I’ve heard a lot of complaints of political ads being negative. That doesn’t bother me as much as the fact that political ads are almost uniformly boring. There’s a standard template that almost all of them seem to follow. You take pictures or clips of the politician that you’re bashing and lace them together with text and images of negative things. The text is usually including quotes and headlines against a dark background, such as in this Anti-Trump ad. Alternatively there’s the one where they give a quick montage or people losing jobs, foreclosed houses, terrorists, and other bad stuff.
The problem with these ads is that they’re so forgettable. Each one seems just like every other one, so people will tune them out. The part of the audience that’s not generally interested in politics is given no reason to care. Each ad contains nothing distinctive that’s going to stick in anyone’s memory.
Surely someone could make better, harder-hitting political ads. One way to do it would be to stick the target of the ad in with some recognizable pop culture scene. This would have the advantage of being different, but also of attracting attention even from those who don’t normally follow politics. For example, to show that Donald Trump is a con man, they could do a parody of the old Saturday Night Live ‘Land Shark’ gag, where the ‘Trump Shark’ tricks a little old lady into opening her door (“Plumber … border fence … make American great again … telegram? … waterboarding…”), then swallows her alive. An ad about Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street ties could show her dressed like Scrooge McDuck, diving into a pile of Goldman Sachs money. References to easy-to-identify characters such as Darth Vader or the Incredible Hulk could be used to paint candidates as controlling or erratic and dangerous.