What kind of political ads do you think are most effective?

You’ll likely be bombarded with political ads, fliers and emails between now and the election on Nov. 6. Today’s Question: What kind of political ads do you think are most effective?

(As part of our On Message project, we’re fact checking the claims made in political ads, fliers, emails, etc. and finding out who’s paying for them. But we need your help collecting the ads. Find out how to help here.)

  • Rich

    One of the earliest lessons learned by every American child who has seen a toy ad on TV, and then went to the toy store, is that grownups lie for money. By the time that child has reached voting age, that lesson ought to have been massively re-enforced and expanded to “TV ads are lies”.

    So why does anyone pay any attention at all to political campaign ads?

    Beats me.

  • reggie

    It’s pretty clear that the most effective political ads are negative. Paint your opponent in the worst possible light, drum up your constituents’ deepest fears and blame your opponent for them, lie and threaten. Repeat ad nauseum.

    It demeans us as a nation and it will lead to the end of participatory democracy as we’ve known it, but in the short-run it usually works.

  • Rich in Duluth

    Just like ads for brand name products, I assume that any of the political ads we see have been thoroughly studied for effectiveness and must, indeed, work. I think this says more about those of us who vote than about the candidates who put the ads out there.

    If we want more informative, substantial ads, then we must stop responding to negative statements, unsubstantiated claims and out of context sound bites and demand detailed explanations and plans from candidates.

  • Steve the Cynic

    “Effective” at what? Winning elections at any cost? Then clearly it’s the fear-mongering, anger-stoking sort. They do so by mobilizing the base and discouraging moderates from voting at all. It’s a sad commentary on us that such strategies work. Effective at strengthening our democracy, social cohesion, and mutual understanding? We don’t know, because none of them are trying to do that.

  • jon

    So far the candidates for president have spent ~$600 million, The federal stimulus package in 2009 was ~$700 Billion (That Billion with a B). If the candidates manage to up their spending about one thousand fold, and get us out of this recession because of it, I will consider the advertising effective.

    Heck if it’s all wealthy donors, and the money goes to middle/low income workers we might be able to get rid of the whole class in equality thing too.

  • Jim G

    The ads that accidentally tell the truth are the most effective. My 80 year old mother who has always leaned Republican told me she watched both the Republican and Democratic conventions.

    “All of them?” I asked incredulously.

    “Well the important speeches,” she responded. She then added, “You know those new Republicans are crazy.”

    Thank you, Mom!

    The truth was apparent even in well prepared and thought out messages prepared by the smart spinmeisters running the Republican Convention.

    New T-Party Republicans,

    Keep those crazy ideas coming, because it’s sorta working for me.

  • Henri Vasnier

    A theory worth considering: the purpose — not just the effect, but the objective — of most political advertising is to keep the middle two-thirds of the electorate away from the polls. Our hypercommitted nutballs are slightly more numerous than the other party’s hypercommitted nutballs, so we’ll win if everybody else just stays home.

  • Ann

    I look for values in ads:strong families and marriages, standing behind Israel, supporting new companies and small companies, wisdom in spending. Give incentives to real companies that provide full time jobs instead of paying out money for sports stadiums.Schools need to be accountable because schools that spend more money aren’t always the best schools.Income taxes should be limited and partially replaced with taxes that empasize “the more you spend, the more you pay.” (sales taxes) If studyiing Mars is beneficial, let private companies spend the billions to do it.Encourage competition in the health insurance industry so that you aren’t forced to work for a large company to get health insurance.I look for ads that include these values.

  • bob

    Since the thresholds for effectiveness include total honesty, no distortions, no fear-mongering, no character assasination, and full context, there is no such thing as an effective political ad.

  • boB from WA

    The ones that aren’t run. Use the money for some actual good, like taking care of the widow, the orphan, the sojourner.

  • Lance

    Ads that rely on verifiable numbers work for me.

    23 million Americans out of work or underemployed.

    47 million people on food stamps.

    $16 trillion in debt.

    This is not the change you were looking for.

  • jockamo

    If we are going to have any “rules” at all about what a candidate is allowed to say, or put in his political ads, the first rule should be that a candidate cannot say what his opponent “thinks” or “means” or “is going to do, if elected.”

