Roy Spence Loves The Red Phone Of Fear

Back in 1984, GSD&M’s Roy Spence was working for Walter Mondale’s campaign and created this spot for Texas:

Now, Spence is back working for Hillary Clinton. The ominous phone is back, too:

Apparently, he hasn’t had many new thoughts while walking across America. To paraphrase GSD&M’s work for Southwest, Spence is now free to scare the shit out of the country.
UPDATE: And in a matter of hours (something few consumer ad agencies could do), the Obama campaign cooked up a response:

UPDATE 2: This clarification is being reported, so far only in The Washington Post:

The new “red phone” ad produced by the Clinton campaign was not, in fact, made by ad guru Roy Spence, as earlier reported in the story “Clinton Ad Hints Obama Is Unprepared for Crisis”. In a twist, it was written by Mark Penn, Clinton’s chief strategist, who has for months advocated taking a much harder approach against Sen. Barack Obama, and was produced by Mandy Grunwald. Spence, who did make a 1984 “red phone” ad for Walter Mondale, is an adviser to the campaign.

So Spence may not have produced it. But my guess is he suggested it.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. People don’t want to live in a fearful America. Well, some clearly do. But many, a growing majority, do not. And that shows in the results of this race for the Democratic nomination.
    Fear isn’t selling because fear presumes a lack of knowledge. Fear needs ignorance to exist. But the so-called American people are not dumb. Some aren’t paying very close attention, some are nuts, but many are engaged and informed.
    And then there’s this whole question of who is tough. An inner city black man who can dance and play ball, or an aging white woman from the burbs?

  2. The phone commercials scenario symbolize GSD&M’s global dilemma: The shop’s inability to generate fresh ideas may lead to a Hillary-like defeat. This new spot is simply awful on every level imaginable.

  3. wow! Did that suck. Agree David that this country has fear fatigue after bush/Cheney. Wolf has been cried a few thousand times too many in recent years.
    Hillary is clearly getting desperate.
    Plus, was I the only one who found the payoff really funny? In a Dukakis/tank way.

  4. Tom Messner says:

    Obama’s team is very fast and very smart.
    The only weakness in rapid response to commercials is that you assume that the attack ad will move the poll numbers. Of course the weakness in slow response is that you assume the attack ad won’t move the numbers.
    The strength of commercials versus response is that tonnage can prevail.
    Right now, Obama is getting the “free media” to show his response to a silly commercial.
    The great negative commercials in politics are those that:
    a) Reveal something bad about a candidate that the voters at large didn’t know
    b) Reveal something about a candidate that they knew but had forgotten
    Hillary’s spot here depends on logic, and she loses when Obama came back at her.
    Interesting campaign this will be.

  5. hah! love the response. gobama!
    and how appalling of Hillary to drag “my children” into her shitty little fearmongering piece of crap. my children are doing fine Hillary, thanks!
    at least they’re too young to get sucked into our seemingly eternal quest to bring dunkin donuts to baghdad. something you voted for hillary. remember? how you voted for it. we do.

  6. Interesting too that Hillary was trying to go for the experience angle but instead slid into fear territory. I doubt that will work against Obama’s message of change and hope for the Democratic base. (It may solidify support among the GOP if McCain keeps trying it, but then he’s still up against that same message of hope with O.)

  7. it’s only my gut instinct but i think that the country has had its fill of fear and war and talk of turrism (mccain) and is heartily sick of the clintons in general.
    obama has the zeitgeist on his side. and that’s gold.