It didn't take long for the identity of the person behind the anonymous viral video attack ad on presidential candidate New York Senator Hillary Clinton to be identified.
Not long after the YouTube hit clip — which splices an ominous-looking Clinton into an old Apple Computer ad — passed the 1.7 million view mark, the Huffington Post blog fingered the culprit as Philip de Vellis, who until recently worked for a firm that does consulting work for the campaign of Clinton's chief rival, Illinois Senator Barack Obama.
A spokesperson for the Obama campaign said Wednesday that de Vellis had not directly worked on the Obama campaign account, and de Vellis stated in a post on the Huffington site that Obama's staff was not aware that he had created the ad
"Hi. I'm Phil. I did it. And I'm proud of it," de Vellis wrote on Wednesday. "I made the 'Vote Different' ad because I wanted to express my feelings about the Democratic primary, and because I wanted to show that an individual citizen can affect the process. There are thousands of other people who could have made this ad, and I guarantee that more ads like it — by people of all political persuasions — will follow."
By Thursday (March 22), a large (and growing) number of copycat ads had appeared on the Internet that either reworked de Vellis' clip or took the concept into new, even more bizarre directions.
Among them was one titled "Vote Smart: A Warning to All Women About Hillary Clinton," which takes de Vellis' original and interjects shots of a skinny model sashaying down a runway with doctored, "Clockwork Orange"-like images of Clinton with her eyes propped open. Playing over those images is the audiobook version of Mrs. Clinton's White House memoir, "Living History," in which she recounts her anger when confronting her husband, former President Bill Clinton, over his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky. The clip then devolves into a harsh attack on the Clintons, including an image of Hillary Clinton as the Statue of Liberty with the scrawled epitaph "Stalinist Rising?" underneath.
A more tongue-in-cheek version, posted by "Obamaloveslieberman," uses the famous 1984 Wendy's "Where's the Beef?" ad campaign to slag Obama, criticizing his lack of government experience and projecting a pint-size, cartoony image of the candidate dancing on top of a burger patty that reads "no experience."
Another version posted by "DarkLordofDebate" uses the original mash-up overlaid with the soundtrack to the 2002 Christian Bale futureshock drama "Equilibrium."
Yet another shows a series of Obama head shots over Young MC's "Bust a Move," which then goes into the original mash-up — except for the bit in the middle in which the words "f--- Bush" appear repeatedly on the screen. And just after the Obama plug at the end, creator "BxGhettoRican" has photoshopped an image of Obama in a Taliban outfit with the legend "Sen. Osama Obama" running across the bottom.
Republicans got in on the action as well, with an ad that looks exactly like the original mash-up — but instead of boosting Obama at the end, it has a plug for the Republican Party. Another GOP mash-up also is different only at the end, when the message "Don't be fooled by the Democratic Party. They undermine our troops & embolden our enemy" flashes on the screen over a dazzling island sunset in which the iconic Apple logo serves as the sun. That one urges viewers to "vote different," then flashes the message supporting actor/conservative former Senator Fred Thompson, who has not yet announced his candidacy: "President: Fred Thompson, Vice President: Rudy Giuliani."
De Vellis — who posted the original ad under the name ParkRidge47, a sly reference to the year of Senator Clinton's birth and Park Ridge, Illinois, the town of her birth — has since stepped down (or asked to leave, depending on who you believe) from his job at the firm, Blue State Digital, which the Obama campaign reportedly continues to use for its Internet campaign.
According to the Huffington Post, Obama spokesperson Bill Burton said in a statement that the campaign and its employees "had no knowledge and had nothing to do with the creation of the ad," adding, "we were notified [Wednesday] evening by a vendor of ours, Blue State Digital, that an employee of the company had been involved in the making of this ad. Blue State Digital has separated ties with this individual, and we have been assured he did no work on our campaign's account."
Neither Apple not the Clinton campaign has not commented on the ad — although Clinton herself laughed it off with a joke last week, and later told New York's NY1, "I think anything that drives interest in these campaigns and gets people who otherwise are not at all interested in politics, I think that's pretty good."
In his post, De Vellis said he made the ad on a Sunday afternoon in his apartment using his Macintosh computer and then uploaded it to YouTube and sent it to other blogs, stressing that he was working independently while creating it.
"The specific point of the ad was that Obama represents a new kind of politics, and that Senator Clinton's 'conversation' is disingenuous," he wrote. "And the underlying point was that the old political machine no longer holds all the power." He went on to call himself a "proud Democrat" and said he supports Obama and hopes he wins the primary, but also labeled Clinton a "great public servant" and vowed to support her if she wins the Democratic nomination. "This ad was not the first citizen ad, and it will not be the last. The game has changed," he concluded.
David Epstein, a professor of political science at Columbia University, agreed, saying, "Any guy or girl with enough expertise to do a video mash-up can throw it up on the Web now and that makes the whole process more democratic," he said. "Because everyone can get in on the act. What's interesting about this one is that a year or two ago Hillary was the fresh new face and the idea that a woman could be president was bold and fresh. Now she's the conservative establishment and is being cast as the inside Washingtonian trying to keep out the outsider, insurgent Obama."