    It should be only legal to say what YOU think, or what YOU are going to do. Your opponent will tells us what he thinks, and will do.

    This cheap tactic, that Obama and Biden use extensively everyday, only serves to drag down the campaign to the proverbial bottom of the barrel.

    “Romney thinks you don’t deserve….”

    “The Republicans want to cheat you out of……..”

    “Ryan will kill your Grandma by denying her the medicines she needs.”

    No sane person believes such blatant lies. And it should be illegal to say them. Obama, you don’t know what Romney thinks, so quit pretending that you do. Tell us, for once, what YOU think.

    You can’t go into court and testify to what the other person thinks. The judge won’t allow it. Same should apply in elections.

  • GregX

    The ones where a politician takes ownership of their mistakes, honors the opposition for their contributions and fairly describes their leadership or supporting role in the process. In short – the ones that never get run.

  • David Poretti

    Assuming the purpose of the ad is to help get your candidate elected or your amendment passed, than it is clear that ads that terrify, by whatever means necessary, the uninformed/undecided into either voting for your candidate or not voting at all are far and away the most effective. Lee Atwater, the God-Father of smear campaigns, proved it works, and every election since then has relied on his formula.

  • CarlS

    The ads that appeal to the most base emotions and predilections regardless of content, unfortunately. Anyone who is swayed and accepts a political ad’s message without checking out its accuracy is no more astute than a child picking out a cereal based on how colorful the clown on the box is.

  • kim

    I suppose that depends on what you mean by “effective”. I’m going to take that to mean what kind of ad would I find persuasive. That would be an ad where the politician says, “I have a plan. Here’s what it is, here’s why I think it’s the thing to do.” It would help, at that point, if I agreed with them too.

    In reality, I figure ads are about them telling us what they think we want to hear. Based on ads, I’ll most likely vote against who ever comes off as most unfair and unreasonable.

    I can only think of one time when a media event actually affected my vote. That was the debates, the year Jesse Ventura ran for governor, I was planning to vote for Skip Humphrey. I figured he’d do a pretty good job. I was actually looking forward to voting for a guy that I liked, for a change. Then I listened to the debates. Darn! I was really impressed with Ventura. He was obviously smart and he came off as being a straight shooter who wasn’t going to play games. I didn’t agree with everything he said, but at least you could see there was a thought process and that he was willing to admit that he didn’t know EVERYTHING. I voted for him and I’d do it again. For me, it’s not as important that I agree with the person as it is that I can trust their judgement. That turns out to be a rare quality.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Of course, jockamo/georges, that rule you propose would effectively silence much of the GOP’s rhetoric these days, too.

  • david

    I assume, rightfully so, that both side (only two? Really?) Are full of sh*% and ignore all ads. Whether you are doing something important like electing a politician, or buying a car, there are better places to get information before making a decision. Unfortunately the marketing geniuses have already deluded much of the population into brand loyalty, even if it’s against their best interest.

  • Leonard

    To add to another’s point I would say, that ads that rely on verifiable numbers and not what is skewed with word play, is what works to influence…the facts by the numbers tell the real story_ For example: here’s the numbers.

    23 million Americans out of work or underemployed. The highest number of out of work Americans since 1930

    47 million people on food stamps. That’s an increase of over 40% in the past 3 years, and only partly due to lowering the criteria to be eligible.

    $16 trillion in debt. That is more than all the presidents combined have cost our country. Over $1 trillion each year has been added to our debt with nothing much to show for it. Each so called TARP stimulus job since 2009, has cost over $275,000 each to create! That number doesn’t include the lost new jobs such as Solyndra gave away or the GM jobs made in Mexico.

    The numbers are still the best add against the incum,bent. They show Americans paid for a $2 BILLION loan at zero interest to Brazil so__ they_ could do deep water drilling for oil. Per Obama’s speech, ” we’d like to be Brazil’s best customer of oil.” Then he shuts down our own oil drilling leases but takes credit for increased oil production when that_ was from the Dakotas PRIVATE lands he has no control over. The numbers when looked at closely tell the real story that he doesn’t want us to know.

    Our Consulates and Embassy were understaffed for security because_ the state dept under Obama’s reign said, ” we want to keep a low profile in Libya and Egypt.” Our own Ambassidor is killed, 2 former SEALS and another dept worker killed all as a result of weak leadership, poor choices and all to appease our enemies.

