The crushing TV ad that helped Democrat Joe Sestak win last year's Pennsylvania Senate primary also earned his media consulting firm one of hundreds of accolades handed out Friday at the 20th annual Pollie Awards — referred to as the “Oscars of political advertising.”
Listed in the program of award winners as “How One Joe Sestak Ad Ended Arlen Specter’s Career,” the ad produced by the Philadelphia-based Campaign Group won the statewide campaign category for “Best Use of Negative/Contrast.” In the ad, the former Republican Senator's May 2009 party switch announcement is clipped, followed by an announcer saying, “Arlen Specter switched parties to save one job — his, not yours.”
The ad was shown on large TV screens placed throughout the ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, D.C.’s West End, and it drew some oohs and aahs from the crowd, composed of members and guests of the American Association of Political Consultants.
Legendary consultants in attendance at the conference included Ed Rollins, who was inducted into the AAPC hall of fame, and Ray Strother, a past president whose master woodworking was put on display. A drawing was held for a table he crafted, with proceeds going to a college scholarship program.
The annual gathering is geared toward the professional development of consultants, as technology and an ever-changing political landscape create new challenges for the craft. The awards dinner followed a two-day conference packed with panel discussions, networking and booze.
After an hour-long, open-bar reception, attendees dined on steak and potatoes and set their wine glasses on National Rifle Association cocktail napkins. In opening remarks, AAPC President Whit Ayres noted the uniqueness of the organization: “We come together tonight with people we spend our lives trying to defeat.”
Other winners included the direct-mail campaign against Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The mailer, with a haunted house and picture of O’Donnell within a big moon, included an audio chip that played a witch’s howl. The ad won in several different categories.
Consulting firms also won for website design, online advertising, fundraising, newspaper ads, automated calls and radio, and each had several subcategories.
In the TV category, GMMB won in the U.S. Senate-Democrat category for its “Not My Job” ad, which slammed Nevada Republican Sharron Angle for her statement that creating jobs was not the role of a Senator. In the Republican Senate category, OnMessage Inc. won for now-Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson’s “Family” ad.
SKDKnickerbocker won for an independent expenditure TV ad for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Massachusetts’ 10th district, and the Strategy Group for Media won for an IE ad for the Family Research Council Action PAC in Virginia’s 5th district.
The AAPC also gave “special awards” to the top consultants of 2010. Brandon Hall and Rebecca Lambe were named campaign manager of the year for helping Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) beat the odds and win re-election.
American Crossroads Political Director Carl Forti was named Republican MVP, and Rose Kapolczynski won Democratic MVP for helping Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) win re-election. Top pollsters were the Tarrance Group among Republicans and the Mellman Group among Democrats.
Jake Perry was named fundraiser of the year for his work on Reid’s campaign. In remarks, Perry said he was told by the campaign managers, “If you raise it, we’ll spend it, and we’ll win.”
Watch Sestak’s and other ads included in Roll Call’s 2010 Campaign in 120 Seconds.
Correction: March 12, 2011
Rebecca Lambe's last name was misspelled in an earlier version of the article.