Fear sells and right now Americans fear their shadows. Some fear the government, while others fear another civil war. Parents from coast to coast fear for the lives of their children every time they attend public school, church, or enter a movie theater.
All this fear-based negativity is a disgusting and deeply unAmerican trend. To reverse the river, it may require the Democratic Party to relearn the basics of political advertising. Which brings us back to the 1964 presidential election.
The Daisy ad was created by a partnership between the Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) and Tony Schwartz, a sound designer and media consultant whom they hired to work on the project.
“Daisy” aired only once, during a telecast of “David and Bathsheba” on The NBC Monday Movie. Johnson’s campaign was widely criticized for using the prospect of nuclear war, as well as for the implication that Goldwater would start one, to frighten voters. The ad was immediately pulled, but the point was made, appearing on the nightly news and on conversation programs in its entirety.
For years, Goldwater had spoken recklessly about nuclear war and nuclear weaponry. He had opposed the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. He had called the nuclear bomb “merely another weapon” in America’s arsenal.
Today, millions of Americans, as well as millions more around the globe, worry about what President Trump will do next. The uncertainty is agitating, but it’s also a massive political opportunity for Democrats in 2018 and again in 2020. Let’s hope the blue team gets a handle on how to jam Trump’s signal.
President Johnson’s majority in the 1964 election was the largest since James Monroe’s virtually uncontested 1820 re-election. He was up against an extreme right candidate in Barry Goldwater, which helps to explain the margin.
These ads from DDB, which had never worked on a political campaign before, also played an important role. It’s imperative to boil down a candidate’s message to one thought. For instance, Johnson was able to portray Goldwater as lethal. When we consider Trump today, we can choose from dangerous, ill-informed, criminal, unAmerican, sexist, racist, and so on. The trick for the Dems is to choose the right pain point—the one American voters care most about—and deliver ads that relentlessly exploit his weakness.