The Living Room Candidate website, courtesy of the Museum of the Moving Image, has collected televised presidential campaign advertisements from 1952 to the present day. They offer a great window for understanding some key trends in US history since 1945.
Here is a pioneering TV ad from the 1952 campaign, presented in what was then popular movie newsreel style, for the Republican campaign of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Think carefully about what the commercial is emphasizing –and also what it omits.
Compare that 1952 effort to this more polished, 1960 John F. Kennedy campaign ad, designed to invoke some of the more popular TV jingles of the 1950s.
Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) ad in the history of modern presidential campaigns appeared as a paid advertisement on TV only once –the so-called “Daisy ad” from 1964. Students should be able to explain what this ad was about, and why it was so powerful and controversial.
The Richard Nixon campaign in 1968 revolutionized the use of TV commercials in presidential contests, relying on them more than any other previous campaign organization. These two notable examples show some of the new techniques of advertising and also help highlight the shift in national climate since 1952.
The foreboding nature of those 1968 ads helps explain the strategy of calculated optimism behind this biographical short from the 1976 Jimmy Carter campaign. What’s also especially useful about this effort is how it captures several political and social trends from modern US history.
In the 1984 presidential election, Ronald Reagan won 49 out of 50 states. This commercial, known popularly as the “Morning Again in America” ad helps illustrate the broad appeal of the reelection campaign –and the sophisticated selling techniques of modern presidential politicking.