Strategic Perception, Inc.

Bizarre attack ad heats up California Senate race

Brett Michael Dykes
Yahoo News — The Newsroom
February 4th, 2010

The campaign for high-profile California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina has released an attack ad against one of her Republican primary opponents that just might be the most bizarre in American political history, one that's already being called everything from" terrifying" to" psychedelic."

Watch the ad here: FCINO@Yahoo!Video

The three-and-a-half minute ad is aimed squarely at Tom Campbell, a former congressman and Stanford law professor, the Republican favored to challenge Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer. It opens with a comforting female voice that says, "Wholesome. Honorable. True believers. Men like Tom Campbell, who would never lead us astray. His pedestal so high. "As she speaks, we see a sheep sitting atop a pedestal ascending high above the Earth. Farm animal in the sky aside, everything appears relatively normal up to this point, thirty seconds in.

But then the skies turn dark and lightning bolts flash, knocking the sheep from its high pedestal. As the image of the sheep fades from view, Tom Campbell's face appears, accompanied by an ominous-sounding male who chimes in sarcastically, "Tom Campbell: fiscal genius?"

The male narrator then launches into a lengthy list of alleged Campbell political sins before cutting to a flock of sheep grazing innocently in an open field. In the middle of the sheep is what appears to be someone or something with bright red, demonic eyes disguised in a sheep-suit. The male narrator then goes in for the kill shot:" Tom Campbell: Is he what he tells us? Or is he what he's become over the years? A FCINO. Fiscal conservative in name only. A wolf in sheep's clothing."(FCINO has popped up elsewhere as part of Fiorina's viral marketing campaign.)

In response to the Fiorina campaign ad, Politico reports that the Campbell campaign issued a statement last night:

In an e-mail to supporters Wednesday evening, the Campbell campaign responded," Carly's ad likens fiscal conservatives to sheep, and Tom to a demon sheep, without mentioning a single federal issue or proposing a single solution to America's economic woes.

"When you view the 'weirdest campaign attack ad ever,' you'll know why it's being called 'clumsy,' 'over-the-top,' 'monstrous,' 'painful' and 'a source of ridicule for bloggers,'"wrote the campaign.

Fiorinas ad joins an interesting clan of political ads employing the" scary animal"theme. Classics include Reagan's" Theres a Bear in the Woods" spot from 1984, which seemed to be the inspiration for the Bush/Cheney" Wolves" ad twenty years later.

Be it "awesomely bad" or just bad, Fiorinas ad has quickly achieved an indisputable and enviable accomplishment: a lot of attention. The "odd genius" of the spot, writes Michael Scherer in Times influential political blog Swampland, "is that it is so weird that you will click on it online, and bloggers like me will link to it. The message is delivered."

Calls to Carly Fiorina's campaign for comment were not returned. Released only as a web video, the ad also bypasses the" stand by your ad"message required of campaign messages which run on television or radio. While the video does note that it was paid for by Fiorinas campaign organization, Carly for California, the candidate herself does not appear to offer the regular assurance that she approved the piece.

Update: Reached for comment, a Fiorina spokeswoman told Yahoo! News that the campaign is thrilled with the reaction to the ad and that they had hoped that it would" break through the clutter on the Internet"and start conversations. They didn't, however, know who played the demonic sheep because the footage used was filmed years ago by the campaign's ad maker.