Rives Carlberg Brands Mayoral Candidate

DALLAS Chuck Carlberg hasn’t handled advertising for a political campaign in three decades, but when Houston mayoral candidate Bill White asked his friend to work for him, Carlberg readily agreed. White, a businessman, will compete against Orlando Sanchez, a former city councilman, in a runoff election for the nonpartisan race Dec. 6. White has spent $6 million on the race.

Adweek spoke to Carlberg, president and CEO of Rives Carlberg in Houston, about the full-service shop’s political work.

Adweek: What components of the campaign have you created?

Carlberg: We did the logo, the campaign line “Let’s get Houston moving,” the brochures, collateral, yard signs, banners, lots of newspaper and lots of television commercials. You need to react very quickly. We did a lot of television work almost reacting on a 24-hour basis and radio on a 10-12 hour basis.

It’s been really exciting and the neatest thing I have learned that adds to the degree of difficulty is it’s a brand, and your brand happens to be a living, human being who wins or loses—there’s no second place. It’s been exciting to be inside the tent and watching it go on.

Adweek: How has this campaign differed from those of the past?

Carlberg: This has a much bigger budget and you can use media much more critically. We’ve been [campaigning] since December and were way ahead of the curve. White had zero name awareness. Bill White is almost a generic name. Now he’s leading in the polls.

Adweek: How has political advertising changed?

Carlberg: It’s a lot faster. The speed of it is amazing.

Adweek: Is it more vicious?

Carlberg: I didn’t want to get vicious. When Bill first asked me, I said I don’t want to do that and we haven’t had to do that.

Adweek: Will you take on more political campaigns?

Carlberg: I don’t know. This was a labor of love. Everything about Bill is what I believe in and I think he’s the right person [for the job]. I don’t think I could do one for someone I don’t totally believe and support. You have to have your heart in these things.

Adweek: Although the election is nonpartisan, White is a Democrat. Are you worried clients will see you as a shop with a political affiliation?

Carlberg: No. I’d say maybe half if not more supporters are Republicans. And many of our clients are behind him.