Bill Hillsman makes television campaign ads that make news. His
1990 ad for Paul Wellstone's Senate bid played off the idea that
the Minnesota Democrat didn't have the cash to run an expensive
media campaign. Wellstone was pictured talking really fast, to get
as many ideas as possible into his expensive TV time slot. That
ad won a Clio, the Oscar of the advertising industry.
This year Hillsman, the CEO and chief creative officer of North
Woods Advertising in Minneapolis, was back in the news with a spot
for Ralph Nader that spoofed the series of Mastercard ads. Mastercard
unsuccessfully tried to sue, the media picked up the story, and
Jay Leno ran part of the ad on The Tonight Show. That exposure:
"The point of the Mastercard ad is that there are some things
money can't buy," Hillsman says. "We felt it was ripe for parody
because certainly politicians think that everything can be bought,
and special interest groups believe anything can be bought. And
here we have Ralph Nader, who is perhaps the one candidate who can't
be bought, the one candidate who has actually done something for
people in his life and who, despite his rhetorical flaws and his
demeanor, is actually inspiring a group of people to vote for someone
other than a 'Dimocrat' or a Republican."
A Chicago native and anti-war protester in the '60s, Hillsman grew
disaffected with politics after George McGovern's defeat in 1972
and entered the world of advertising. In 1984, Hillsman's interest
in politics returned when he noticed that the Reagan campaign had
hired some of the most creative advertising minds in the nation.
"The 'Morning Again In America' ad was much better and different
than the usual claptrap," he says.