The Best and Worst Presidential Campaign Ads of the Year
1 year ago
A look back at which campaign ads won over voters and which won laughs, but weren't trying to be funny
While Hollywood is gearing up for the Golden Globes on January 15th (also known as the precursor to its version of the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards), the political world, or “Hollywood for ugly people” as it is sometimes jokingly called, is gearing up for its own Golden Globes: the first presidential primaries, before its own Super Bowl next November. Therefore I thought it only fitting to give awards for the best short films in politics this year, also known as political ads. Though a recent analysis published in the New York Times noted that voters in the early primary states have been subjected to about two-thirds fewer ads than they had at this point in the last presidential primary, they have still endured thousands of them.
Below is my take on the best and worst of the bunch. It’s worth noting that just like in Hollywood where there are blockbuster major studio films that can afford to spend millions on Oscar campaigns while indie flicks struggle to see the light of day, there are a couple of candidates who had the money to flood the airways more than others, so their repeat appearances on the lists below were unavoidable.
But please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts, comments and nominees for others.
Just so you know, I decided to focus strictly on the ads themselves, not on who deserves best actor, actress, and supporting nods, so please definitely weigh in on those, and of course on who deserves a Razzie or two.
Worst 2012 Primary Ads of the Year
5. Ron Paul, “Big Dog”
I love dogs, but this ad using dogs as a metaphor for…something is…well there’s no other way to say it. It’s a dog with major woof factor.
4. Rick Perry, "American Story"
This ad was going okay. The Texas Governor’s wife was helping to present another side of Rick Perry to voters to counter the image that’s been left by the odd, rambling figure who’s shown up at debates. Just when it seemed the Perry campaign had finally delivered a homerun, the candidate swoops in at the end and ruins things. Or should I say jumps in? I have a feeling I’m not the only one who shouted, “Watch out! Mugger!” at the screen when Perry came flying out of nowhere.
3. Rick Santorum, Pop Up Video
What is there to really say except, Rick Santorum + an homage to 90's staple pop up video = awkward comedy gold. Only I don’t think this ad is supposed to be funny. If it is, it's probably supposed to be "laugh with me not at me funny." It's not.
This ad is so bad it’s damn near good—like “Saturday Night Live” spoof good. A man who looks like the kind of guy your parents would tell the cops about if he hovered near your playground when you were a kid, wants us all to know that he thinks Herman Cain will put the “United back in the United States of America.” For emphasis, he then sends the message home with a puff of his cigarette. (At least I think it was for emphasis. Maybe the guy really just couldn’t wait for a smoke?) But the Herminator himself really gives the ad its winning ending with a creepy smile, the likes of which we haven’t seen on a presidential campaign trail since Rudy Giuliani tried to convince us he was a fun and likable guy.
1. Rick Perry, "Stronger"
I’m sure some of you already saw this coming, and I’m also pretty sure I may take a bit of flack for what I’m about to type next but this is actually a pretty smart ad. I mean the messaging is not my cup of tea but then I’m not really Mr. Perry’s target audience. (Not being an Iowan for starters and then there’s that small detail of me not disliking gay people, but I digress.) The biggest failure of this ad, however, is not what Perry says, but when he said it. If he had actually released this ad shortly after his debut, the die-hard religious conservatives he was hoping to reach with it might have seen it as more than a cynical ploy to salvage what’s left of a campaign that’s sinking faster than the Titanic. Standing up for what you believe in—no matter how much others disagree—is a characteristic people look for in a leader. Pandering out of desperation? Not so much. But there is one upside of this ad for the rest of us: it may end up being the most parodied ad of the election cycle. Here are just a few.