    Blacks between the ages of 18-30 are at a higher unemployed rate than in 2009. 26%? in urban areas.

    “This is not the change you were looking for.”

  • georges

    Now, a political ad that would be effective might go something like this:

    (short video clips of the protesting striking teachers in Chicago, dressed all in red, interspersed with other short clips of protesters in Egypt, Libya, etc., burning the flag, breaking into embassies, general rioting, interspersed with clips from Wisconsin showing protesting teachers behaving like little children)

    Voice over, Obama speaks:

    “I sent Rahm to Chicago to be my Mayor in my town. Even had to cheat to get him on the ballot. Now look. Rahm has turned into Scott Walker. I thought the muslims liked me. Now look. What’s happening? It’s all falling down, my little house of hopes.

    I think I will vote for Romney. Maybe he can do….something……that works.”


  • Kurt Nelson

    To be effective I want ads to follow the outline made by jackamo, but I do prefer them to be tinged with more racism and homophobia, so maybe jackamo could consult with the Romney campaign for me on that. I would like all ads to consult with Leonard about facts, cause nobody has the facts like him. In doing so, they would pick up that tinge of racism and homophobia I long for. Keep rollin’ boys.

  • David Poretti

    Wouldn’t it be better if political ads had to follow the same “truth in advertising” rules of business marketing? There would still be a steady diet of “puffery, stretchers and benders”, but the out-right lies and character assassination that is SOP would thankfully come to an end.

  • David Poretti

    I remember an ad run against Paul Wellstone that stated he had voted against funding a disabled veterans program, implying that he was against our wounded vets. The ad was true, in that Senator Wellstone did vote against the funding bill, along with 90+ other Senators – the bill had a poison pill in it, and was only put to a vote for political ammunition to be used during the next election cycle. The ad didn’t state, however, that Senator Wellstone voted in favor of the funding for disabled veterans in another bill that did pass, nor that the VFW has long considered Senator Wellstone to be their very best friend in Washington. The politicking that goes on to distort an incumbent’s position is as dishonest as the bald-faced lies that are told with a smile. Or is that a smirk?

  • Steve the Cynic

    As the old saying goes: Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.

  • Lawrence

    In terms of making a decision about the candidates, I’m confident the ads don’t help me decide who to vote for—but, I’m one of those rare people that actually goes on candidates’ webpages and literally read what they stand for or are against. In terms of what angers me about a candidate or a party is when an ad that is false or tries to play the race card without coming out and saying that’s what they are doing is aired. Thus, in 2008, when the Republicans kept trying to brand Obama first as some one anti-white (the Reverend Wright incident), then as a Muslim (the whole name and US citizenship incident) and then a Socialist (the whole Acorn incident), all examples of “the race card,” I was so infuriated the Republican Party that I actually studied their positions much much much more critically than I ever had before in my entire lifetime. That stuff greatly angers me.

  • jockamo

    It isn’t “playing the race card” to point out what Jerimiah Wright actually said, and that Barack and Shelly were members and attendees at the Rev Wright’s church.

    Jerimiah Wright is a racist. Plain and simple. No one could argue the point. And, seeing the Obamas were members of that church, they, at the very least, have some ‘splainin’ to do.

    Playing the race card, in this instance, is the attitude, “You can’t bring up race just because of what Wright preached. Obama is black, therefore only he can talk about race. You can’t. Only he can call people racist. You can’t.”

    Now, that’s playing the race card. And the Democrats are very skilled at playing it.

    It is truly unfortunate that the Liberals refuse to join the Conservatives and get beyond race in this country. But they never will. The Libs make too much money by keeping racial strife alive.

    Imagine…….a Party that promotes something as ugly as that………and does it for money.

    Absurd, but true.

