Orange County is, of course, screaming with Republican campaign consultants but a couple youngish guys from here are making their mark creating campaign ads for Democrats--while clinging to the far loftier goals of helping to overturn Prop. 8 and turn this red county blue.
Under 35ish Eugene Hedlund and Bryan Choate--CEO and president, respectively, of Irvine-based DMedia, Inc., in recent months have received five national advertising awards for their campaign commercials. As DMedia boasts, "Essentially, the most progressive Democrat advertisements of 2004 and 2008 have risen from the heart of Orange County, the most conservative county in the U.S., from two guys who were raised Republican and voted Republican as late as 2000."
DMedia's ads were aired in nine battleground states and completely supported by grass-roots donations, according to Choate. And for that Politics Magazine's Jan. 26 Reed Awards awarded DMedia its "Best Presidential Advertisement of 2008" and "Best Independent Group Advertisement of 2008." The winning ad, "Darrell Hanschen on Race," follows . . .
Three other DMedia ads won Pollie Awards from the American Association of Political Consultants on March 25. They were a gold award for "Best Use of Contrast in a Presidential Television Advertisement" for "Judgment," which you can see here. Also, a silver award for "Best Overall Campaign" for "Local Voices For Obama," which are collected here and here. Finally, DMedia scored a bronze for "Best Use of Contrast in a Presidential Television Advertisement" for "Thank You, John McCain," which is here.
Choate calls the awards--which were actually presented to TruthandHope.Org, the independent expenditure group that spawned DMedia--"the political equivalent of the Oscars and Golden Globes."
"To win these awards, we took on the biggest, most established names in the business and the presidential campaigns themselves to essentially sweep these awards," he said. "The 'Best Presidential Advertisement of 2008' is the equivalent to 'Best Picture' at the Academy Awards, and we beat out the 'Obama Celebrity Ad' where they linked Obama to various celebrities and had the name chanting and such."
DMedia's ads have certainly won the attention of some noted politicos.
"The winning TruthandHope ad was the most powerful spot I've seen of the 2008 campaign cycle," said Jordan S. Lieberman, president of Political World Communications, LLC and publisher of Politics Magazine. "The competition for this award was intense, and included some of the most successful political professionals in the world."
"My favorite was the Truthandhope.org's local voices spot which, I think, historians may look at to understand how Obama won," said Talking Point Memo's Matthew Cooper. "It also won the equivalent of Best Picture, i.e. Best TV Ad in the Presidential Race."
"This strikes me as the most inspired yet," The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan said upon viewing "Judgment" at AAPC's Pollie Awards.
"What is striking about their videos and testimonials from middle America is a realism and clarity about the issues that is unavailable anywhere else in journalism and the media, regardless of political affiliation," said Brian Mueller of StrangelyEngaging.
DMedia even received confirmation of their ads' effectiveness from HCD Research and the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, which reported, "A new national study among 309 self-reported Democrats, Republicans and Independents revealed that after viewing an anti-McCain ad produced by TruthandHope.org, McCain's favorability ratings decreased among all parties."
But despite the hardware, high praise and validation, Choate laments DMedia does not receive much attention from California media. "If we walk into a AAPC event in D.C. or a Politics Magazine seminar, people know who we are and what we did, but that doesn't
help us much when we want to turn our home county blue."
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Not that the lack of ink and screen time is going to stop DMedia from refocusing company efforts. "We launched DMedia, whose goal is to turn American Blue, and our first step in that process is going to be to focus our attention on our own backyard in Orange County," Choate vowed. "We made the best presidential spots in the country, and we should darn well being putting that expertise and use to work here at home to give OC Republicans a fight."
Sound like a pipe dream? Well, Choate claims his company's ads moved Republican and Independent voters by 14 percent in rural Missouri.
"Imagine what we could do in California," he says. "If we get just half that movement, gay marriage becomes legal."
Don't believe this messenger? See and hear it directly from the real messengers at dmediapolitical.com (click the "play introduction" button) or check out their work at truthandhope.org (see the ads on the left hand side of the page) and at localvoicesforobama.com.