Interview with Ben Goddard
Media Consultant & Creator of Harry & Louise Ad Campaign

The Outside Game: Swinging the People through Wholesale Lobbying

GODDARD: You can't win a campaign just with television. You also need grassroots. You need good media relations. You need good advertising in all media, and you need an organization that will communicate your message one on one to friends who are also voters, because that's the most efficient means of communication. But the big numbers you see happen with television advertising.

SMITH: How did the idea for the "Harry and Louise" ads kind of get started?

GODDARD: Well, our organization believes very strongly in research and we do a great deal of research. And we were conducting focus groups all over the country and I was writing spot ideas and preparing animatics for testing and all this sort of business. And we really weren't getting very far. We had some scenarios and some arguments that people said, sort of, "Yeah, well, okay, so what?" My partner called me -- I was on the road somewhere -- and my partner called, Rick Clausen, called one day and said, look, I just read about a copy of the speech that Bill Gradison gave, in which he said, this decision will be made around America's kitchen tables. Is there anything we can do with that? My first response was, "Don't bother me, Rick. I'm making advertising." But as I thought about it, and we talked about it some more, it seemed to us that there may be something in that image of America's families sitting down and having this discussion.

SMITH: Now, we were talking about "Harry and Louise." Why "Harry and Louise?" Where did the names come from?

GODDARD: "Harry and Louise" are their actual names. It's Harry Johnson, Louise Clarke. One of the devices I use when I work with actors is that I use their names in the script because it makes them feel marginally more comfortable with the words that they are saying. The original version of the script simply said "Man-Woman," but the version that we actually shot had the actors' names in it, and when the press called for copies of the script, they got a script that said "Harry and Louise," and the rest is history, I guess.

GODDARD: Absolutely. "Harry and Louise" was a grassroots campaign, and one of the most critical elements the people tend to gloss over or ignore about "Harry and Louise" is the attention that we paid to grassroots. The television was the tip of the iceberg. That was the big thing everybody saw, but we had a day to day operation communicating with those people who signed on board with us. We had outreach campaigns to friends and family, if you will, in the insurance industry and in other industries that were supportive. We reached out to a wide range of other public interest groups who for one reason or another had problems with the White House proposal. So we focused a lot of attention and a lot of energy specifically on the grassroots activities.

GODDARD: Now, in terms of dollars, which because of the expense of television over 85 percent of the budget was spent on television. But the 15 percent that we spent on actually reaching out and educating grassroots volunteers was a pretty significant amount of money and had very significant impact.

SMITH: What was the overall expenditure? I read figures, $15-20 million was what the campaign cost, overall, with the buys and the creation -- the whole thing, globally?

GODDARD: Seventeen million for advertising, if you take all phases of the campaign, and about three and change in grassroots, and that includes materials, printing, mailing, telephone communications -- all that sort of business with the volunteers who signed onto the campaign.

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