Political ad or political fad?

Graphic design by Annah Stang.

Story by Annah Stang, Reporter

Dancing insurance execs, alligators and a wild west shootout—not movie scenes, but political ads. With advancing technologies, candidates can outsource their persuasion to many demographics. The origins of modern campaigning started in the 1960s, but besides George Washington being elected as president non-partisan, practically every presidential candidate used some form of advertisement. When running for any governmental office, ads to reach potential voters and reinforce values have become essential. 

In the wake of the latest election, I became interested in learning about the function and diversity of these commercials. We are bombarded with ads close to an election. Many are polarizing and persistent in their message. Some beat down the opposition, while others build up the candidate. 

It’s easy to say ads don’t matter because we are so set in our political opinions. When learning about the importance of tone and visuals, though, I concluded that the money invested in interrupting your streaming is actually worth it. While the quantitative data on this is muddy, we can still appreciate how creative the ads have become as they’ve evolved. 

Now nearly every American owns a TV, but in the 50s this industry was just beginning to grow. Dwight D. Eisenhower invested in the marketing campaign “I Like Ike,” an animated short with a jingle. While this commercial was fairly quaint, Eisenhower was the first Republican to win the White House in 20 years.

Frame from “Daisy Girl” (1964) political advertisement.

“Daisy Girl,” the infamous ad from 1964, aired only once and was enough to terrify viewers. It was marketed to show Lyndon B. Johnson’s opponent, Barry Goldwater, as a right-wing extremist. It also managed to threaten disaster with the election of Goldwater by showing a little girl picking petals off a daisy and getting caught in a nuclear explosion. The shock addressed the climate of the Cold War. Paying close attention to the current social climate benefits the potential success of campaign ads. 

There are a plethora of mediums to choose from: a jingle, shock factor, praising, ripping apart. It takes extensive market research to decide, and PR teams still make mistakes. Before you skip an ad in the next election season, look to see how the candidate is trying to showcase themselves or their opponent. Could a single commercial convince you to change your vote or compromise your values? The media we consume daily becomes a part of us and inevitably affects decision-making. Would you really vote for Ike, or do you just enjoy the song?

Categories: Opinion, The Saint