News & Politics

12 of the Weirdest Campaign Ads Ever

Is free media worth the mockery that comes with these bizarre pitches? Many candidates think so.

The bizarre campaign ad, posted online, usually represents a hail-Mary pass from an underfunded underdog. The idea is to make an ad so strange that the media covers it, advancing a candidate's message (and increasing his or her name recognition) for free.

Does it work? On one level it does -- the political press loves to cover weird campaign spots. One example, Herman Cain's infamous "Smoking" ad (it was actually called "Now Is The Time For Action!") got millions of hits on YouTube. But, of course, that coverage is usually focused on what a total freak the candidate is, so campaigns resorting to the bizarre ad strategy are, with very few exceptions, losers in the end. As such, they're probably a net benefit to the campaign consultants who make them -- they can say their candidate was hopeless, but they got him or her a ton of free media.

And they benefit us by providing hours of wholesome entertainment for the whole family. Here are 12 of our favorites. (Share yours in the comments.)

1. Disgraced Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich Running For Texas Railroad Commissioner?

Apparently, Roland Sledge thinks so. We're guessing this guy is going to lose in a landslide, but nobody can deny he's offering an important safety tip in this ad -- it's a public service!

2. Getting Shit Done

Any ad that highlights former child star Patty Duke's potty mouth works for us. Unfortunately for Dan Adler, the campaign was only good for 361 votes, or 0.57 percent of the total, in a special election for CA district 36 last year.

3. Speaking of Which...

Diane Benson wasn't running for dog-catcher when she made this bizarre ad. She was running for Lieutenant Governor of Alaska on a slate with Ethan Berkowitz, and she actually won a primary, only to be defeated by a 12-point spread (pardon the expression) in the general.

4. Dale Peterson Really Doesn't Like Folks Stealing His Yard Signs

Dale Peterson became an Internet sensation when he ran for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner, with an ad so full of testosterone that one hardly noticed when he whined about having his campaign signs stolen.

We think his follow-up -- an ad he made endorsing another candidate after losing his race -- is even more bizarre. We also predict that Dale Peterson will eventually kill someone over a lawn sign.

5. Won't Somebody Please Think of the Children?

Wacky campaign ads aren't just an American phenomenon. Simply put, this ad from Winnipeg has the greatest tag-line in the history of advertising tag-lines.

6. The Award for Best Fake Liver in a Political Ad Goes To...

Apparently, voters in Orleans Parish either weren't frightened by the prospect of electing a ghoul to the coroner's office, or they thought it was a net plus. Either way, after the ad below drew all sorts of media attention, Dwight McKenna lost this race.

7. Fellini Ain't Got Nothing on Gravel 

We like Mike Gravel, but we have to admit that he's a strange man. The ad below has become an Internet classic: Mike stares silently at the camera for one minute and 12 seconds, before offering... a message, of sorts. Then he takes forever and a day to get off-camera. It's all very Zen -- minimalist, and kind of relaxing. Enjoy!

8. Nobody's Stealing Pamela Gorman's Lawn Signs

Pamela Gorman, an Arizona state legislator who tried to ride the Tea Party wave to Washington in 2010, really likes guns. No, seriously -- she digs 'em. But being a pretty good shot wasn't enough to win her primary fight against Ben Quayle, of all people.

9. Herman Cain's Crush Videos

"Crush videos" -- in which scantily clad women kill insects and small animals for sick people's prurient pleasure -- are rightly considered monstrous. So we suppose it should come as little surprise that Herman Cain would bring the genre into the realm of political ads.

Now, it's hard to pick one to make the cut -- "Goldfish" is right up there with "Rabbit" for weirdness -- but this is our favorite. Your mileage may vary.

10. If You're a Politician, Never Photograph Yourself Shirtless

We doubt that former the Ohio Lieutenant Governor actually moonlights as a stripper, but hey, you never know.

11. Attention Kansans: Pat Roberts Will Piss on Your Head

Or maybe not. But that's certainly the impression we get viewing this odd pitch.

12. This Makes Us Want to Commit a Crime in Nevada

Here's a classic attack on wingnut Sharron Angle from the right, by Sue Lowdon, noted advocate of "Chickencare." Fun!

Honorable Mention...

Carly Fiorina's infamous "Devil Sheep" ad is long, boring and full of boilerplate right-wing pabulum about her supposedly big-spending primary opponent, Tom Campbell, but no list of bizarre political ads would be complete without it. Fiorina actually won her primary, only to spend tens of millions of dollars to get walloped by a 10-point spread to Barbara Boxer in the general election.

Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet. He is the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy: And Everything else the Right Doesn't Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America. Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter.
Sign Up!
Get AlterNet's Daily Newsletter in Your Inbox
+ sign up for additional lists
Select additional lists by selecting the checkboxes below before clicking Subscribe:
Election 2018