Madison Avenue Weighs In On Dole

[Dole's earing]

By Jonathan Karl/CNN

NEW YORK (May 10) -- Generation gap? What generation gap? At 72, Sen. Robert Dole is one of the oldest presidential candidates in history. But so far, his strongest support has come from voters under age 30.

Dole the futurist? "This is a race for the future, your future," Dole recently told a group of young people. "It's a race for the next generation, your generation."

The latest CNN Gallup Poll shows Dole trailing Clinton by 21 points. But among voters under age 30, he trails by only 10 percent. With six percent undecided, that puts the youth vote well within reach for Dole.

But how does he win them? We took that question to some of the best advertising minds in America.

[Comments about the ads]

"You want to give him a charisma overhaul, you want to create somebody, a sense of somebody who's got a human quality, who you like, who you listen to and who you would respond to," says Phil Dusenberry, chairman of the advertising group BBDO. Dusenberry is mastermind behind the Pepsi generation advertising campaign and ran the ad campaign for a 73-year-old Ronald Reagan in 1984 (1.1M QuickTime movie).

He's been asked to join the Dole team. "In 1984, when we were doing President Reagan's re-election campaign, we were very careful as to how he looked, what he said, where we put him, the locations he appeared in, things of that sort," Dusenberry said. "It's part of the packaging. I hate to use such a crass term, but it's part of the packaging of a candidate and it does have a very powerful impact on the American people."

[Clinton on MTV]

Dole faces team baby-boomer: the forty-something team of Bill Clinton and Al Gore that won the under-30 vote in 1992. With a saxophone in hand and a willingness to appear on MTV, Clinton brilliantly marketed himself to young voters (64K WAV sound).

Dusenberry doubts that strategy will work for Dole in '96. But the creators of advertising for Nike say Dole needs to counter his often dour image with a dose of humor.

"If they were so bold as to entertain or so bold as to actually have some fun within their commercials and still maybe deal with issues, but have some fun, I think that audience who desperately wants to be entertained, you know, by anything...might actually buy in to that candidate," says ad director Bryan Buckley.

[Dole on late-night]

Bob Dole, comedian? In February of last year, Dole became the first person ever to announce his candidacy for president on late-night television. "Oh, I'm going to run for president," Dole quipped to late night host David Letterman (64K WAV sound). The appearance put an animated, light-hearted Dole on display for a young audience.

The Chiat-Day advertising company is considered cutting edge in marketing to younger people, but a member of the agency's creative team says Dole's age could be used to his advantage with young voters. "I don't think age works against him," said Shalom Auslander of the agency. "I wouldn't want someone my age, or even my parents' age being president. It needs a grandfatherly figure."

The Nike team prepared for us a radically different -- and light-hearted -- theoretical approach. "This where Bob Dole should be in our mind," Buckley said, pinning an earing on an image of Dole. "This is just a little earing. It's a small subtle statement that is more about who Bob Dole is: 'I'm a proud Republican, I'm an earing-wearing Republican (192K WAV sound).'"

This story originally appeared on CNN's "Inside Politics Extra."

Related Stories:

for articles about