The Adversary, Part 1 [Novel in Progress]

[Excerpt from a work-in-progress novel]

Book 1: Election

Even though we basically ushered in the antichrist and set the end of the world in motion, I’m still really proud of the ad that we did for Ted Fairchild. Not the campaign that they eventually produced—I think anyone with enough money and a focus group could have come up with that one. But the original one. It was so simple. And ballsy. It would have won an award if they had run it.

Picture this: for the first 25 seconds, the spot isn’t about Fairchild at all. It’s nothing but a montage of people talking about what a nice guy President Sumner is. And not backhanded “but Brutus was an honorable man,”-type stuff, but straight-up praise. There’s a whole parade of cheerleaders from Cher to the Pope to nobodies off the street to former President Bush all smiling and nodding and telling us how nice and good and kind Sumner is.

At first it’s puzzling what’s wrong here, but as the litany goes on, it starts to sound more and more stupid. Like the very stupidest thing you could say about a person. We even added a little upbeat pop song undeneath, and it becomes more and more inane with each compliment. After a while, the incessant praise becomes just as damning as if we’d actually said something bad about him.

“Yep, he sure is a nice guy. Sure is.” Over and over again.

Then, in the last five seconds of the spot, the music drops out, and it’s a satellite feed of Fairchild, sitting in a chair on a TV news set before an interview. He’s surrounded by a swarm of advisors and makeup people, all trying to feed him talking points and make his famously angry mug look like something that the cameras will like.

Finally, he waves his arms and just says, “What the hell are you people doing? I’m going to look how I look and say what I say. Get away from me. Let’s get on with this crap.”

Then, silence, and a single line of copy on the screen: “No more mister nice guy. Fairchild for President.”

Man, it was just brilliant. I go back and watch it sometimes even now, after everything that’s happened. I don’t think I’ve done anything that good since.

-Sam Walker, former Creative Director, Subverge Advertising, excerpted from Don’t Kill the Messenger: Biography of an Ad Man