The 2014 Campaign Ads That You Just Can't Stop Replaying States that could determine which party controls the Senate next year have been barraged for months with campaign ads. For better or for worse, here are some of the most noteworthy.

The 2014 Campaign Ads That You Just Can't Stop Replaying

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Let's just come out and say it, campaign ads can be annoying, tiring, especially in an election year like this one, especially if you live in one of the states that could determine control of the Senate where the ads never stop. Of course there are times when an ad grabs your attention. It's creative. It's memorable. But does that mean it's effective? NPR's Ailsa Chang asks that question as part of her round-up of some of the best and worst political ads of 2014.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: What is it that can make a certain cat video go crazy on the Internet? That mysterious quality, that certain je ne sais quoi, whatever it is, that's exactly what one Iowa Republican harnessed this year campaigning for Senate.


JONI ERNST: I'm Joni Ernst. I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So when I get to Washington, I'll know how to cut pork.

CHANG: You want to stop thinking about it, talking about it, but you can't. That is gold in campaign world, but does that make it the best ad of 2014? Erika Franklin Fowler of the Wesleyan Media Project says actual effectiveness is harder to nail down.

ERIKA FRANKLIN FOWLER: It's actually a harder job than you might think to define the best and the worst. I think it's easier to define the ones that stick out.

CHANG: OK, so let's revisit the ads that stuck out for whatever reason, some of them simply by virtue of relentless repetition, like this one from Tea Party Patriots. It's an outside group that blamed Democrat Mary Landrieu of Louisiana for the Affordable Care Act.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Mary Landrieu cast the deciding vote to make you live under Obamacare.

CHANG: Or wait, maybe it was...


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Kay Hagan cast the deciding vote to make you live under Obamacare.

CHANG: No, no, no. This is the guy to blame.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Mark Pryor cast the deciding vote to make you live under Obamacare.

CHANG: And then there were the ads that that were memorable for making a great splash, only to see the candidate drag in the polls later. Here's Terri Lynn Land, the Republican candidate for Senate in Michigan.


TERRI LYNN LAND: Congressman Gary Peters and his buddies want you to believe I'm waging a war on women. Really? Think about that for a moment.

CHANG: She takes a sip of coffee and then spends two-thirds of the commercial saying nothing. The idea was, how could a woman wage a war on women? But Democrats thought of a few answers for that and have been hammering her on pay equity and abortion rights ever since.


SENATOR MARK BEGICH: I'm Mark Begich, and I approve this message.

CHANG: And then there were the negative ads. Media analysts tally more from Democrats than Republicans this year. The possible reason being it's harder to change people's minds about President Obama than it is to discredit a challenger. But some of these ads memorably backfired.


BOB GLEN: I was on the Anchorage Police Force for 20 years.

CHANG: In Alaska, Democrat Mark Begich suggested his opponent, Dan Sullivan, let a dangerous felon loose when he was state attorney general.


GLEN: One of them got out of prison who's now charged with breaking into that apartment building, murdering a senior couple and sexually assaulting their 2-year-old granddaughter.

CHANG: Problem was it's unclear Sullivan ever handled the case, and the victim's family was so offended, the campaign yanked the ad. There were positive ads, too, this year, the kind that tried to make voters feel warm and fuzzy. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had Noelle Hunter tell this story of how her ex-husband kidnapped their daughter and ran off to Africa.


NOELLE HUNTER: I reached out to Senator McConnell, and he took up my cause personally. I can't even talk about him without getting emotional. He cares.

CHANG: The spot ran for a full minute. That's forever in TV time, but with the control of the Senate at stake, money no longer seems to be an object. Ailsa Chang, NPR News, Washington.

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