My Thoughts, Before This Gets Out of Hand

As reported by The Huffington Post, and now spreading like wildfire via the AP, MSNBC, and Newsvine, the anonymous creator of the Obama-advocating “Vote Different” ad (embedded below) has been outed.

Arianna herself has revealed the creator to be now-ex BlueStateDigital staffer Phillip de Vellis. BlueStateDigital is a Democratic new media firm founded by several Howard Dean alumnus, including Obama’s new media director, Joe Rospars. Rospars is currently on leave from the company, although BlueStateDigital helped to design the Obama website, and provides techology and software (including the engine behind My.BarackObama, Obama’s social networking platform).

Chris Cillizza, writer of Washington Post‘s political blog The Fix, I believe, is hyping this up to be more than it is, by stating that Obama’s campaign “denied that anyone affiliated with the campaign was responsible for the ad,” and then asking if “the Obama camp get caught playing too cute by half with this video.”

According to the press release on BlueStateDigital, they are are “not currently engaged in any relationship with the Obama Campaign for creative or non-technical services,” and “Mr. de Vellis created this video on his own time.”

If this is 100% true, I can’t imagine how anyone in the Obama camp could have possibly been aware of a side-project that one of their agency’s employees created, especially if the campaign doesn’t even use the firm for video services. Similarly, if this is all true, I don’t even see how BlueStateDigital could have known, or should be responsible for this. To insinuate that the Obama campaign should be held responsible for this (once again, if this is all 100% true) is silly.

De Vellis has since been terminated for violating company policy “regarding outside political work or commentary on behalf of our clients or otherwise.” It’s tough, especially because we can see de Villis’ immense talent. However, working for an agency myself, and having a side project like this blog, I can attest to the fact that de Villis should have been more judicious in his decisions. Companies are smart to have policies like this in place, and to enforce this, just like BSD did. It not only looks bad, but it causes harm.
The video was published anonymously for a reason: big trouble if you put your name on it. My take is that if you have to think twice about attaching your name to something on the web, don’t do it. You will be found out, always. As was the case for “troll” comments posted anonymously from Thomas Kean, Jr.’s staffers, as is the case for video.

This kind of accountability is important for another reason. As groups are more likely to use YouTube for creating viral opposition videos that will most likely be even more inflammatory than Swift Vets for Truth, the intregrity of the “online video” medium is at stake. As someone who cares deeply about the medium, I never want to see that happen. That’s why we need accountability, and that’s why people need to be held responsible, especially when they work for agencies. Tough love, I suppose.

And with that, a healthy disclaimer: theses are my opinions, and my opinions alone.

~ by Brad Levinson on March 21, 2007.

One Response to “My Thoughts, Before This Gets Out of Hand”

  1. de Vellis is a true American exercising what’s left of his right to free speech. He did nothing wrong. In fact, he did the Democratric party a favor — moderate liberals such as myself are increasingly disenchanted with this rush to recycle the Clinton administration. Thanks, de Vellis, for articuling this so well. I just blogged about it at

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