Friday, May 18, 2012

A Short History of Political Ads

A (hopefully) fun little history of political ads for your Friday.

The Scary:  The most famous of these is the 1964 LBJ Ad titled "Daisy" that ran one time.  It was basically a bald statement that electing Goldwater would lead to nuclear war.  But scary ads have proliferated, largely because they seem to be a very effective way of getting people to think about opponents.

1964: LBJ "Daisy" Ad (anti-Goldwater):

1968 Wallace Scary Ad (anti-Humphrey/LBJ in absentia) - this one does have some implicit racism in it, but I wasn't alive at the time, so I'm not sure if it played that way:

2004 GW Bush "Wolves" Ad (anti-Kerry):

The Contextual:  Reagan was a master at these, and he was fortunate that the economic situation helped out.  Presumably we will see these from the Romney Campaign come fall.

In 1980, Reagan's most famous "ad" was actually just a closing statement he made at a presidential debate one week before the election, "are you better off?"  It was possibly better than a paid ad, as it was all anybody talked about - and all anybody still talks about - about that campaign.

1984: Reagan "Morning in America" Ad (anti-Mondale, Carter in absentia):

The Racist:  Think this pretty much speaks for itself, but this ad was considered so racist and race-baiting that Lee Atwater, who ran the campaign that used the ad, later apologized for it as he struggled with a brain tumor that ended up taking his life.  The pro-Romney PAC Restore Our Future employed the guy who produced the ad during the primaries, so we'll see if we see a resurgence of race-baiting ads in the general.

1988 GHWB "Willie Horton" Ad (anti-Dukakis):

The Mocking:  While the tenor of this type of ad isn't really very "Obama," this type of ad may work well against Romney, who has made some pretty ridiculous and contradictory statements over his career.  It's useful for an incumbent against an "untested" challenger.

1988 GHWB "Tank" Ad (Anti-Dukakis):

The Biographical: best exemplified by the then-largely-unknown Carter in the 1976 "Southerner" ad, this type of ad may be useful for Romney, who is largely drawn in caricature for most of us.

1976 Carter "Southerner" Ad:

The Policy-Driven:  Usually most effective by a challenger, not an incumbent.  Check out how in the 1992 election we have two policy-driven ads by Clinton and GHW Bush, but the one from Bush sounds strange, because he's a sitting president.  GW Bush does a much more effective job than his father at this sort of ad in 2000 - when he's the challenger.  Then he switched to scary attack ads as an incumbent (see above).

1992 Clinton "Putting People First" Ad:

1992 GHW Bush "Change: Ad: 

2000 GWB "Personal Responsibility" Ad:

If I worked for the Obama campaign: I'd look into a series of "Promises Kept" or "The Record" kind of ads that reintroduce things Obama has done that people either don't know about or forget, or - and this is an important category - things that poll well when people are asked about specific policies, but are lumped into larger policies that have been effectively tarnished by Fox and Republicans - like Obamacare and TARP.

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