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TMCNet:  Texan Roy Spence enlisted to revive Hillary Clinton's campaign

[January 20, 2008]

Texan Roy Spence enlisted to revive Hillary Clinton's campaign

(Dallas Morning News, The (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Jan. 20--AUSTIN -- When Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential run starting tumbling into trouble, she reached out to an old friend from Austin.

Roy Spence, an advertising whiz and godfather of the "Don't Mess With Texas" campaign, has been elevated within an expanding team desperate to regain the edge against Democratic rival Barack Obama.

A revised stump speech and new commercials used in Nevada, South Carolina and California feature Mrs. Clinton listening to voters. If the old message was about her -- "Ready to Lead" -- the new message is also about us -- "It's the people," a tagline says.

"I'm more actively engaged on a daily basis for awhile to make sure that Hillary's heart gets communicated," said Mr. Spence, whose friendship with the Clintons goes back three decades.

After Mrs. Clinton lost the Iowa caucuses to Mr. Obama and appeared to be struggling in New Hampshire, Mr. Spence flew there to help pull out a surprise victory. He then went to the Clintons' home Chappaqua, N.Y., where she recorded new spots focusing more directly on her personality.

"He is her friend and is very good at getting emotions out of people," said a Democratic insider, not authorized to speak publicly about the race. "He's the warm-and-fuzzy man. Roy's like the psychological pillow carrier, and he's there to soften her image."

Friends say he's a good marketer and in particular position to help the senator because of his long ties to the Clintons.

"He has a great talent communicating," said Austin political consultant Ed Martin, who is not affiliated with a campaign. "He's the kind of friend I'm sure they're glad to have around."

A long history together

Mr. Spence's friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton goes back to 1972. They were law students, dispatched to Texas to help George McGovern's presidential campaign. Mr. Spence was active in local Democratic Party affairs.

Over the years, he has hosted fundraisers for the Clintons, who stay at his home when they're in Austin.

"We've been friends forever. I call Hillary 'sister' and she calls me 'bro,' " he said. "It's a relationship that's like brother and sister."

While he has always been an informal adviser, Mr. Spence's larger role comes as the campaign struggles to redefine Mrs. Clinton's candidacy -- "rebranding," in the words of the ad industry.

His past efforts to personalize candidates have sometimes misfired.

In 1993, he helped produce an ad for Sen. Bob Krueger, a college professor facing a tough challenge from Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Mr. Krueger was dressed like Arnold Schwarzenegger in a black leather jacket and Terminator sunglasses. He looked into the camera and said, "Was it Shakespeare who said, 'Hasta la vista, baby?' "

Ms. Hutchison won in a landslide.

Mr. Spence, 60, embodies a certain Austin aesthetic -- a boyish bounce, a penchant for jeans and a knack for the occasional Zen phrase.

"The skillful warrior wins first. Then he fights," he told Fast Company magazine. "Know thy enemy. Know thy terrain. Know your competitor. Know your customer."

On his blog, which recorded a kind of spirit walk across New England last year, he wrote: "You are the road you take."

The walk, which Mr. Spence said he wants to repeat intermittently over the next seven years, came after he relinquished day-to-day responsibilities at the Austin ad agency he co-founded in 1971, GSD&M Idea City.

It has struggled, losing several major clients last year and laying off more than 100 people -- 15 percent of its workforce.

Advertising Age magazine, noting the layoffs, questioned the timing of his trek through Canaan, N.H., Millbrook, N.Y., and Lackawaxen, Pa. Mr. Spence cast it as a celebration of "the goodness of America."

Campaign memories

After Mr. McGovern lost, everyone in the Texas effort gathered for a bittersweet evening that marked the end of the long campaign.

The party lasted until 3 or 4 in the morning with lots of beer and wine. Garry Mauro, another friend who went on to become Texas land commissioner, recalled seeing Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham in the corner, locked in a deep and engaging conversation.

"Looking back on it now -- yeah, they were in love, and they were going through that period you have when you're young and you talk about everything," he said. "And I was thinking: They're the only sober people in this room."

It was the Clintons' first presidential campaign. And they ended it talking about the future in Roy Spence's apartment.


Roy Spence's ad campaigns are often known by their memorable slogans or commercials. A sampling:

Don't Mess With Texas. (Anti-liter campaign for the state.)

Texas, It's Like a Whole Other Country. (Texas Department of Economic Development)

You Are Now Free to Move About the Country. (Southwest Airlines)

We're Texas. (campaign promoting the University of Texas)

Sen. Bob Krueger as the Terminator. (In a 1993 campaign ad, Mr. Krueger dressed like the Arnold Schwarzenegger character in a black leather jacket and sunglasses and said: "Was it Shakespeare who said, 'Hasta la vista, baby?' ")

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