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Great Presidential Campaign Ads

Updated on March 22, 2015

Over the past seventy years, television ads have become a staple of political campaigns, including those for president. A memorable political ad can have a profound effect on its audience. Here are six of the most effective presidential campaign ads of the television era. It's interesting to see how the ads have evolved over the past several decades. Although much has changed, there are some consistent themes that have been repeated over and over in political campaigns going back back decades and even centuries.

"We Like Ike"

This 1952 jingle was one of the first presidential campaign television ads. It's a light-hearted cartoon with a catchy tune. It emphasizes the Eisenhower campaign's "We Like Ike" slogan. This type of ad is never seen anymore. Today, it would probably be considered too frivolous and silly. Still, it's a fun little ad. It seems to have had an effect on the JFK campaign, because they ran a very similar jingle ad for their candidate in 1960.

"Daisy"

The 1964 "Daisy" ad is the most, famous political ad of all time. A polar opposite of the preceding ad in tone and mood, "Daisy" involves a little girl picking flower petals. Suddenly we hear a countdown, and there is a nuclear explosion and a mushroom cloud. "Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd. The stakes are too high for you to stay home." a solemn narrator states at the conclusion. Johnson's opponent, Barry Goldwater, was criticized for being an extremist who would start a nuclear war with the USSR. The ad seeks to disturb and terrify voters into voting for Johnson. Although it was only aired on television once, the ad was extremely effective. Goldwater's name is never mentioned, yet you'd be hard pressed to find a more effective attack ad.

"Prouder, Stronger, Better"

Although the official name of this ad is above, it is commonly known as the "Morning in America" ad. This ad uses warm lighting, gentle music, and a calm, soothing narrator to assure Americans that Ronald Reagan is turning around the U.S. economy and deserves a second term. It effectively both promotes its candidate and takes a swipe (although without mentioning him explicitly) at Walter Mondale, the 1984 Democratic nominee and former Vice President under the unpopular Jimmy Carter. This ad has influenced many other political campaigns.

"Tank Ride"

This devastating attack ad uses footage that was originally intended for an ad for 1988 Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis. His campaign realized the footage looked ridiculous, but it eventually found its way into the hands of the George HW Bush campaign. Unlike the prior ads, which subtly criticized their candidates' opponents, this one goes straight for the jugular. While some of the claims in the ad were controversial and disputed, the lingering image of Dukakis on the tank (looking like Snoopy from "Peanuts") stayed with many voters. It successfully portrayed Dukakis as a lightweight who was too weak to be president.

"Journey"

Bill Clinton is so established today that it's hard to believe he was once a relatively obscure Arkansas governor. This ad attempted to counter attacks that Clinton was a political elitist by portraying his impoverished background in Hope, Arkansas. It shows Clinton expressing a fondness for public service and portrays him as someone who genuinely cares about average, ordinary Americans. The ad helped to successfully introduce Clinton to voters. A longer version of it originally aired at the 1992 DNC.

"Yes We Can"

This web ad/music video won an Emmy in 2008 and received millions of votes on the internet. It takes a speech that Obama gave after losing the New Hampshire Primary and adds music to it. It also includes several celebrities singing and playing instruments. Although it is vastly different from the 1952 Eisenhower ad in many ways, it's interesting that both are positive ads that use music and singing to influence their targeted audiences. Also, both ads use their campaign slogans prominently, in this case "Yes We Can." The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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    • nanderson500 profile image
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      nanderson500 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      LaThing - Thanks! Yeah they have definitely evolved over time!

    • LaThing profile image

      LaThing 4 years ago from From a World Within, USA

      Very well done! Interesting hub.... It was good to see all the ads together and what a difference! Voting up and interesting.

    • nanderson500 profile image
      Author

      nanderson500 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Willie Horton! Yes, that would have been a good one too. That campaign was brutal.

    • billd01603 profile image

      billd01603 4 years ago from Worcester

      An interesting and good Hub. Another one you could have used for Bush/Dukakis is the infamous "Willie Horton" piece.

    • nanderson500 profile image
      Author

      nanderson500 4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thank you! It was fun to put together!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      This is certainly a timely hub. I enjoyed seeing all the campaign posters. Thanks for putting this together. Voted UP.