The Art of the Weird Campaign Ad

The strangest, most fantastical political campaign ads from candidates who'll never win.

Mike Gravel, the unlikely presidential candidate who created what is perhaps the most beloved, abstruse, political campaign ad of the past decade, has got some competition in Minneapolis mayoral candidate Jeff Wagner.

Wager, a Democrat, has produced a video that Taegan Goddard's Political Wire is calling "just outstanding." In the video, Wager emerges from a lake to remind viewers that he will not be taken in by dark money or shady dealers. "I'm cool with making $100,000 a year," said Wagner. "I will not take money from the developers. I will not take money from the political angle."

The populist message recalls the idealism portrayed by Gravel, who promised not to take dirty money. It's just a minute long.

Now compare that to Gravel's ads "Rock" and "Fire," two avant-garde, wordless things, produced by Otis College of Art and Design staff. The first, about three minutes long, shows Gravel staring blankly at the viewer for over a minute before heaving a large rock into a lake and walking slowly away.

The second opens with him collecting wood in a forest and staring into the resultant campfire. Then for seven minutes we watch the fire burn with Gravel's website graphic superimposed.

Gravel's second ad is reminiscent of another fabulous ad for Jeff Barth, the Democratic opponent to Republican Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota. In it he wanders into a forest explaining why D.C. insiders are a bunch of "horse's asses," as fiddle music plays.

He also dons a hard hat, gesticulates wildly with a newspaper, and fires a loaded weapon — all in under five minutes! Be sure to watch at least as far as the part where he casually mentions that his daughters have husbands and straight teeth. We're pretty sure there's a policy proposal in there somewhere.

We leave you with a classic from the Alabama agriculture commissioner's race.

With a backdrop including a horse, a cowboy hat, and a rifle, Dale Peterson asks Alabama Republicans for the nomination. In 71 seconds of uninterrupted brilliance — and the occasional crack of whip — Peterson calls his primary opponent a "dummy" while promising to name name and take no prisoners in his fight against "thugs and criminals" and "illegals bused in by the thousands." We call this political approach the patriotic throat-punch.

And so ends our coverage of the best political campaign ads for candidates who went nowhere. Did we mention it's Friday in Washington?

Patrick Reis contributed contributed to this article