It may have been an election off-year, but that didn’t stifle the creativity of political ad-makers in 2013.
Between a handful of congressional special elections, two gubernatorial races, scores of City Hall contests across the country and policy battles in Washington, there were plenty of spots on the airwaves — or YouTube — this year.
From the clever to the downright bizarre, here are five of the most memorable political ads of 2013:
Carl Sciortino, a Democratic candidate in the Massachusetts 5th congressional district special election, put his father in front of the camera for his first ad.
Politicians often use family members in campaign spots, but this one was particularly noteworthy: Sciortino’s father is a member of the Tea Party. The two engaged in a playful back-and-forth about their political differences.
“I’m Carl Sciortino, and I’ll never forget that conversation with my Dad where I had to come out and tell him —”
“Wait for this,” his father interrupts.
“That I was a Massachusetts liberal,” says Sciortino, who is also openly gay.
“And he’s proud of it!” his father responds.
While the ad gained plenty of national media attention, it didn’t do the trick for Sciortino in the crowded primary: he failed to advance to the general election.
New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio also used a family member to great effect in his first TV ad of the campaign — and it may have helped to turn the primary election in his favor.
With his father down in the polls, 15-year-old Dante de Blasio spoke directly into the camera in a 30-second spot to explain how the city’s public advocate would usher in an era of change — particularly by ending the New York Police Department’s controversial “stop-and-frisk” policy “that unfairly targets people of color.”
“Bill de Blasio will be a mayor for every New Yorker, no matter where they live or what they look like. And I’d say that even if he weren’t my dad,” he says.
The ad not only humanized the candidate and showed how stop-and-frisk hit close to home for him, it made Dante and his signature Afro famous.
Wake Up Minneapolis
In an online ad that went viral, a shirtless Wagner emerges from one of the Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes — wearing a swimming suit and holding a coffee mug — to deliver a rather unorthodox message.
“Over a million dollars is going to be spent to become the mayor of Minneapolis — a $100,000-a-year job. You’re not the ones that are deciding who you vote for. The media and the money is!” he exclaims.
“I’m cool with making $100,000 a year. I will not take money from the developers; I will not take money from the political angle. I will not even go to the strip clubs anymore. Wake the f*** up!”
If you thought the Minneapolis ad was strange, just wait till you see this one from former Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle’s super PAC.
The video shows clips of prominent Democrats including President Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking — each followed by a donkey appearing to do Howard’s Dean’s infamous scream from the 2004 presidential election.
The ad even features a donkey saying, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” in President Bill Clinton’s voice.
The words “Democrat-speak… it all sounds the same” appear on screen to close out the ad.
Opt Out – Creepy Uncle Sam
As part of a campaign to discourage young adults from enrolling in the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges, the conservative group Generation Opportunity employed an Uncle Sam costume with an oversized head that became universally defined by one term: creepy.
In one ad titled “The Exam,” a nurse leads a young woman into a hospital room where she puts on a gown and and sits down on an exam table, placing her legs in a set of stirrups. But once the nurse leaves, Creepy Uncle Same emerges out of nowhere to examine her, causing the woman to scream.
A similar scenario plays out in a second ad, titled “The Glove.” That spot features a male patient lying on his side, presumably in preparation for a prostate exam. Uncle Sam again pops up once the doctor exits, snapping on a pair of latex gloves.
“Don’t let the government play doctor. Opt-out of Obamacare,” the text on the screen reads at the end of both ads.