Jim Thompson was new to politics when he launched his first campaign for governor in 1975. For those in the Chicago area, his was a familiar name. He was the U.S. Attorney who fought against public corruption, sending former Governor Otto Kerner to jail, along with scores of other public officials. As far as Thompson was concerned, it gave him the credentials to run for governor for a large and diverse state.
The next step, then, was to make himself known not just to those in the Chicago area, but to all Illinoisans. He campaigned hard in downstate Illinois, and learned quickly the importance of introducing himself to voters. His standard line? “Hello, my name is Jim Thompson, and I’m running for Governor.” But Thompson knew that grassroots campaigning was not enough. He hired Washington, D.C. based political consultants Doug Bailey and John Deardorff as well as pollster Bob Teeter to develop a series of campaign ads. They created a couple of longer spots designed to introduce the candidate to the voters, then produced a series of 30-second ads with the candidate talking to voters on the street. Following Thompson’s victory in the Republican primary, they added several ads using the candidate’s own words during his speech on primary night. None of the ads mentioned Michael Howlett, his Democratic opponent; there would be no mud-slinging in this campaign. Instead, the ads focused on Thompson’s record of success as U.S. Attorney, and his pledge to be a tough, honest leader, with compassion for the needy and the taxpayer.