Fred Davis III
Davis was the oldest of four children. Davis was 19 when his father died; he inherited his father's public relations firm and left college. In the late 1970s and early '80s, Davis was chief partner in Tulsa, Oklahoma advertising agency Davis & Nauser (with partner Jeffery Nauser), where his client list included his uncle, then Tulsa mayoral candidate and current U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R, Oklahoma).
He created the Celebrity ad for presidential candidate John McCain and the Demon Sheep ad for California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina. Davis was described as "the most creative person in the business" by Republican media consultant Mark McKinnon. He created a 2010 ad for U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell which featured her declaring she was "not a witch", in response to the re-airing of past statements made by her about her interactions with non-Christian religious practices. This ad inspired many video parodies and O'Donnell later said that the ad backfired and focused attention on her decade-old statement.
In February 2012, Davis authored a controversial ad for Representative Pete Hoekstra for his Senate campaign against incumbent Democrat Debbie Stabenow. The ad attacked Stabenow as Debbie "Spend-it-now" and showed an Asian woman riding a bicycle in a rice paddy thanking Stabenow (in broken English) for enriching the Chinese economy at the expense of the U.S.
Republican strategist Mike Murphy tweeted that the ad was "really, really dumb," while Stabenow called it "shocking" and "nasty." Hoekstra denied that the ad was insensitive to Chinese Americans and was meant to focus on Stabenow's voting record. Within two weeks, the Hoekstra campaign removed the video from his campaign website and YouTube account.
In 2012, Davis wrote a 54-page proposal (commissioned by Joe Ricketts) for a $10 million campaign which would target the Obama administration by recycling points of criticism against Obama from the 2008 presidential campaign, including his relationship with Jeremiah Wright. The proposal, titled, The Defeat of Barack Hussein Obama: The Ricketts Plan to End His Spending for Good, was considered by Ricketts' Ending Spending Action Fund.
A copy of the proposal document was released by a person unconnected to the ad campaign to The New York Times, after which it was roundly lambasted in external commentary for, among other things, having criticized 2008 Republican presidential candidate John McCain as "a crusty old politician who often seemed confused, burdened with a campaign just as confused" and "do[ing] exactly what John McCain would not let us do." The campaign was also parodied for its proposed depictions of Obama as a "metrosexual black Abe Lincoln".
Although Davis' agency had gone at least as far as contacting Larry Elder to join the project, no ads were ever aired. Ricketts issued a statement disavowing the ad campaign hours after it was publicized by the New York Times; McCain's office also defended the conduct of the campaign when sought for comment.
The fallout from these incidents led Davis to declare he would not come "within 100 miles" of a racist statement in his future ads.
- Mark Z. Barabak (August 21, 2012). "Ad man Fred Davis: From 'demon sheep' to a deep hole". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
- Issie Lapowsky (August 21, 2012). "What You Can Learn from the GOP's Most Feared Ad Man". Inc. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
- Scherer, Michael (2010-02-05). "The Mastermind of Carly Fiorina's Demon-Sheep Ad". TIME. Retrieved 2010-02-05.
- "McCain Team Scrambles to Rescript Show". Retrieved 2010-11-05.[dead link]
- McGreal, Chris (2010-09-20). "Christine O'Donnell: I dabbled in witchcraft". The Guardian (London: Guardian News and Media Limited). Retrieved 2010-09-20.
- McGlynn, Katia (2010-10-10). "'SNL' Does The Best Parody Of Christine O'Donnell's 'Not A Witch' Ad Yet". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2010-12-03.
- McGlynn, Katla (2010-10-20). "Elvira Spoofs Christine O'Donnell's 'I'm Not A Witch' Ad". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2010-12-03.
- Parker, Ashley (2010-10-26). ""I'm Not A Witch" — The Remix". The Ca10-2626-10. Retrieved 2010-12-03.
- Tom Diemer (2010-10-21). "Christine O'Donnell Regrets 'I'm Not a Witch' Ad". Politics Daily.
- Cameron Joseph (February 6, 2012). "Hoekstra defends ad against charges of racial insensitivity". The Hill. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
- Amy Bingham (February 13, 2012). "'Offensive' Pete Hoekstra Ad Draws Big Bucks for Rival Sen. Debbie Stabenow". ABC News. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
- David Catanese (February 21, 2014). "Hoekstra scrubs Super Bowl ad from sites". Politico. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
- Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg (May 17, 2012). "G.O.P. 'Super PAC' Weighs Hard-Line Attack on Obama". The New York Times.