Home » OH, THAT’S GOOD: Political Ads Are Coming … And a Few of Them Will be Pretty Good

OH, THAT’S GOOD: Political Ads Are Coming … And a Few of Them Will be Pretty Good

by | Sep 17, 2019

If you’re like me, you’re dreading the upcoming onslaught of political advertising we’re all going to be subjected to in 2020.

A quick Google search reveals that next year all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 34 Senate seats, and 13 state and territorial governorships are all up for grabs. There’s also a slew of state and local elections to consider, and of course there’s that other race to determine the future occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

You probably agree that, for the most part, political ads are terrible. They remind me of the TV spots we’ve all seen for local car dealerships and cheap furniture outlets. They scream at us and say virtually nothing interesting or intriguing. Just hard sell junk. To say they contain a shocking dearth of creativity, nuance and engagement would be a gross understatement.

But fear not! My favorite political ad agency here in Washington, the redoubtable and resourceful Putnam Partners, has once again managed to break through the crap being produced by so many other shops trying to create political ads.

A perfect example is this spot for Valerie Plame. You remember her, don’t you? She was the former CIA operative outed by her own government. Check this out:


Putnam absolutely nails it with this spot. I really don’t care if Plame’s a Democrat or a Republican. But this spot tells me in a very strong and powerful way that she’s a bad ass who can get stuff done.

Ads like this are exactly what’s needed to save political advertising and bring it to a new level that actually has some meaning for viewers. With ads like this, Putnam and Plame make me have hope in politics again. ISH!

It really should come as no surprise, though, because Putnam has stepped up to the political plate before, and with great success. According to its website, the agency has produced national television ads for five American presidential campaigns, including President Obama’s, and served as ad makers and strategists for campaigns in 47 states. Putnam has helped elect 11 U.S. senators, 12 U.S. governors and 62 members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Not a bad record

In any event, a huge shout out and a hearty congratulations to the team that created this spot, and even more of a shout out to Valerie Plame for having the courage to go forward…while going backwards (in the ad, that is)!

Matt Smith is founder of SmithGifford, and has close to 40 years’ experience as a creative and agency leader at the nation’s top agencies.  SmithGifford is a Capitol Communicator sponsor.

You can find Matt Smith’s earlier columns at Oh, That’s Good.

About the Author

Matt Smith

Matt Smith is the Founder of Smith Gifford, with close to 40 years’ experience as a creative and agency leader at the nation’s top agencies. He's won literally every award out there, Cannes, Clios, One Show Gold, Silver and Bronze, ADDYs, ADDYs and more ADDYs, and even Pillar of the Community and Best Places to work twice. A fourth generation Washingtonian, he can't spell or understand grammar, having spent the first 10 years of his life in schools in France and Germany. Even though "Learning three languages before age 10 messed me up bad," Matt has written a hugely successful website called WoodyBoater for the past 13 years, for which he was featured on CBS Sunday Morning.


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