PoliticsMidterm Elections


When It Comes To Campaign Ads, Authenticity Is Key

What separates a great campaign ad from a dud? Authenticity. Here are some of the best and worst from the 2018 midterms.
Posted at 4:18 PM, Nov 02, 2018

Political candidates have already spent more than $4.7 billion in the 2018 election cycle, making it the most expensive midterm in history, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

All that spending has led to a lot of campaign ads online and on TV, some of them good, many of them bad and some just plain ugly. 

"A great campaign ad will cut across the grain. So, you will see something that will either shock you into attention or will inspire you," said Michael Cohen, founder of the Cohen Research Group.  

A good campaign ad probably won’t tip an election, but buzzworthy ads can bring attention to candidates that many people may not have noticed otherwise. 

And in this campaign cycle, the ads that captured the most attention came from first-time female candidates. 

"The candidates who are running for the first time who are women who are nontraditional candidates from different places are really breaking through if they are coming across as authentic, as normal human beings and as the kind of people who you would want to represent you," Cohen said. 

But there have been a lot of campaign ad duds in the 2018 cycle, many of them from candidates trying their hand at some comedic relief. 

And midterms are generally considered referendums on the current president, so it’s not uncommon to see ads where candidates compare themselves to the president, sometimes very closely.

"You are not the president, you are never going to be the president. And it’s what we were talking about earlier, it’s that in-authenticity that really has you step in it," Cohen said. 

Candidates on both sides have had to walk back their rhetoric after taking it too far in their ads. 

Cohen says the lessons learned from these 2018 campaign ad gaffes will help the parties shape their messaging in 2020. 

"There’s definitely some calibration going on in both parties trying to figure out how much can I be like Trump and on the other hand, how much can I go against Trump and how aggressive can I be without going too far?" Cohen said.