We Spent $2.4 Billion on Campaign Ads — And This is What We Got

ByBecca Stanek

Political advertising costs soared to an unprecedented $2.4 billion this election season, according to an analysis by research firm Kantar Media reported by the Washington Post.

Campaigns, super PACs and other outside groups have poured money into TV ads in the hopes of having their candidate — and party — come out on top. And there's irrefutable evidence that TV advertising does, in fact, work. Ads often form the main perception of a candidate by the public.

You would think that with all the money at their disposal, plus the importance of effectively reaching voters, the actual quality of the ads would improve. You'd be wrong: This election cycle has spawned some of the most ridiculous and off-the-wall spots in recent memory.

Before this long election season ended, we thought we'd take a look back and examine what $2 billion in TV advertising actually got us this year. The results were not encouraging; they include an awkward send-up of Viagra commercials and "electile" dysfunction, as well as a Senate candidate's threats to blow off people's testicles with a Glock.

Without further ado, here's a sampling of the worst political ads of the 2014 midterms. This is what your campaign donations buy you, America.

1. When the moment is right

Despite the absurdity of making a campaign ad that's reminiscent of a Viagra commercial, J.D. Winteregg's campaign team deserves points for wittiness. This ad, which ran back in April during primary season, likens Winteregg, a tea party challenger for Ohio's 8th District, to a natural male enhancement to help out with folks like Speaker of the House John Boehner who have been in D.C. too long. The ad contends that you should vote for Winteregg because "if you have a Boehner lasting more than 23 years, seek immediate medical attention," also known as Winteregg. 

He didn't win the primary.

2. #GotBalls?

At first glance, it's easy to mistake this for a Saturday Night Live spoof, but it's actually a political ad for Bob Quast, a long-shot independent Senate candidate in Iowa. As a bizarre way to advocate for Second Amendment rights, Quast threatens to use his Glock pistol to "blow your balls off" if anyone comes to his front door to harm his daughters. He assures Iowa voters that he's a friendly type and "they have nothing to fear," as he waves a gun and a knife around. Quast is not going to win.

3. Outrageous

This National Republican Congressional Campaign ad is, indeed, quite outrageous. Apparently, Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., is "bankrupting America" by allowing the government to spend money to study how monkeys act on cocaine. Wait, what?

4. Sean Maloney is a phony baloney

Republican Nan Hayworth sure shows Rep. Sean Maloney, D-N.Y., in this name-calling ad. The ad makes sure the message is really drilled into voters' heads by showing different people calling Maloney "full of baloney" and a "phony" about ten times too many.

5. Cliven Bundy challenges Eric Holder

Slavery should obviously never be a go-to when making ads in the 21st century, but this one seems to have missed the memo. In this ad, rancher Cliven Bundy, a tea party favorite, makes a cameo to help third-party candidate Kamau Bakari fire back at a speech by Attorney General Eric Holder' about racism. The conversation that ensues is unbelievably racist. At one point Bundy says, "It's almost like black folks think white folks owe them something."

6. Loan sharknado

If the movie Sharknado wasn't bad enough, this spoof definitely is. The Michigan Republican Party released this ad to call U.S. Senate candidate Gary Peters a "loan sharknado." In the words of the Vane, "It's so bad that it's uncomfortable to watch."

7. What rhymes with Alison Lundergan Grimes?

Nothing does, apparently. Republican incumbent and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tries to take down Grimes with this rap-like mashup that really isn't working out. 

8. Turtle soup

Senate hopeful Dwayne Stovall promises that he'll vote for Texas, instead of voting for Mitch McConnell like Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has. The best parts? A side-by-side of McConnell and a turtle, followed by the dog saying, "I like turtle soup." 

A chuckle at an ad's absurdity or a gasp at a candidates' boldness (seriously, Cliven Bundy?) might have garnered some entertainment value, but nowhere near a couple billion dollars worth of it. 

Next election, let's hope politicians use that money to come up with some ads that actually wow us. Or, better yet, save that money.