Rick Perry and Ron Paul may be long gone, but it turns out there are Texans still participating heavily in the Republican Party's presidential campaign: Dallasites Jim Ferguson and Vinny Minchillo are among the self-styled "Mad Men" working for Mitt Romney.
As Philip Rucker of the Washington Post reported:
"[A] colorful team of advertising gurus — including a onetime “Wheel of Fortune” contestant, a guy nicknamed for a “Super Mario” character and a burly Texan who came up with the “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” slogan — have converged on the [Romney[ campaign’s drab headquarters ... to help pitch to the American masses a product that lacks a dominant market share: Mitt Romney...
Much of the money that Romney raises falls into the hands of the Mad Men, who already have cut spots and laid plans to blanket the airwaves in battleground states throughout the final 10-week sprint...
Ferguson, who is Romney For President's creative director, is the man behind "Beef: it's what's for dinner," but the Hico native and Texas Tech alum has done a whole lot more than that . His early nineties Super Bowl commercial for McDonald's--for which he also worked on the Magic Johnson/Larry Bird "nothing but net" spots--was turned into the movie Little Giants (which Ferguson co-wrote) at the behest of Steven Spielberg.
He's also been the chief creative officer of DDB Dallas, Young & Rubicam, and TM Advertising (no relation to Texas Monthly or the TM Daily Post ). His current boutique shop in Dallas is called Fire in the Hole .
Rucker writes that Ferguson:
[C]uts a conspicuous figure at Romney headquarters, with straggly white hair, a pack of Parliament cigarettes and several decidedly un-Romney-like tattoos: a cyclone on his ring finger (a reminder, after his divorce, never to marry again), a dollar sign on a wrist and the words “to do” on an ankle, so when he crosses his legs he can write on his ankle what he needs to do that day.
“I f-ing love what I’m doing now. I f-ing love it, man," Ferguson said in an earlier story by Andrew McMains of Adweek. McMains noted that Ferguson was also part of Georg W. Bush's "Park Ave. Posse" in 2000, but that was just a part-time thing.
While Rucker singles out Ferguson as "the Texan," Minchillo, the former Wheel of Fortune contestant, lives in Dallas too.
He's a University of North Texas alum, and, more recently, adjunct professor, who also worked at TM Advertising, and is currently chief creative officer for Scott Howell & Company and the Wolf Group.
Rucker writes that the Romney "Mad Men"'s challenge is to:
[C]reate an emotional bond between a candidate who reveals little emotion and a still-unsure body politic. And they are trying to tell the story of “the Obama economy” — searching what one of them dubbed “the trail of tears” for powerful voices among the roughly 23 million Americans who are unemployed or underemployed or have stopped looking for work.