  • Jennifer

    The one’s that dare to tell the truth about the world’s most utilitarian plant, Cannabis/hemp and the failed War on Drugs:

    “The war on drugs has been an utter failure. We need to rethink and decriminalize our nation’s marijuana laws.” – Barack Obama, January 21, 2004 debate

    “When I was a kid I inhaled frequently. That was the point.” – Barack Obama, 44th U.S. President

    “Human physical life is addictive.”- Robert Monroe

    “There are just laws and there are unjust laws. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

    “Two of my favorite things are sitting on my front porch smoking a pipe of sweet hemp, and playing my Hohner harmonica.” – Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President, from a letter written by Lincoln during his presidency to the head of the Hohner Harmonica Company in Germany

    “Prohibition… goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes… A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded. “- Abraham Lincoln

    “Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere! “- George Washington, First U.S. President

    “I am convinced that there are genuine and valid levels of perception available with cannabis (and probably with other drugs) which are, through the defects of our society and our educational system, unavailable to us without such drugs.”

    ~ Carl Sagan

    “The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.” – Carl Sagan

    “The best hemp and the best tobacco grown on the same kind of soil. The former article is of first necessity to the commerce and marine, in other words to the wealth and protection of the country. The latter, never useful and sometimes pernicious, derives its estimation from caprice.”

    -Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President, Jefferson’s journal entry / March 16, 1791

    “the greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add an useful plant to it’s culture; especially a bread grain. next in value to bread, is oil.”

    – Thomas Jefferson Memorandum of Services to My Country, after 2 September 1800

    “Some of my finest hours have been spent on the back of my veranda, smoking hemp and observing as far as the eye can see.” – Thomas Jefferson, U.S. President

    If the words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” don’t include the right to experiment with your own consciousness, then the Declaration of Independence isn’t worth the hemp it was written on.

    – Terence McKenna

    “We shall, by and by, want a world of hemp more for our own consumption. “- John Adams, 2nd U.S. President

    “Those who, while they disapprove of the character and measures of a government, yield to it their allegiance and support are undoubtedly its most conscientious supporters, and so frequently the most serious obstacles to reform.”

    Henry David Thoreau

    “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “However, the connection of hemp as a crop and marijuana seems to be exaggerated. The drug is usually produced from wild hemp or locoweed which can be found on vacant lots and along railroad tracks in every state. If federal regulations can be drawn to protect the public without preventing the legitimate culture of hemp, this new crop can add immeasurably to American agriculture and industry.” – Popular Mechanics, 1938

    “Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?”

    – Henry Ford

    “It really puzzles me to see marijuana connected with narcotics dope and all of that stuff. It is a thousand times better than whiskey. It is an assistant and a friend. “- Louis Armstrong

    “Marijuana never kicks down your door in the middle of the night. Marijuana never locks up sick and dying people, does not suppress medical research, does not peek in bedroom windows. Even if one takes every reefer madness allegation of the prohibitionists at face value, marijuana prohibition has done far more harm to far more people than marijuana ever could.”—William F. Buckley, Jr. (1925-2008)

    Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself; and where they are, they should be changed. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against possession of marihuana in private for personal use… Therefore, I support legislation amending Federal law to eliminate all Federal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marihuana. – Jimmy Carter, U.S. President: Message to Congress, August 2, 1977.

    “I now have absolute proof that smoking even one marijuana cigarette is equal in brain damage to being on Bikini Island during an H-bomb blast.” -Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. President

    “If adults want to take such chances (with marijuana) that is their business.” -Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. President

    “When I first began to study marijuana in 1967, I naïvely believed that its only use was as a recreational drug. I soon came to understand that it also had a second important utility, as a medicine, and I published (along with James B. Bakalar) Marijuana, the Forbidden Medicine. Just as penicillin, after its discovery as an antibiotic in 1941, was soon hailed as a wonder drug because of its limited toxicity, its versatility in treating a number of different kinds of symptoms and syndromes, and its limited cost, we believe that marijuana, for the same three reasons, will eventually be hailed as a wonder medicine. Over the last decade and a half I have come to believe that there is a third category of marijuana use –enhancement.”

