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Political TV Ads: They Make Us Watch ‘Em, So Let’s Critique ‘Em

It’s the silly season yet again, where our teevees are crammed with ads that are for the most part painful to watch but very lucrative for the TV stations and networks that air them. (Especially the “issues” ads put up by outside groups that support various candidates but don’t explicitly say “Vote for Pedro” or anything along those lines.)

So as long as we’re being forced to endure them, why not critique them?

To warm up our critiquing chops, let’s start with a blast from the past. Above is the YouTube of the political TV ad that in my opinion was the best political TV ad ever — and I say this as someone who didn’t vote for the candidate it backed: Jesse Ventura’s famous “Action Figure” ad by North Woods Advertising’s Bill Hillsman. From the YouTube blurb:

Action Figure became an instant advertising classic and the most important commercial of the 1998 Ventura for Governor campaign– what many observers consider to be the biggest upset in U.S. political history. After the commercial aired there was a flood of calls to TV stations and toy stores from parents looking for the nonexistent Ventura action figure toy, and the ad influenced commercial marketing, including a famous Federal Express ad.

After his election, Ventura formed a charitable organization to manufacture the action figures and other merchandise, donating all of the proceeds from sales to Minnesota-based charities.

This ad was clever, funny, gently poked fun at the candidate it backed (thus showing he could laugh at himself), and most importantly, it was effective on a broad swath of normally-apolitical persons. (That was how Ventura won: Instead of concentrating solely on poaching existing voters, he got habitual non-voters into the voting booths, a task that is generally considered the impossible dream by major political parties.)

So what do you think of this ad? Tell me a) if you like it, b) if you think it’s effective, and c) in what way or ways you think it’s effective (or not effective as the case may be).

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