Huntsman team releases another vague video

Jeff Winkler Contributor
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The “unconventional” video campaign by Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman continues today with another installment of the countdown series to his official announcement. As a teaser trailer, it could also be a glimpse into Huntsman’s entire campaign.

The 25-second web video features Huntsman (hidden behind a helmet and motorcross clothes) dirt-biking on a beautiful Utah plateau to pleasant Office-esque music. “In 4 Days.  …  Has seven children, one from India, one from China” flashes on the screen and save for a final closing credit, one would never guess it was an ad for Huntsman, much less a presidential candidate.

It’s the second video in two days, counting down the days when Huntsman will officially announce his candidacy after having already announced that he will announce. The first video was equally short. It mentioned Huntsman’s failed rock band and also featured the former Utah governor riding through the Utah countryside.


6 Days from Jon Huntsman Jr. on Vimeo.

Needless to say, the ads are a bit of a head-scratcher if you don’t already know about Huntsman. It’s all very puzzling.

“Exactly right. On purpose. Correct me if I’m wrong, Jeff, but is the election today? I can’t remember,” said Fred Davis, the man responsible for the video series. ” … The goal today is to say, ‘huh, you know I’m not really excited about anybody on the Republican side running for  president. Look, here’s somebody’s whose fresh and different. That’s all you can ask for today.”

(FreedomWorks: Jon Huntsman not a ’serious candidate’)

Davis is a very affable man on quite a hot streak. He was behind the viral Carla Fiorina “Demon Sheep” ad in the 2010 midterms and is accustomed to making a splash with his off-beat videos. It’s perfect and “will eventually make sense,” he said of Huntsman’s unconventional campaign, which he’s joining in an official capacity.

“Yeah, I think I’ll be here for the long haul,” Davis told The Daily Caller. “I’m what’s called the ‘media strategist.’”

Davis is very much on board with Huntsman’s approach, perhaps because it seems to fit Davis’ own freewheeling style.

“How many other candidates do you recall in the first public communication with the masses are on a motorcross bike and talking about that they were in a failed rock and roll band?” said Davis. (Sources in the Huntsman campaign, however, told TheDC that while the motorbike and clothes are Huntsman’s, the individual riding is a “close friend of his” who acted as a stunt double. One of these sources noted that the video was shot while Huntsman was still working as the ambassador to China, but the source later contacted The Daily Caller saying he was mistaken. Huntsman’s campaign in waiting also sent information indicating the video was shot after Huntsman’s return from China.)*

The Hunstman team is clearly excited about the teaser trailers and the media are obviously snatching them up. Some campaign media strategists, however, wonder how successful this “unconventional” ad approach will work, at least in the “long haul.”

“If they were doing this as part of an TV or online ad buy, that may make sense; especially if you didn’t have to disclose who paid for the ad,” said one strategist. “Unfortunately, the fact that it’s on a candidate’s Vimeo channel, and carries the candidate’s name, and the only way you would be likely to see it is if you already knew that Huntsman was planning to announce, it falls pretty flat.”

Asked for comment after being sent seeing the video by TheDC, one media consultant replied, “Send me the rest of the ad.”

“It’s a Fred Davis ad [and] the goal is to inspire people to do exactly this: talk about it,” said another. “The market is already saturated with ads saying Candidate A is wonderful and/or Candidate B is awful. If Jon Huntsman’s objective is to raise his profile, this kind of video will do more to help him than 100 indistinguishable traditional ads.

He continued: “It’s not a mystery if you show too much leg!  In that context, this ad is positively Victorian.”

Regardless of some light criticism, the videos certainly seem to be working inasmuch as they reflect the Huntsman campaign so far.

When Davis spoke to TheDC on Thursday, he was asked if this off-beat, vague and unconventional series would continue until announcement day. The playful Davis was evasive, and also wouldn’t he disclose what other Huntsman projects he was working on.

“Oh, gosh. How would I know Jeff? I just work here,” said Davis.

It was such a conventional response.

Reporter Amanda Carey contributed to this report. Email Jeff Winkler and follow him on Twitter

* This story has been updated