    -Lester Grinspoon

    “When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and I didn’t like it, and I didn’t inhale, and I never tried again.” – Bill Clinton, 42nd U.S. President

    “I think that most small amounts of marijuana have been decriminalized in some places, and should be. We really need a re-examination of our entire policy on imprisonment…Our imprisonment policies are counterproductive.” – Bill Clinton, 42nd U.S. President

    “Now, like, I’m President. It would be pretty hard for some drug guy to come into the White House and start offering it up, you know? … I bet if they did, I hope I would say, ‘Hey, get lost. We don’t want any of that.” – George W. Bush, 43rd U.S. President

    After two years of doctor-and-patient testimony, the D.E.A.s chief administrative law judge, Francis L. Young, ruled that ‘marijuana in its natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substance known to man’. – Nick Jones

    “Doing LSD was one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life.” – Steve Jobs

    “Herb is the healing of a nation, alcohol is the destruction.” – Bob Marley

    “I think people need to be educated to the fact that marijuana is not a drug. Marijuana is an herb and a flower. God put it here. If He put it here and He wants it to grow, what gives the government the right to say that God is wrong?”

    -Willie Nelson

    That is not a drug. It’s a leaf. – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of California

    “We can each resolve, every last one of us, to do the maximum that we can, in each of our given circumstances and by making opportunities, and this then becomes our personal contribution towards ending the worldwide prohibition of cannabis.” – Jayelle Farmer

    “I think we consume far more dangerous drugs that are legal: cigarette smoking, nicotine and alcohol. I feel they cause much more devastating effects physically. We need to lift the prohibition on marijuana.” – former Surgeon General of the United States, Joycelyn Elders voicing her support for legalization of marijuana

    “Aspirin is “safe,” although it claims between 1,000-2,000 people per year.

    With cannabis, it’s been around for thousands of years. There has never been a death – never been a death.

    Is there any other substance in the pharmacoepia about which you can make that claim? I’m not sure there is.” ~ Dr. Lester Grinspoon, M.D.

    “The war may not be quite over but any stigma still left lingering around cannabis consumption today is largely restricted to out of date and increasingly unenforced pieces of legislation. So indelibly stamped on our culture has cannabis become that it must now rank as the most popular and controversial plant on the planet.” – Nick Jones

    “It’s not what we have in this life – it’s who we are as people and how we use our short time on this earth to bring about justice for people.” -Jayelle Farmer

    “Anorexia, emesis, pain, inflammation, multiple sclerosis, neurodegenerative disorders (Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, Alzheimer’s disease), epilepsy, glaucoma, osteoporosis, schizophrenia, cardiovascular disorders, cancer, obesity, and metabolic syndrome-related disorders, to name just a FEW, are being treated or have the potential to be treated by cannabinoids.” Dr. Mechoulam (Cannabinoid Researcher since 1960 – present) PMID: 18286801

    “Carboxyl group (attached to THC) doesn’t allow THC to fit into the Cannabinoid receptor completely, so it needs to be Decarboxylated (removed by Rick Simpson’s method) then THC can slide all the way into the receptor.”

    -Dr. Frankel

    “THC induces the Cancerous cell to make a fatty substance called ceramide, which prompts the cell to start devouring itself, noncancerous cells don’t make ceramide when they come into contact with THC. The healthy cells don’t die.”

    -Biochemists Guillermo Velasco & Manuel Guzmán, Complutense University

    “Normal & Cancerous Immune cells contain Cannabinoid Receptors (CB2), the CB2 can act like a target. Cannabinoids once they bind with the CB2, they can tell the Cancer cell to die. Therefore can be used effectively as an Anti-Cancer agent. The Endocannabinoids that we produce are in such small quantities and rapidly degrade.”

    -Dr. Nagarkatti, Prof. of Immunology, University of South Carolina

    “THC is Antimitogenic or Antiproliferative (inhibits Cancer cell division), Antiangiogenic (inhibits the growth of new blood vessels in Cancers), Proapototic (encourages old cell death before mutating then leading to Cancers) & Antitumoral (counteracting or preventing the formation of malignant tumors; anticancer). Those appear to be the mechanisms that might account for these Antitumoral effects of THC.”

    – Dr. Donald Tashkin, UCLA

    “People who make a personal decision to smoke marijuana should not be subject to prosecution.”—U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D), February 26, 2011

    “I refuse to believe that corporations are people until Texas executes one.”

    – Louis F Curtiss

    “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” Benito Mussolini

    “Be very careful about locating good or God, right or wrong, legal or illegal, at your favorite level of consciousness.” – Timothy Leary

    “There is no Devil, just God when He’s drunk.”

    – Tom Waits

    Genesis 1: 29 “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”

    Ezekiel 34:29 “And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the ignorant any more.”