Catchiest campaign ads of 2014: nine pitches that made an impression

What do Barry Manilow, skeet shooting, and driving a car in reverse have to do with the 2014 US elections? Well, this campaign season had no shortage of interesting TV ads – including ones with the motifs just mentioned. Here’s an election-season recap through the lens of ads that have had an influence on voters.

9. Bonus material: Mitch meets Manilow

This is not a real campaign ad, but it made a bit of a splash in the Kentucky Senate race anyway. Here's how. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell released an online video that was simply unscripted footage of himself in various positive settings: smiling to the camera, smiling as he talks with women (a keenly contested voter demographic), smiling with his wife, signing documents, and smiling again. What was the point? Well, this provided free tape that outside groups could readily borrow for pro-McConnell ads.

He's not the only candidate to do this, but in this case, it inspired an Internet meme known as #McConnelling. People paired the images with soundtracks of their own choosing, including the Barry Manilow hit “Can’t Smile Without You.” Whether it influenced the election or not, this Mitch-meets-Manilow video had racked up nearly 80,000 views by Election Day.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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