Top 10 Political Campaign Ads of the 2012 US Presidential Election

During the course of the 2012 US Presidential campaign 474 unique TV ads (215 by Democrats and 259 by Republicans) were aired by the Obama, Romney and their supporters.

On top of these paid-for TV ads, there were hundreds, if not thousands, of online videos, websites, apps, yard signs and more.

I won’t pretend that I’ve come close to seeing every single ad, but I’ve never let lack of information stop me before, so here’s my Top 10 political ads from the US Presidential 2012 campaign.

10. Doing fine?

This is one of the better of Romney’s (many, many) attack ads.

9. Sarah Silverman’s Indecent Proposal

Sarah Silverman has an x-rated offer for Mitt Romney’s most generous supporter, Sheldon Adelson.  This was a controversial video, but certainly was amongst the most talked about of the campaign.

8. Mitt Romney Style

With over 17 million views, this is the most viral video of the election.  It’s a fantastic production and stands out amongst all Gagnam Style parodies.

7. Revenge or Love of Country?

Another Romney attack ad which caught a nerve amongst voters. Revenge is not seen as the most preferable motivation for going to vote amongst the overwhelming Christian electorate.

6. #RomneyShambles

As the world prepared for the 2012 Olympic Games, Romney went on an international tour in order to bolster his credentials as a world statesman.  What followed was a world wide phenomenon known as #RomneyShambles.  This video is a good, but the real winner is the hash tag.

5. Sarah Silverman – let my people vote

This was the long-awaited follow-up to ‘The Great Schlep’ from 2008.  Whilst not of the same quality, it is still a very amusing and rousing video.

4. Build

This ad was the first attack ad to really connect with the American people, to the extent that Obama released an ad directly responding to the claims.

3. 47%

At the start of his campaign Mitt Romney held a behind-closed-doors fundraiser for high rolling supporters.  He spoke candidly and passionately about the challenges he feels he faces in opposing Obama for the position of President of the United States. Very unfortunately for Romney’s electoral prospects, there was an undercover reporter in the crowd who video recorded the speech.  This ad was released within 24 hours of the video breaking.  It might not be the most creative execution, but the speed with which is was brought out and put on air deserves massive credit.

2. Firms

This Obama attack ad features hollow singing combined with empty environments to create an eery and uneasy feeling about Mitt Romney.  Making an ad which genuinely makes you feel a bit off about something isn’t easy and Team Obama did it with aplomb in this spot.

1. One Chance

At the start of the campaign Joe Biden explained at the Democratic National Convention what he and his running-mate’s platform for re-election was in a single sentence: “Bin Laden is dead, General Motors is alive”

This spot, featuring the Democrat darling Bill “The Comeback Kid” Clinton, deals with the slightly tricky issue of bragging about killing a man on foreign, supposedly friendly, soil.

It could have been easy to score an own goal with this brief, but the film instead manages to frame Obama as having the characteristics that most Americans want in a leader – a brave, honourable, Decider In Chief.

It’s one of the few spots in this election where viewers are left with a bit of a tingle in the spine.  Great work.

How much money was spent on TV advertising by US Presidential candidates in 2012?

The latest data available shows that 75% of all money the Presidential candidates raised was spent on TV advertising.

This equates to Romney shelling out $472 million and Obama spending $396 million.

Sentiment analysis of the ads carried out by CMAG showed that, contrary to the current narrative of most mainstream commentators, Romney’s campaign was even more negative than that of Obama.

This is unusual. In most elections, the incumbent’s campaign is much more negative than that of the nominee.

The reason being that, after a term in office, the public are usually fairly well informed as to the incumbents policy approach and character. This usually leads campaign managers down the strategic path of “better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t”.

Nominees, on the other hand, have had less time in the lime light and fewer opportunities to develop a policy platform or record on a national scale.  Therefore, traditionally, nominees have to spend the majority of their media money rebutting the incumbents assertions and making a positive case for change in their TV advertising.

In the 2012 Presidential election we saw Obama advertising heavily very early in the race, in order to define Romney.  This was before Romney had time to get his Presidential campaign into full swing and so Obama had the added bonus of his ads appearing in an uncluttered media environment.  It’s hard to estimate the impact of having a free run at the opposition for a period of time, but I suspect it played a telling part in the campaign.

Romney, therefore, made life very hard for himself by going so negative against Obama.  The American public knew all about Obama prior to the campaign starting.  Romney, through his incessant attack advertising, missed an opportunity to positively introduce himself to the electorate with his advertising; when he did so in the 1st Presidential debate the public were immediately interested and the polls swung in his favour accordingly.

During the build up to polling day many commentators, when considering the overwhelming negative nature of the two candidates’ campaigns, sounded the death knell for the ‘positive Presidential campaign’.  However, looking objectively at the result of Romney’s negative campaign, I would be surprised if such an approach was adopted in 2016.

Colin Powell endorses Obama in a rare positive TV ad

Last week, in an interview with CBS, Colin Powell endorsed Obama’s campaign for Presidency.

Powell, who was Secretary of State for Republican President George W Bush from 2001-05, made a series of warm remarks about Obama’s administration, but also made some damning criticisms about Romney’s failings as a candidate.

Obama’s team have decided to make an ad which uses only the positive comments, as opposed to an attack ad using the comments that were derogatory about Romney.

The President’s campaign thus far has been overwhelming negative, so this is quite a refreshing change in tack.

Obama ad – can you name all of Romney’s tax rises in 30 seconds?

Obama has released a new ad that attacks Romney for raising taxes during his time as Governor of Massachusetts.

The extreme levity of the tone of this ad makes the attack quite grating.

It reminds me of a time when I first dropped my lunch tray in the dinning room at school the most annoying little brat in the class tried to lead the piss-taking. To my surprise and delight, everyone laughed at his eagerness to poke fun at me, rather than at my poor platter management.

At that exact moment I realised, as I cleared my plate of Pasta King spaghetti off the lino flooring, you can’t be really smug and annoying yourself and then expect others to follow you in mocking someone else.


Mitt Romney Style (Gagnam Style Parody)

I’m very late to this, but here is a video mocking Mitt Romney – Gagnam Style.

The video featuring a singing, dancing doppelgänger of Mitt Romney is a parody of what is the viral hit of the year (below).

The production values are high and the attacks – along the now-well-established lines of Romney’s wealth, big business agenda and derogatory remarks about the 47% – are very amusing.

It’s got 2 million votes so far and still very much growing.

FedEx Office – The Candidates

One my favourite things about the US elections is the brands that seek to capitalise on the public excitement and wall-to-wall media coverage of all things political by releasing contextual content.

This spot for FedEx by BBDO New York is a classic example.

I would imagine that FedEx print shops get a relatively significant amount of business from the various candidates and campaigns being run.  So this ad will likely be to do both a brand job on a national scale and also push inventory at a local level.

Another social media election

Commentators have now, thankfully, stopped calling every election on earth  “the first internet election”.  However, during this Presidential contest there has been relatively little written around the web campaigns of each candidate (at least compared to 4 years ago).

This is slightly surprising as platforms, such as Twitter, that were still relatively niche in 2008 are now reaching massive audiences across all demographics and are much more likely to be having tangible effects on the result. have created an interesting infographic showing social media activity for this year’s US presidential election compared to that 4 years ago (as well as a host of other comparative statistics).

The difference is, as you might expect, huge.  For example, there was 1.8 million tweets relating to the Presidential election on polling day in 2008.  That number of tweets are posted around every 6 minutes this year.

(Thanks to Lillian for sending).

Social Media Election