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History Politics

60 Years of Campaign Advertisements: NOTHING Has CHANGED

Disclaimer: I take no credit for the video used in this article. For more, check out Hugh Atkin’s Youtube Channel.

This video is one of my favorites.

60yearsgraphicFor most, presidential campaigns are annoying messages that plunder television networks once every four years. But have they changed at all since their creation?

Every political candidate has a crowd of people behind them, whether they be a cabinet of billionaires or a massive grassroots campaign, which do just about anything they can to reach a common goal: to get the name of their candidate heard across the fifty states of America. With today’s modern globalization, it’s becoming easier and easier to not only place propaganda into the eyes and minds of citizens, but also dig up personal dirt.

The men who created (or are at least behind) these political advertisements are, of course, our Chief Executive Officers and presidential hopefuls from thirty-fifth president Dwight D. Eisenhower to forty-fourth president Barack Obama. While American politics were made by the people and for the people, the political propaganda behind the campaigns of “Change”, “Progress”, and “Hope” all are made with the idea of encouraging votes, bashing competitors, and enlightening their own campaign. In short, these advertisements were made in trying to glorify their political sides — whether they be liberal or conservative — and “get closer” to the American public.

Imagine these political advertisements, throughout a time-span of sixty years, as presentations. Some of these presentations are rather professional: “Here is my political platform. It’s time to change what you don’t like.” Others are personal: “Do you honestly believe the other side wants this? How much do you know about the other candidate?” Some are truly nothing else but propaganda, designed to strike fear into the centralized public: “These people want to kill us. The president has named this Public Enemy Number One.”

The media, even today, is as off-center as the political spectrum itself when it comes to this. We see a major strategy at the beginning with Adlai, Stevenson, and Obama: “It’s wonderful how I’m speaking with you now.” A personal connection, a “friendly” gesture that makes viewers believe that the candidate is actually for them.

Now, the bias here is incredibly obvious yet shocking at the same time. Americans have been honestly listening to these television ads for sixty years. Sixty full years of propaganda, mudslinging, and political journalism. Any advertisement created by a single side, such as a political candidate, is going to be one-sided. No negative drawbacks are going to affect a hopeful presidential candidate on their own side. The idealism behind such simple words: “Hope”, “Change”, “Progress”, etc. are strongly held up as such symbolic gestures of what America actually wants.

We also see words go from campaign to campaign within the decades of television, such as “Plan” and “47%”. We see emotional appeal through not only the bashing of other candidates, such as Ronald Reagan saying (about Goldwater), “Do you think Barry wants to see his sons and daughters in war?” Bringing up touchy subjects such as drugs, war, taxes, employment, wages, and even the government brings not only views to the ad but voters to the polls. According to all these ads, “it’s morning again” and “people are smiling again” in the “New America”.

Clever strategies can also be seen within the ads. Clever alliteration, rhymes and catchy campaign slogans seem to be bashed into the American memory throughout these advertisements. “I Like Ike”, “Nixon Now”, and “Kennedy for Me” can be seen as perfect examples for this. Those campaigns which focused on their own candidate showed nothing but positive ideas for “changing America” with catchy slogans, while those campaigns which focused on other candidates bashed negative arguments towards them. Whichever side there was, they’re both one sided and biased.

Our media hasn’t changed at all over time, as this single video composed of sixty years’ worth of political advertisements shows. Each campaign argues for the same things: change, fixing the debt, Medicare, drugs, “problems” that harm the American people. While many of these candidates promised change, we still see the same problems and the same promises in every campaign afterwards. It’s a simple strategy that turns into votes, and why would anyone bother to “Change” it if it’s working?

In the words of many of these political television ads: it’s time for a new beginning and a fresh start when it comes to our Presidential candidates. Government might draw its strength from the people, but with these advertisements plaguing the headlines and our own mindsets (not our memories, mind you, as we seem to forget past candidates and platforms easily) how do we have the strength to witness both sides without the true public enemy number one: the mudslinging and biased, one-sided arguments within politics of the past and the present? How does a Presidential candidate work for us when all they do is repeat the same promises over and over with little to no change in sixty years of advertisements?



I’m a writer and historian. Simple enough, right? I enjoy philosophy, sociology, social psychology, politics, basic programming, statistics, and old books. Unlike the stereotypical leftist, I do not necessarily censor myself. I apologize in advance if you find yourself offended by something I’ve said; but I do enjoy hearing criticism and having debates.

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Joseph Kaminski
I’m a writer and historian. Simple enough, right? I enjoy philosophy, sociology, social psychology, politics, basic programming, statistics, and old books.


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