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Ron Paul Has a Blimp, but Will it Fly?

December 15th, 2007 · No Comments ·

Say what you will about the Ron Paul campaign – and I’ve had my concerns – they do have some cool ideas for promoting the candidate. I’m not talking about the endless spamming of online discussions with half-literate stammered declarations of love for their 73-year-old guru. That’s more annoying than clever.

But someone with a brain came up with the logo. It’s simple and clever and ever so eyecatching. It actually reminds me of the Ben Shahn dove poster for the McCarthy campaign in ’68.

Now, in another coup of creative marketing, supporters have launched the Ron Paul Blimp. Yes, it’s a real blimp which seats up to 12 people plus the flight crew, can fly at about 65 mph and is 200 ft long, with big visible sides for displaying messages like “Who is Ron Paul?” and “Google Ron Paul” and the previously mentioned eyecatching logo. The blimp launched on friday from an airfield in North Carolina, after having been delayed for several days because of the weather. Live video of the launch didn’t go live, but is now available on justin.tv. The plan is for the blimp to tour South Carolina and then head north to catch some exposure at the Cowboys-Redskins game in DC and then on to New Hampshire for the January 8th primary. Originally the blimp was scheduled to attend the December 16th Boston Tea Party campaign event in Boston but the weather may be making that appearance iffy.

Like so much that goes on in his campaign, Rep. Paul has no direct involvement in the blimp effort, which is being masterminded by Bryce Henderson and Trevor Lyman of Liberty Political Media, the guys behind the one-day $4.2 million fundraising miracle called the ‘money bomb’ which they pulled off earlier this month. They’re raising money independently of the campaign and have a deal with a pro-Paul blimp company for a discounted price of $350,000 for a month of flight time. Right now it looks like they’ve raised $250,000 from donations which will give them at least 2 weeks of flight time if the weather ever cooperates.

Presumably some additional money will be needed for legal fees, because this sort of entirely private effort originating from a group which is not a registered PAC or 527 non-profit may attract the ire of campaign findance regulators. They’re exploiting a loophole in the campaign finance rules by running the blimp as a for-profit advertising venture which is not limited in how much money it can take from any donor. Presumably, sponsors get some sort of advertising value for themselves from their support of Paul, but the details are not entirely clear, except that $5000 will get you a number of rides on the blimp. When the blimp takes off it will be carrying contributors, but also a lot of media, both from the new media and mainstream media outlets, and the plan is to use the blimp for maximum web exposure with live video from the cuppola.

I’ve got to admit to being a sucker for a blimp or for any lighter-than-air craft. There’s something romantic, old-fashioned and off-beat about them. They’re an ecologically friendly way to travel and look stately and elegant in flight. I’ve always wanted to own a one-man blimp to avoid traffic on the way into town, but even a personal blimp is huge and unwieldy and too expensive to justify, at least until the technology catches on and massive sales bring the price down. Until then I might have to settle for an autogyro.

It makes me just a little jealous to know that Ron Paul’s got a blimp, even if it’s only for a few weeks. If I could figure out how the sponsorships work and could justify it for my company’s bottom line, you might just see me on the Ron Paul blimp. It would be a hell of a way to justify a bit of totally gratuitous self-indulgence with supporting a good cause. The blimp may be an advertising longshot, but it sure is a fun idea and I bet mine isn’t the only imagination it catches.

It remains to be seen how effective the blimp will actually be as an advertising vehicle. Right now the weather seems to be working against it, but if people can see it through the snow and clouds and it can get to someplace useful it may start to attract some valuable attention. It’s already gotten a lot of new media coverage and some TV and print exposure, but right now, with the blimp not going anywhere, neither is the ad campaign. If it makes it to some big events and onto network cameras, then it could be just what it takes to get Paul some of the mainstream media exposure his internet campaigners have been complaining is lacking, along with generating the inevitable comparisons of politicians and large bags full of gas.

Dave Nalle has worked as a magazine editor, a freelance writer, a capitol hill staffer, a game designer and taught college history for many years. He now designs fonts for a living and lives with his family in a small town just outside Austin where he is ex-president of the local Lions Club. He is on the board of the Republican Liberty Caucus and Politics Editor of Blogcritics Magazine. You can find his writings about fonts, art and graphic design at The Scriptorium. He also runs a conspiracy debunking site at IdiotWars.com.

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