When people talk about great political ads, they usually mean the ads are "good."
The average political ad has the visual tonal brightness of a Lowe's ad (things can get better; let's roll up our sleeves!), while the great ads from this cycle are the ones that go viral. In these ads, it's usually the golden hour in a slightly unusual place. There is music that sweeps and direct-to-camera narration of a gripping personal story, interspersed with photographs from the past.
And those are all great and lovely and wonderful. You feel inspired about the perseverance of the American spirit. Ads should look like that. Good for these ads.
But what about the ones that don't look like that? What about the ads that improve your life through mere consumption? What about this Bruce Poliquin ad that involves what feels like hundreds of people crammed inside a Maine hot dog diner shouting "Yeah!!"?
May I submit the actual best ad of the 2018 cycle:
Is it "great"? If you expand your mind, it is!
American politics continues to nationalize in both issue and media coverage, but also in advertising aesthetics, so any time you see an ad, you basically have seen an ad like it before. But when a campaign does something outside the aesthetic (i.e. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's cool poster design) there's also a reason that feels effective and fresh. And, yes, sure, this does feel a little like an ad you catch on a recording of the 1993 Rose Bowl — but that's kind of what makes it weird and fun and delightful. It's so regionally specific! "Stopping Mainers from buying heating oil" is an actual attack line! Forget Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi!
I mean, right off the bat, you know it's going to be good, because you see this:
For another thing, there appear to be 200 angles inside this diner.
Like, how big is this place?
How many people are there?
How does everyone fit in here?
If you watch this ad enough, you'll start examining this photo and referring back to other parts of the ad to figure out where everyone is and wondering what you've done with yourself!
Stopping Mainers from buying heating oil?
Where are we now?
Why do people keep popping out of doorways? Did they film this in one sitting? If you walk inside Simones' Hot Dog Stand, will people just start whirling around to tell you that Bruce Poliquin is good on jobs?
Who can know?
Of course, no one emerges from nowhere in this ad like this doctor. (He is a real doctor, and the Central Maine Medical Center did not care for this ad.)
This is basically the political ad equivalent of the following scene in Airplane!
I know I'm having fun with this and, like, yes, probably this did not move the masses to vote for the candidate here (no one has won this race yet, because of Maine's ranked-choice ballot system). But, unlike so many political ads, there's no way seeing this ad on your television could ever annoy you! That's an achievement in and of itself.
I mean, check out the big finish: "Bruce Poliquin works for Maine."
Which is, honestly, how all political ads should end.