Thursday, September 20, 2007

Classic Political Ad: Daisy Girl (1964)

The NYTimes has called Lyndon Johnson's infamous 1964 "Daisy Girl" ad "...probably the most controversial TV commercial of all time." In it, Johnson's people deftly exploited Cold War fears of nuclear annihilation and the view that his rival, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, had a screw or two loose to help their candidate cruise to one of the largest landslides in U.S. history. At the time, LBJ told the Texas Governor, "I just shudder to think what would happen if Goldwater won it. He's a man that's had two nervous breakdowns. He's not a stable fellow at all." Goldwater reacted to the ad by stating, "The homes of America are horrified and the intelligence of Americans is insulted by weird television advertising by which this administration threatens the end of the world unless all-wise Lyndon is given the nation for his very own." The head of the ad firm that did the spot justified it with: "Rules are what the artist breaks; the memorable never emerged from a formula." Of course, one of the ironies of the '64 election (anjd the Daisy Girl ad) is that Johnson campaigned as the peace candidate, yet he took us deeply into the quagmire of all quagmires, Vietnam. Regardless, the ad is a lesson in the powerful ways that politicians exploit fear for their own advantage. In that respect, it speaks loudly to our own time...

Recently, Conelrad, a really cool website dedicated to all things creepy and fascinating in the atomic post-WWII period of American history, has put together a comprehensive history of the Daisy Girl ad, including interviews, documents, reactions, etc. It is a great resource, a fascinating window into 60s-era politics and the nexus of Cold War paranoia and pop culture.

Check it out: Daisy: The Complete History of an Infamous and Iconic Ad

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