Huffington Flexes Calif. Ad Muscle

LOS ANGELES The first commercial from California gubernatorial hopeful and nationally syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington is set to break tonight.

The spot, “Think Outside the Box,” shows a mostly student-aged crowd laden with backpacks converging on a huge white, slotted ballot box, floating just above the ground, much like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. As the sound of a choir swells in the background, a Huffington voiceover implores the 13 million California voters who didn’t participate in the last election, many of whom are college students, to go to the polls.

She paints a rhetorical picture of a California, “where teachers are paid more than prison guards, where the power stays on while the power of political money is turned off.” Noting the mystical floating cube, Huffington says, “Now is the time to think outside the box, before we put our votes inside it.” A male announcer closes the spot, dubbing Huffington: “California’s independent voice for change.”

The ad was conceived by Bill Hillsman of North Woods Advertising, Minneapolis, Minn., and written and directed by Scott Burns, an erstwhile Goodby, Silverstein & Partners copywriter who worked on the “Got Milk?” campaign and directed the controversial Detroit Project anti-SUV ads at the behest of Huffington and the Natural Resources Defense Council [Adweek, May 5].

The Huffington spot is slated to air on Fox affiliate KTVU, Oakland, probably during the evening news broadcasts, said Huffington’s deputy press secretary Celia Alario. Both 30- and 60-second iterations were unveiled on the independent candidate’s Web Site (votearianna.com), along with a solicitation for donations earmarked towards buying airtime.

No spending was disclosed by the Huffington camp, but the site calls for donations totaling $500,000 in order to put the spot on the air.

Huffington is one of many contenders attempting to dethrone Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, in the state’s controversial recall election. Another hopeful, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, is already running a TV spot [Adweek Online, Aug. 19]. The vote is set for Oct. 7.