I had a birthday recently. Big number but, that’s for another day.

I was lucky that I got to spend it with my 94-year-old dad, Andy Innocenzi.

He’s seen a few things over his lifetime.

He was a United States Army Air corps fighter pilot in WWII.

Andy Innocenzi WWII Pilot

He flew P47s and P51 Mustangs over Europe escorting bombers, strafing trains, bridges and Nazi strongholds.

After 30+ missions, including weeks being MIA due to a failed engine, he returned to my mom in Arnold, PA; on the Allegheny river 15 miles north east of Pittsburgh, PA.

I learned a lot from my dad over the years.  I suspect a lot of sons have, if they shut their mouths long enough to let their father talk.  Or as Dad liked to say, “It’s really hard to listen and learn if all you do flap your gums”.  There’s a lot of wisdom coming from a guy whose father came over on the boat from Italy, who’s worked in a glass factory, an aluminum plant, survived WWII, sold 25 cent a month life insurance policies for Metropolitan Life and ended up retiring as a Senior Vice President of the company.  Over the years, he has passed a lot of pearls to his baby boomer son.

Not surprisingly at 94, he still does.  His streetwise, rough edged “survivors” advice is priceless and precious.  Hard-knocked life lessons from someone whose relatives were named Biff, Crazy Eddie, and who answered to the name “Gumps”.

After celebrating Father’s Day, my own milestone birthday and reflecting on my father’s pearls have led me to think that after 40 years in the political advertising, marketing and branding business it’s time to share some pearls of my own.

This is going to be the first in a series of blog posts. Hopefully, some friends and colleagues will find it useful, and if not, at least entertaining. If you don’t, you can unsubscribe at any time. Before the current crop of political consultants were born, my late partner Steve Sandler created the most innovative and successful Republican political advertising campaign in history, “Vote Republican. For a Change.” 

Running Out of Gas – Vote Republican for a Change 1980

It was funny, it was unique — the first political ad to use that type of spoof humor — and it was devastatingly effective.

The commercial helped propel Ronald Reagan to his first term as President, was a critical part of building a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate, and winning 50+ seats in the House of Representatives.

Midway through the Reagan years, Steve and I joined forces to form Sandler-Innocenzi. Steve sadly is no longer with us, except in spirit.  But we continue to be a force in national politics producing innovative and cutting edge ads, moving public opinion and winning elections at the local, state, and national level.

What defines us is the ability to help clients succeed when success is less than certain.  When Republicans last lost their house majority, our clients persevered.  When electing women wasn’t in vogue, we were blazing trails helping elect female Governors and Members of Congress.

We’re proud of our work for clients like Governors Judy Martz of Montana, Kay Orr and Dave Heineman of Nebraska, Butch Otter of Idaho, and Jim Gibbons of Nevada; Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch of Idaho; Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming; and former GOP Policy Committee chair and AG Commissioner Adam Putnam of Florida.

To quote an old country western song – “This Ain’t Our First Rodeo.”

Too many people in politics today think they are advertising people.  Maybe it’s the rise of social media, maybe it’s just that everyone has a video camera in their phone.  I don’t know why it’s happening, but I know it’s wrong and it hurts candidates.

Creating effective advertising is hard.  Creating advertising that moves the needle is harder.  Creating ads that work across all channels, broadcast to social, that’s really, really, difficult.

But that’s what we do.

In the weeks to come I am going write about what is right with the political ad business, what is wrong with it and other nuggets of wisdom this Italian Kid from Pittsburgh has learned along the way. Some of you will hate these blog posts, they may make my friends upset, but it’s an important topic and if I can start a discussion about what creates effective advertising – well then, that’s a good thing.

One other thing, this won’t be a kiss and tell column. It’s doubtful anything will end up in Drudge.  But I promise you I’ll keep it real and keep it true to my blue-collar roots. So, stay tuned… Oh, and BTW, here’s a photo of me and my dad from a few weeks ago.  Not too bad for 94.

Andy and Jim Innocenzi