[I]t’s clear that political ads (when done right) have the power to define a campaign, change voter behavior, and change an election. But the flip side is also true. When an ad’s message misses the mark — when it’s done so poorly that it backfires — it can have dramatic and dire consequences for a candidate. Here are some of the worst ads from 2014:
1. Michigan: Terri Lynn Land’s “Coffee”
If you’re going to pay the extremely high price to write, produce, and buy air time for an ad, it had better have a message worth promoting. In this one, Land takes roughly 12 seconds out of a 30-second spot to say, literally, nothing. She was trying to refute her opponent’s claims that she was “waging a war on women” by asking the viewer to “think about that for a moment,” while she sips coffee, checks her watch and shakes her head. The implication is that simply because she’s a woman, she would fight for women. But she gives no reason why. She was tied for the lead early in the campaign — but fell behind well before election night.
2. Minnesota: Mike McFadden’s “Coach”
Not only does this ad break one of the cardinal rules of political advertising (don’t use kids as props) and not only does it focus on the wrong issues (Obamacare instead of wasteful Washington spending) and not only does it feature a youth football coach encouraging his players to “get out there and hit somebody” (to the horror of every mom in our focus group), this ad ends with a sophomoric hit-a-guy-in-the-crotch joke that’s right off of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” from the 1980s. Terrible message. Terrible approach. Terrible ad.