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Episode 50: The Political Ad That Changed Everything

September 5th, 2014

Episode 75 of 248 episodes

It aired only once. A one-minute spot during “The NBC Monday Night Movie.” But it changed every political ad that came after -- as well as the entire field of advertising. The Daisy ad aired during the height of Lyndon B. Johnson’s re-election campaign, on the night of Sept. 7, 1964. Republican Barry Goldwater, LBJ’s challenger, had said in speeches and interviews that he would be willing to use nuclear weapons to better America’s position in the Vietnam war. The ad was the Johnson campaign’s attempt at exploiting Goldwater’s aggressive military stance. And it worked. Johnson would go on to win re-election by a landslide. The ad itself has a long-lasting legacy as well. Its mastermind was a man named Tony Schwartz, a young writer at a new kind of ad agency (one that would later be the inspiration for the AMC hit TV show, "Mad Men"). Rather than focusing on a candidate’s policy statements or plans for the future, as almost every political ad before it had done, Schwartz honed in on the viewers and their emotions. His aim was to create ads that evoked feelings the audience might already have, to “strike the responsive chord”, as he called it. On this week’s podcast, host Andrea Seabrook talks to Joe Slade White, now one of the most sought after political consultants in American politics, and David Schwartz, chief curator of the Museum of the Moving Image in New York. Their conversations range from the history and importance of the Daisy ad to the psychology that underlies it. It is critical background for the educated voter, especially in these times of political ads saturating the airwaves. You can view political ads through U.S .history at The Museum of the Moving Image’s archive of political ads, The Living Room Candidate.

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