Another campaign season, another bizarre political ad. Already an unorthodox candidate (he was CEO of Godfather’s Pizza for 10 years), Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain has released a campaign ad that’s simple and strange at the same time.
The video features the candidate’s chief of staff, Mark Block, urging Americans to “take back America” and elect Cain. The kicker comes at the end, though—with a catchy dance tune playing, Block looks into the camera as he takes a slow drag from a cigarette, then blows smoke into the lens. Its meaning is unclear, but the unorthodox ad has gone viral, with nearly a million views on YouTube. It remains to be seen whether the Cain train can ride all the way to the White House, but this is one ad that won’t soon be forgotten.
Cain’s TV spot is not, of course, the first bizarre campaign ad. In 2010 Carly Fiorina lost her bid to be a U.S. Senator for California, but she made her mark with a campaign ad attacking a Republican rival’s conservative record.
The “demon sheep” ad featured images of her opponent spliced with images of possessed sheep with iridescent red eyes, peeking out from behind trees on a stormy night. Fiorina handily won the GOP primary.
Just when it seemed like nothing in politics could shock us anymore, Christine O’Donnell appeared on the scene. “I’m not a witch,” she explained. “I’m nothing you’ve heard.”
O’Donnell was the Tea Party favorite for the 2010 Senate race in Delaware. She came under attack when Bill Maher aired an old clip from Politically Incorrect in which she said she had dabbled witchcraft. O’Donnell’s attempts to clear the air in a TV ad spawned a Saturday Night Live spoof, and she ultimately lost the election.
The grandfather of all bizarre political ads, though, is the infamous LBJ “daisy ad.” In 1954, Lyndon Johnson was running for a second term in the White House against Barry Goldwater. The ad features a little girl pulling petals off a daisy, when suddenly a male voice counts down and an explosion goes off. A mushroom cloud appears in the sky.
The daisy ad was meant to link Goldwater with possible nuclear war, and thus scare voters into voting for Johnson. It aired only once before it was pulled from TV, but it’s considered a landmark in political advertising, and Johnson won the election in a landslide.