Vote Like Your Whole World Depended on It

I've been taking some more time to explore the Living Room Candidate. And it is really great. A treasure trove of presidential campaign commercials. The site seems a little buggy, but selecting "Play in External Player" seems to fix that. Here's the text which accompanies the first Nixon advertisement of 1968.

The centerpiece of the Nixon advertising campaign was a superbly crafted series of spots by filmmaker Eugene Jones. With carefully orchestrated montages of still photographs accompanied by jarring, dissonant music, his ads created an image of a country out of control, with crime on the rise, violence in the streets, and an unwinnable war raging overseas. The ads implicitly linked these problems to the Democratic administration, of which Humphrey was a part.

The most controversial of Jones’s ads, "Convention", juxtaposed unflattering still photographs of a smiling Humphrey with images of Vietnam and the chaos of the Democratic convention, all to the ironic accompaniment of the Dixieland song "Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight." The ad implied that Humphrey either had caused these problems or didn’t care about them. NBC considered it unfair, but federal regulations prohibited the censorship of any political commercial and the ad ran during a broadcast of Laugh-In. However, Democratic protest led the Republicans to pull it after a single showing.

Nixon’s ad campaign was part of a carefully managed television effort that was detailed in Joe McGinnis’s The Selling of the President 1968. The book made the public aware for the first time of the critical role of consultants and advertising executives in creating a candidate’s image. The campaign designed a strategy by which Nixon appeared only in controlled situations. He limited his public appearances and press conferences, and refused to debate Humphrey. Instead, he appeared in a series of hour-long programs, produced by Roger Ailes, in which he was interviewed live by panels of carefully selected citizens. Nixon occasionally faced tough questions, but the discussions took place in front of partisan audiences from which the press was barred.

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