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ParkRidge47: Not an R, and Not Bill Hillsman

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, March 21 2007

It's become a parlor game for the chattering class: Who is ParkRidge47? TechPresident blogger David All has a great post up on his personal site that, at least for me, pretty definitively closes the door on the author being a mischief-making Republican. He tracked down an email exchange between ParkRidge47 and a person who had tried to post a video response on YouTube and had it rejected, and the language PR47 uses makes clear that this person is no friend of the GOP. Well, I have a different theory, which is that it's a professional--the language in our email exchange, and the proficiency of the technical work, makes it unlikely this is a kid. So, which professional?

Last night, I was IMing with a friend of mine, Chris Nolan, the proprietor of a great stand-alone journalism site called Spot-On, and we were trading guesses. She had a brainstorm: It had to be Bill Hillsman, the noted ad-maker from Minnesota. Her reasoning: It has his style, he's no fan of Hillary Clinton's, and who else would have ready access to a good copy of the original 1984 video? On top of that, I realized later, Hillsman had done the ads for the Ned Lamont campaign, where a supporter had done a crude mashup of the 1984 ad to attack Lieberman.

So I gave Bill a call this morning. He's down in Florida, at the Minnesota Twins spring training. Are you ParkRidge47 I asked? He said no, adding, "Hillary Clinton is from Park Ridge, right? Is this about that Hillary video? I haven't seen it but I've heard about it. We didn't do it." I asked him to watch the video and give me his impressions. Here's what he wrote:

We did something similar to this for Wellstone in '96-- an inoculation ad that showed Paul being attacked by monsters, space aliens, giant insects, etc.-- and then put Rudy Boschwitz in a Ming the Merciless pose and put Newt Gingrich's head in place of the mighty and all-powerful Oz. But we didn't do this.

I don't think this is professionally done, but it is well-done. Technically, it's very simple: just get a clean copy of the Apple "1984" ad (maybe the best single ad of all time, used to introduce the Macintosh) and substitute Hillary's footage for the footage of the fascist. (Whoever did this extended the original footage with more footage from Hillary-- it runs 5 or 6 seconds longer than the original :60 spot). What makes me think it's not professionally done is how simple it was to do this, and the typography across the screen of Hillary about continuing the conversation isn't particularly artful.

On the other hand, this had to be done by someone who was pretty familiar with the "1984" ad and who would have recognized how perfectly what Hillary said would fit into this. Also, the typography at the end is an absoute clone of the typeface used in the original, which was popular in the '80s. So the person either just aped it, or knew how much that face is associated with Apple. Finally, it was done by someone who is familiar with ad campaigns-- Apple's "Think Different" was a campaign from the late 1990s that had nothing to do with the 1984 spot.

It is a very shrewd attack piece, though, politically speaking. The subtext points up what I have been saying for a year now-- that Hillary has big problems with her base of liberal women (note that the hero in the 1984 spot is a woman, which was key to its success at the time). And if you are for Obama, it really hits at her weak spot-- coming across as a cold automaton even when she thinks she is being friendly and sincere (Al Gore disease).

As you probably know, Park Ridge is a Chicago suburb (near where I grew up) and Hillary went to high school there at Maine East, I believe. Chicago has a big ad community and this easily could have come from someone there.

That's all I know about it. I saw it for the first time just a few minutes ago.

What do you think? Is ParkRidge47 a pro? Is s/he working for a campaign? Or is this the work of a civilian?

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