Supported by

Atlantic Politics

Why Aren’t Campaign Ads Working?

Mar 28, 2016 | 30 videos
Video by The Atlantic

The campaign advertisement is as much a staple of the American political process as baby kissing and flag lapel pins. In 2016, preliminary estimates suggest that campaigns will spend a record-breaking $4.4 billion on political advertising. Establishment candidates like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio began their campaigns confident that, as in past elections, their distinct advantage in political ad money would translate to votes and early momentum. Yet, in an election season that seems intent on upending every norm of political campaigning, they spent well over $100 million on campaign ads and both came up empty-handed. Meanwhile, one of the most frugal candidates in the field shot to the front of the pack and has enjoyed frontrunner status for months. The Atlantic’s Andrew McGill weighs in on how—of all the ways Donald Trump has hijacked the political system—his candidacy’s impact on political advertising may be his greatest coup yet.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to

Authors: Andrew McGill, Greyson Korhonen

About This Series

Voices and ideas about politics by The Atlantic