Katie Riley counts them down for you because she has a problem and watches a lot of old campaign ads for fun.
It’s that time of year again: term has started. And that means you’re in need of what? That’s right, new ways to procrastinate. BuzzFeed is so secondary school, though. Be a true UCL student and check out Pi Politics’ favourite political campaign ads of all time, instead of writing that essay. (Besides, you’ve got plenty of time.)
14. The Un-credible Shrinking Man: Let’s start with something British to ease us into it. For the local and European elections earlier this year, Labour came out with this video. For anyone not familiar with late-50s cinema (which Pi Politics was not either), this just seems like a weird, yet hard, hit shot at Nick Clegg. But apparently, they’re actually paying homage to a 1957 sci-fi film called The Incredible Shrinking Man. Either way, it’s really strange.
13. Terri Lynn I-will-just-sit-here-and-drink-coffee Land: There is a particular breed of campaign ads that are bad simply because nothing happens. This ad, run by Terri Lynn Land, a Republican vying for a US House seat in Michigan in 2014, is a member of that club. She tells you to “think about that for a moment,” and all I was thinking about was that she wasn’t doing much of anything apart from drinking coffee.
12. Debbie Spend-It-Now: In 2012, Republican Pete Hoekstra, a candidate for the US Senate in Michigan, ran this ad. It’s weird and terrible for so many reasons, but most of all it’s just plain racist. Prepare to cringe.
11. Gather. Your. Armies: This is the kind of thing that may or may not keep me up at night. I understand the idea and all, as will you, but it’s a bad one. What kind of communications director approves of this ad? And why is the candidate not also wearing appropriate colonial period attire?? WHAT KIND OF TIME TRAVEL WAS THIS?! Without further ado, I give you: Rick Barber for Congress circa 2010.
10. He knows not to pee on an electric fence: Roland Sledge ran for Texas Railroad Commissioner in 2012 using this ad, which the YouTube account of his campaign called “comic criticism”. Although, that’s really for you to decide…
9. No! Not granny!: In 2011, the Democratic non-profit, The Agenda Project, ran this ad against Congressman Paul Ryan’s uber-conservative budget. And, to be frank, it’s just terrifying. (You may want to clear all grandparent-loving children and elderly people from the room before watching it.)
8. The longest, strangest walk any candidate has ever taken: Jeff Barth, when running for the US Senate in South Dakota, released this ad. As far as we can tell, it was never shown on television, only on the internet. Because it’s so incredibly long, this ad would usually be quite the bore, but – by the grace of the political gods – Mr Barth encounters some friends along the way, making for some great video. Also, there was something about his daughters having straight teeth…
7. David Dewhurst. (At the disco.) Saving babies!: Unlike a lot of the other ads on this list, this was a well-produced ad for a well-funded state-wide campaign. In May of this year, Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst ran this ad on his primary election day, and then quickly pulled it from circulation. You can probably guess why.
6. Heavy metal Polish politics: So, full disclosure: I don’t speak Polish. But, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter. You didn’t think it’s only the Americans who get to have all this fun, did you?
5. Christopher Knight in a galaxy not so far away: Some may say that this ad should be higher on the list, but I’m giving Christopher Knight some slack because he was only running for a county board of education in North Carolina. Nevertheless, a Star Wars theme is probably never the way to go unless you’re running for school treasurer (Because, in that case, it won’t matter – people will already assume you’re a nerd).
4. Excuse me while I toss this rock in the lake: This is a personal favourite, and it’s also in the same club as the Terri Lynn Land ad from above. In 2008, Mike Gravel, a former senator from Alaska, ran an adorable campaign for president. I’m sure this ad was supposed to have some sort of metaphorical meaning. I just have no idea what that meaning was.
3. VOTEMAN: Once again, the Europeans getting in on the political ad fun. In 2014, the Danish parliament made this video in an attempt to draw young people to vote in the European elections. (I don’t want to ruin anything for you, but beware: this video actually comes with a disclaimer on YouTube.)
2. She’s not a witch: Another personal favourite. For American politics nerds, this is the holy grail of hilarious and terrible campaign decisions. There was some rumour that Christine O’Donnell, a Republican candidate for US Senate in Delaware in 2010, had experimented with witchcraft, and this was her campaign’s attempt to shoot it down. The problem was that most people had never heard the rumour, but then saw the ad… The only thing I can think, watching it four years later, is: “You’re Christine O’Donnell, and you should not have approved this message.” (Needless to say, she lost.)
1. YesOn4: It’s the ultimate. It’s the weirdest. After watching it, you will also be for 4.