Thursday, March 7, 2013

Primary Season

As I choke down the coverage of this year’s presidential primaries, I am reminded of 2008 – when the fur was flying under animalistic conditions I could never have imagined…
Over my many years as a PR/communications professional, I have found myself thrust into all sorts of surreal situations (look out for my book: “What I Did for Ink: A Tell-All Tale of My Adventures with Drunks, Schizophrenics, Ranchers, Preachers and Other Clients”).
This time – a first in my eclectic career – I found myself on the campaign trail of the Democratic primaries. My client was not a candidate, a cause or a lobbyist group – but a video game publisher with a new title, Hail to the Chimp.
An old colleague contacted me. He was starting a new video game company with a name I could barely say, much less promote. Okay, it is the name of South Carolina’s football team, so I got over it and helped launch (ahem…) Gamecock Media Group. Together with developer Wideload Games, I was asked to strategically leverage the real primaries with a new game promising, “the biggest political race the animal kingdom has ever seen.” How could I say no?
Our press release (from the cockpit) announced a fast-paced original game with exciting gameplay and a comic look at politics. The storyline behind Hail to the Chimp – delivered through the metaphor of our electoral system – offered some pretty familiar themes, including political-backstabbing, self-possessed newscasters, fundraising fat cats and even inane political ads.
Ten quirky candidates were fighting for the title of President of the Animal Kingdom and we had furries (costumes covered with a dense coat of silky hairs) made up of a pack of them: Crackers the chimp (the front-runner), Ptolemy the hippo, Bean the sloth, Hedwig, the polar bear, and our GRR news anchor, Woodchuck Chumley.

We hit the campaign trail in our news van –“GRR: You hear it first!” – parked among the other network’s satellite trucks: CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN. No animals were strapped to the roof of the van (sorry Romney), but the executives (including the CEO), were dressed in the furry suits and inhumanely squeezed inside. Suffice to say, with all of that fur, we could have used a bigger van and lot more air conditioning.
First stop Des Moines for the Iowa Caucus. In the three-way contest of 2008 – Obama vs. Hillary vs. Edwards – the key themes were unifying the country and bringing about change (not contraception, college ambitions being elitist and the undoing of the American family.) Ah, the good old days…
Woodchuck Chumley reported from Barack Obama’s acceptance speech (thrilling!) and I landed a cover story headlined “Caucus Critter” (with photo) in the Des Moines Register – the reporter advising Katie Couric and Brian Williams to “move over for Woodchuck Chumley.”
The GRR News van made several stops on the campaign trail. Crackers the monkey even got to shake Ron Paul’s hand.
And all of the furries got to see John Edwards say goodbye in South Carolina.
Although the sleuth of furries went on to Super Tuesday, my campaign-trail duties ended at the electric Philadelphia primary (Obama vs. Hillary Clinton) where – depending on your affiliation – the chant was, “Vote for Obama, not your Mama! Or, “Vote for your Mama, not Obama!”
Back in my New York office, I continued my work. Gamecock was among the first to endorse Stephen Colbert for president (Although this year, Herman Cain may have done it better), had a campaign running on MTV (Cock the Vote) and Woodchuck Chumley had his own column on the Huffington Post (I know what you are thinking, “Great…another woodchuck with a blog”).
Ultimately the video game did well. Not a blockbuster, but from personal experience, I can tell you that Hail to the Chimp continues to reign and has the auspicious honor of being my 10-year-old son’s current favorite.
As for our current primary season…when I look at the clown-car of candidates that have been shot down by the Republican Party, I realize that our GRR News van stuffed with furry animal candidates was closer to reality than I might want it to be. Crackers for President?
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