Ad Whiz Bill Hillsman ’75 Dissects Political Election Ads in Carleton Humanities Lecture


Just in time for Election Day, Carleton College’s Humanities Center will present political advertising professional and “ad whiz” Bill Hillsman ‘75, along with Carleton political science professor Barbara Allen, as they discuss “2012 Election Ads: Do the Facts Really Matter?  Visuals, Sound, & the Factual Accuracy of Political Advertising” on Sunday, Oct. 21 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. in the Weitz Center for Creativity, room 236. Their timely and thought-provoking presentation will highlight the existence (and lack thereof!) of truthfulness, accuracy and transparency in political advertising. This event is free and open to the public.

Hillsman, a member of the Carleton Class of 1975, has been called “the world’s greatest political ad man.” He is the founder and head of North Woods Advertising, a Minneapolis-based firm that bills itself as a leader in the creation of effective political advertising. Hillsman spent his career working for various ad agencies before founding North Woods in 1985. North Woods has worked on behalf of political candidates and causes throughout the United States.


Several North Woods ad campaigns have met with widespread acclaim. Perhaps the most groundbreaking was their advertising on behalf of then-Carleton professor Paul Wellstone during his campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1990; the ads, which were widely credited with helping to cause Wellstone’s upset victory, won two Effie Awards, among the highest honor in marketing. North Woods also won a local Emmy Award in Texas in 2007 for their advertising on behalf of Kinky Friedman, an independent candidate for governor the previous year. Other advertising by North Woods has included their work on Reform Party candidate Jesse Ventura’s campaign for governor of Minnesota in 1998, which ended in an upset victory, as well as campaigns for current Colorado governor John Hickenlooper and perennial presidential candidate Ralph Nader.


In 2004 Hillsman released a book, “Run the Other Way: Fixing the Two-Party System, One Campaign at a Time” (Free Press, 2004), which makes the case for support of independent and third-party candidates. Hillsman details the shadowy world of political consulting and attacks what he sees as the “election industry” that has lowered the quality of American democracy. Besides looking at his own career, Hillsman provides strategies for independent-minded candidates and voters tired of “politics as usual.”

Allen is the Ada M. Harrison Distinguished Professor of Social Sciences, Professor of Political Science and Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies program at Carleton. She has taught several courses on politics in the media and counts the study of public opinion among her specialties. She is currently teaching two separate seminars on “Media and Electoral Politics,” with a particular focus on the current election season.

This event is sponsored by the Carleton College Humanities Center. For more information about this event, including disability accommodations, contact Humanities Center Director Susannah Ottaway at (507) 222-5446 or by email at The Weitz Center for Creativity is located at 320 North Third Street in Northfield.