5 Worst Political Campaign Ads

American politics is a very different beast to British politics. Everything in the US political scene is bigger, brasher, louder. In campaigns money is thrown around like confetti and candidates attack each other personally and politically in a way that makes the UK Parliament look genteel and restrained.

Then there are the political campaign ads. US political ads are unique. Nowhere in the world does political ads quite like the Americans. They symptomise everything which makes American politics into the special soap opera it is: they are expensive, often offensive, brazen, and occasionally ridiculous.

One of the things that I do admire about them is their brevity – I love the 30 second message format. But the agency, donor, candidate, media and campaign pressure sometimes conspire to produce truly ridiculous ads.

What I, and friends of mine in UK politics, sometimes wonder is how some of these political ads ever get approved by campaign teams that should know better and by candidates who should be mindful of what they put their name to. Ad agencies are supposed to “think outside the box” and be creative, compelling etc… but the responsibility lies with the campaign team.

  1. Ron Paul

This advert can be firmly placed under the ridiculous category. Though not void of policy details (“Trillion with a ‘T’”), you would be forgiven if you did not realise that this is an advert for a man trying to run for President of the United States.

  1. Hillary Clinton

This Hillary Clinton campaign ad from 2008 is a perfect example of how you can have a campaign ad without a hint of policy. The advert suggests that Clinton would be a safe pair of hands in the White House, as she is able to deal with ‘something happening in the world’. Seriously? I understand the messaging of “grownups vs. kids” etc… and I understand the value of personal relationships between international leaders but the thought that “somewhere in the world” someone wouldn’t take a call from POTUS because they hadn’t met them before?


  1. Peter ‘Spend it Not’ Hoekstra

This advert is especially awful with racist undertones and bad grammar. The broken English is senseless and offensive and the message is unclear. Any candidate who is willing to put their name to this is undeserving of running in any election.

  1. Rick Santorum

This advert has the feel that it was made with Windows Movie Maker twenty years ago by a campaign intern. The ‘humour’ is painful to watch and the message is unclear. But worst of all, the advert is boring. Voters can tolerate a ridiculous advert but will not watch a dull advert.

  1. Herman Cain

This is an example of a campaign running out of money and ideas, an absentee/mute candidate, a chief of staff who wants some fame, and a bad choice of music. Have you ever seen a car advert without the car or a washing powder ad without the washing powder? The un-famous, paid-on-the-payroll-so-he-would-say-that-wouldnt-he? campaign chief of staff endorses his employer. Who would have thunk that?

Then Cain enters from the right (geddit?) with a creepy smile at the end – and again I ask: Seriously? This advert is especially impressive as not only are no policies offered but also very little is said about the quality of the candidate. Everyone I show this advert to says “What’s with the cigarette?!!!!”

I am sure there are other reasons/excuses why all these candidates lost. But their political ads didn’t help them.  The list above is by no means exhaustive and the ranking is dubious – they are just five rubbish campaign ads. Fun to watch and lampoon. But rubbish.

Or. These ads do their job with the audience they are targeted at which is patently not me or my friends who just look at these adverts from our English, politico perspective and there is some decent at data that proves us wrong and that these were effective. I wonder what my US readers will think of this post?


Also check out my 5 BEST Political Campaign Ads


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