Ad watch: Why does the weird Jeff Barth spot work?

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Jeff Barth, who is running in the Democratic primary to challenge South Dakota Republican Rep. Kristi Noem, released a freewheeling campaign ad that could be the weirdest of this election cycle.

As one critic suggests, think Jack Kerouac meets Dale Peterson.

A glimpse of what makes it so special: Barth makes the point that that his daughters “have straight teeth, college degrees and husbands.”

Obviously, our Political Ad Watch club could not resist weighing-in; but not just to make fun of this spot, as easy as that may be, rather to explain why the ad works.

Dave Trotter of the Political Hurricane believes it works because “the viewer is engaged throughout the commercial, while using props to keep the interest. It is sort of a “what’s next” moment, and they are able to pull it off for five whole minutes. In some aspect, this commercial draws you in like Mike Gravel’s 2008 “The Rock” commercial, one of my all time favorites. Both had the ‘what’s next’ moment, but go about it in different ways.

Republican strategist Rick Wilson also sees a historical parallel in Barth’s ad. “It’s a knockoff of one of the greatest ads in a long time: ‘The Man Who Walked Around the World’ ” (Watch that ad here.)

“The problem with doing “Walk-And-Talk” ad like this,” Wilson explains, “is you need an actor, timing, pacing, a real SteadiCam (not some guy sitting in the back of a golf cart).”

Despite Wilson’s spot-on criticisms, there is something oddly attracting about the spot.

Ryan Duffy explains: “Two words: rubber chicken.  It’s memorable, crazy and genius.  To us residents of non-flyover states, his anecdotes and hobbies look and sound unusual.  In South Dakota, they make him one of them.”

Kevin Cate sums it up nicely: “He’s an accomplished chess master and YouTube is his pawn.”

P.S. Here are a few of the best lines from Barth’s ad:

  • “I lived in Gemany before they built the Berlin Wall, I lived in Germany when they built the Berlin Wall.”
  • “I learned chess in Iceland.”
  • “I bicycled a thousand miles through Great Britain with my church youth group.”
  • “I’ve ridden an ostrich, I’ve done a lot of stuff.”
  • “I was state chess champion in 1993.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.