In a US election cycle in which "outsider" candidates have dominated both races, traditional forms of TV advertising have struggled to gain traction.
The grassroots campaign of Bernie Sanders for the Democrats, and its more unhinged parallel run by Republican Donald Trump, have undercut the customary importance of spending millions in campaign donations buying space on TV to leverage a message, a biography or an attack.
However, with the primary elections starting next week, all the candidates, including Sanders and Trump, have started to pour money into TV, with mixed results.
Called 'Off The List,' the advert (below) was paid for by Mike Huckabee’s super PAC, one of the many political action committees that collect campaign funds to be used to boost its own candidate or attack a rival, in this case Texas Senator Ted Cruz.
After an opening shot of the Bible and a jibe about gay marriage, a woman says: “I also hear Cruz gives less than 1 percent at church.”
“He doesn’t tithe?” replies her co-star.
The performances are so wooden you can almost identify the species of tree. Yet the point is clear: Ted Cruz is a “phony” Christian. It's a damning charge fired at Iowa’s evangelicals that have a huge say in who leaves the state with a glut of delegates after Monday's caucuses.
According to the PAC, $400,000 will be spent buying airtime for the advert in the days leading up to the vote. It's a last-ditch effort for Huckabee's team, which needs a strong showing from their candidate if he is to continue in the race. The former governor of Arkansas relies heavily on the evangelical vote currently being courted by Cruz, hence the sting.
It does, however, get worse. Earlier this month, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, another candidate for the GOP nomination, was snapped sporting a pair of rude Cuban heels. This garb is OK for Harry Styles but not for a potential commander in chief, so the blogs bemoaned.
Marco Rubio is rocking some seriously fashionable black boots today in New Hampshire. pic.twitter.com/lwiSWuuCUt— Michael Barbaro (@mikiebarb) January 4, 2016
Soon after, an attack was posted online by Jeb Bush's super PAC ‘Right To Rise’ that painted Rubio as a political flip-flopper, a fair charge considering the senator’s history of changing positions on immigration.
The advert features a man in large heels strutting to Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Boots’ with altered lyrics and a psychedelic background.
However, the 2016 campaigns have also given birth to some very good adverts.
Entitled 'These Hands,' this spot from Ben Carson's PAC was revealed in early December. The film shows everyday Americans revealing their palms in a message of unity. Unfortunately for the campaign, Carson has spent the intervening months hobbling himself with talk of China intervening in Syria and the pyramids being used as grain silos.
Last week an advert was aired that was immediately lauded as one of the best in recent election history.
So good is the Bernie Sanders film currently running in Iowa and the second primary state New Hampshire that even his main rival Hillary Clinton conceded that she “loved it.”
The advert, which received more than a million views within 24 hours of its launch, shows scenes of Americana cut with shots of the candidate at huge rallies. Simon and Garfunkel’s 1968 folk anthem “America” thrusts the edit along.
There’s no talking, no denunciations. More an uplifting if schmaltzy vision of the US, far removed from the lines of division peddled by Trump.
The advert could well be decisive for Sanders who is tied with Clinton in Iowa and far ahead in New Hampshire.
And unlike the myriad politicians that have fallen foul of irate musicians in recent years, Art Garfunkel gave the Sanders campaign permission to use the iconic song, noting that, “monied interests have gone too far and have rigged the system.”
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