Political campaigns spend a huge percentage of their budget on campaign ads. They’re surprisingly still effective.

To be perfectly honest, most of them are bad. Most campaigns played it safe and went with the same style of advertisements they’ve used for 20 years or more.

[Longleaf story: N.C. political ads haven’t changed in two decades]

But I did find a few worth highlighting. I leaned heavily on the N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation’s fantastic collection of campaign ads to do my research.

The best N.C. political ads of 2018

Richard Petty for Marsy’s Law

This is the proper use of star power. Petty is still a very recognizable and popular figure in North Carolina, and he’s a natural spokesman for this amendment. The Marsy’s Law advocates have hit on an effective message with “Criminals have stronger rights than their victims.”

Anita Earls for N.C. Supreme Court

Earls effectively conveys her bio, her reason for running and the power of the office she’s seeking.

Holly Grange for N.C. House

Grange pulls off a similar feat to Earls. This is a powerful ad in what could be a watershed year for women candidates. This ad gives me chills in a good way.

Leslie Cohen for N.C. House

This is probably the best single-issue ad I’ve seen this year. It can be powerful when an important issue drives somebody to get involved in politics. I don’t love the dated-sounding voiceover and b-roll, but this does a decent job conveying that message.

Trudy Wade for N.C. Senate

This is a great introductory ad for a candidate in what can be a low-information race. The cute puppies create a memorable link for voters and a clear emotion they’ll recall at the ballot box.

Jeff Tarte for N.C. Senate

If your ad is notable enough to make headlines, that’s a good ad. Tarte recruited a colleague from across the aisle to endorse his campaign. That generated a fair amount of earned media to bolster an efficiently produced advertisement.

The worst N.C. political ads of 2018

Mainstreet Merchants for Republicans

If this ad looks cookie cutter, that’s because it is. This group literally cut and pasted different candidates into the same exact ad.

Bill Brawley for N.C. Senate

There are plenty of over-the-top attack ads this cycle, but this one against Rachel Hunt stood out for being particularly ridiculous. The typography is amateurish and the stock video would be more fitting in a late-night infomercial. Let’s save the terms “radical” and “extremist” for terrorists, shall we?

Conservation Votes against Stephen Ross

This ad is cut from the same cloth as the one against Rachel Hunt. I’m continuing to see attack ads that cite money accepted from “corporate PACs” or “special interests,” and I just don’t believe that’s a winning message anymore. Voters are smarter than that.

Dan McCready for U.S. Congress

With the amount of money the McCready campaign raised, I was surprised and disappointed to see how conventional he went with advertising. Some ads were better than others, but this one is particularly generic for a candidate with so much buzz about him.

See one we missed? Send us a note.


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