Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill.
Alex Brandon  /  AP
Presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama D-Ill., left, seen walking with Sen. Richard Durbin D-Ill., in the Capitol Thursday, is getting some free advertising help from MoveOn.org.
updated 3/13/2008 3:21:19 PM ET 2008-03-13T19:21:19

Sen. Barack Obama's advertising team is getting some friendly competition from film pros with some Oscar clout like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.

The liberal group MoveOn.org, reprising a 2004 ad contest against President Bush, has enlisted the actors to help select an ad supporting Obama's campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. MoveOn plans to air the winning commercial on national television, but organizers hope the real benefit could come simply from media attention, Internet buzz and the star power behind it.

"The spirit of the contest is to put into video form what it is that you think will help push Obama over the top," said Iliyse Hogue, the campaign director for MoveOn.org Political Action. "It's a great thing for aspiring ad makers and film makers who want to participate in a meaningful way."

Participants in the "Obama in 30 Seconds" contest will have until April 1 to submit their entries. MoveOn members, which the organization places at 3.2 million people, will be able to vote on their favorites by watching them on the MoveOn Web site. The top 15 entries will then be judged by a panel of liberal activists, recording artists and Hollywood notables.

Among them will be Affleck and Damon, both Academy Award-winning actors and writers. Also judging will be actor Steve Buscemi, film director Oliver Stone, singer songwriters Moby, Eddie Vedder and John Legend, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons.

MoveOn plans to announce the winner five days before the April 22 Pennsylvania primary. But Hogue said the organization had not yet decided when the ad would appear on television. "We want to see what the landscape looks like," she said.

MoveOn.org has endorsed Obama and has used its membership network to make phone calls promoting his candidacy and to hold Obama house parties in Texas. Hogue said MoveOn members have donated $600,000 to the Obama campaign through MoveOn. By law, the group is not permitted to coordinate its ad campaign with Obama's.

In 2004, MoveOn received 1,500 entries for its "Bush in 30 Seconds" competition. The winner was an ad called "Child's Pay," depicting children performing adult jobs followed by the words: "Guess who's going to pay off President Bush's $1 trillion deficit?" CBS refused to run the ad during the Super Bowl, but it still ended up being among the most watched political commercials, receiving free air time on newscasts and Web sites.

The entries that year, however, included two that compared Bush to Hitler, which MoveOn removed from its contest Web site but which the Republican Party used as examples of "hate speech."

The contest entries this time are explicit: "Please no personal attacks on anyone."

Other official rules:

  • "Ads must be about Barack Obama and portray him in a positive light."
  • "Ads should not talk about or specifically reference Hillary Clinton or any other Democratic presidential candidate".
  • "Ads may reference John McCain, George W. Bush or the Bush administration, but only in the context of contrasting them with Barack Obama."

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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