California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina cast her primary opponent, Tom Campbell, as a demon sheep. Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder, who has staked himself to a large lead in the polls, has characterized himself as "one tough nerd" in ads. Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate is running ads about a college prank in which opponent Rand Paul allegedly demanded that a blindfolded woman pray to the "Aqua Buddha."
Consultants know they only have a single shot at your attention, he points out. Moreover, the real goal these days is to get picked up by other media – from the evening news to YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. “The goal is to be so controversial that the 'Today Show’ and ‘Good Morning America’ will replay the clip endlessly and comment on it, keeping the candidate front and center for millions of viewers,” says Mr. Johnson.
In the case of Ms. O’Donnell, he says, this national coverage provides the additional bonus of delivering her message to fellow tea partyers far beyond her own geographical constituency. “That certainly helps with her fundraising,” he adds.
Increasingly, many ads are not even produced to run as TV spots, but rather are released on DVD or on a website for the sole purpose of being replayed – all at little cost to the campaign. This has allowed campaigns to change the format, as well, says Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism at the Pew Research Center.