dealership in West Covina, Calif. [Adweek Online, Aug. 29].

Dederich said there are plans for more online ads. “If you want something to go viral, it has be a good virus,” said Dederich, lauding the work of FRG, a company founded in 1999 by Jonah Sachs and Louis Fox to do “Web, print and Flash-graphics design for nonprofits, political candidates and socially responsible businesses,” said Sachs, the director of operations. Fox and Hausman scripted the movie and provided the voices, including Schwarzenegger’s; Fox and Sachs did the drawing and animation, respectively.

Sachs said the movie cost $4,500, about half FRG’s customary fee, because the company liked the environmental cause.

FRG does $1.5 million in annual business working for liberal causes that range from saving Chilean sea bass to the ACLU and Greenpeace. The shop recently completed an animation for Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean (“People-powered Howard”) that is running on the candidate’s Web site.