Remembering The Greatest Political Ad In State History

November 5, 2018

Back in 1990 no one thought Carleton College professor Paul Wellstone had a shot against U.S. Senator Rudy Boschwitz. Boschwitz had raised the most money in the Senate that year for his re-election bid. Plus his approval ratings were pretty good. What Wellstone had was energy — a LOT of energy — and a savvy marketing strategy that focused on a populist message, a green bus, and one hilarious ad, which pointed out the differences between the candidates. The spot was called “Fast-Paced Paul” and it was produced by Bill Hillsman of North Woods Advertising, who went on to create ads for Ralph Nader, Jesse Ventura, and many others. It aired in the final weeks of the campaign and many claim it tipped the election to Wellstone’s favor. The campaign couldn’t afford a spendy media buy — it didn’t saturate the airwaves with the spot — in fact it only ran a handful of times. But it created such a reaction that it also ran on local newscasts. In other words: free media. Wellstone went on to serve for 12 years before tragically dying in a plane crash. He’s mostly remembered for his passionate advocacy and legendary exuberance. He should also be remembered for his savvy marketing instincts.