Destination 270

SMU Students Analyze the 2012 Presidential Election

Election 101: Political Ads

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Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s time for another installment of Election 101. With the onset of different ads on this blog, it’s time to look at the different types of ads candidates can run, how they work, and a rough history of political advertising- so far.

Basic Political Ads: The Negative, Name Recognition, and Positivity 

The Negative Ad:

The year is 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower, the decorated war hero, is running for president against the Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson. The Living Room Candidate explains the political climate like this,

“President Harry S. Truman entered 1952 with his popularity plummeting. The Korean War was dragging into its third year, Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist crusade was stirring public fears of an encroaching “Red Menace,” and the disclosure of widespread corruption among federal employees rocked the administration…Stevenson proved to be no match for the Republican nominee, war hero Dwight D. Eisenhower, who played a key role in planning the Allied victory in World War II. A poll in March 1952 found Eisenhower the most admired living American, and in November he won a landslide victory on the basis of his pledge to clean up “the mess in Washington” and end the Korean War.”

This didn’t stop Adlai from running a relatively negative campaign. In this ad, you can see that Stevenson is clearing trying to dissuade voters from the “GOP Doubletalk”


Name Recognition: 

Lets fast forward to the 60’s. Once again, The Living Room Candidate explains the situation,

“In 1960, America was enjoying a period of relative prosperity. With the exception of the stirrings of the modern civil rights movement, domestic turbulence was low, and the primary foreign threat seemed to be the intensifying Cold War. Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba in 1959, and installed a Communist regime just ninety miles off the coast of Florida. In May 1960, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down inside the Soviet Union, further intensifying tensions between the superpowers. The Republican nominee, Vice President Richard Nixon, was enjoying a growing reputation for his foreign policy skills after his televised “kitchen debate” with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in 1959. The Democratic nominee, charismatic Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy, was attempting to become the first Catholic president and, at age 43, the youngest man ever elected to the office.”

Now, John F. Kennedy, then Massachusetts Senator, who was relatively unknown decided to run what they called a “jingle.” In reality it was an attempt for people to learn and recognize his name. Watch it now and see if its not stuck in you head at the conclusion of the piece.


The Positive Ad:

Finally, to round out the basic ads, let’s look at a positive ad. Now, I’m clearly cheating with this next selection by jumping a few decades ahead… but its just so darn positive. The year is 1988 and the elder Bush was running for President. Of course, he was qualified… after all he served in the military, was head of the CIA, and even did some time with Reagan serving as his Vice President acted like the “natural heir to the Reagan Revolution.” The only problem? He wasn’t exactly touted as a people person. Well, cue the ad to fix that!


So to wrap up this post, let’s review the three basic ads. First, negative ads have always been around. But, if an candidate is unknown on any level, you can expect a simple name recognition ad or a positive ad to stream though your airwaves. After all, it is their chance to introduce themselves and then go on the attack.

Thats all for now folks! In the next addition for Election 101, look for information on The Fiscal Cliff.


Author: savvystephens

A history major trying to find out what the lessons of life are.

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