Archive for September, 2014


Sunday, September 7th, 2014

(Editor’s Note:  With campaign ads beginning to flow there is none more famous than “Daisy.”  Mr. Babb’s piece is offered for those new to campaigns and political advertising.  For those inclined to watch a link is provided below.)

By Drew Babb

Drew Babb teaches political advertising at American University and is president of the firm Drew Babb & Associates.

Fifty years ago, on Sept. 7, 1964, a political ad called “Daisy” aired on behalf of President Lyndon Johnson. The commercial opened with a little girl in a meadow, then a horrific nuclear blast filled the screen. We’ve been feeling the fallout ever since.

It was only a minute long. The paid ad ran on national television only once, and only on one network, NBC. But that’s all it took.

The message

Here’s what you would have heard that early fall evening during “Monday Night at the Movies”:

LITTLE GIRL (plucking daisy petals): One, two, three, four, five, seven, six, six, eight, nine . . .

“MISSION CONTROL”: Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero . . .

SOUND EFFECTS: Huge atomic bomb blast.

PRESIDENT JOHNSON: These are the stakes: to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other. Or we must die.

ANNOUNCER: Vote for President Johnson on Nov. 3. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.

The takeaway? Johnson’s Republican opponent, Barry Goldwater, was a crazed, trigger-happy cowboy. If his finger were ever on the nuclear button, the world would blow up. We’d all die.

The fallout

You can love “Daisy” for its power or hate it for its excess — I both love it and hate it — but it changed political advertising forever. Here’s how:

●It gave politicians a license to kill. Earlier political commercials were overwhelmingly upbeat. In 1960, Frank Sinatra sang a rewrite of “High Hopes” for John F. Kennedy, with this jolly lyric: “Everyone is voting for Jack, ’cause he’s got what all the rest lack.”

But “Daisy” was a full-throated, gloves-off, take-no-prisoners negative message. Arguably, and for better or worse, it’s the Mother of All Attack Ads.

To execute the spot, the creative types didn’t just run still photos with a crawl of type. They used every weapon in their arsenal. They grabbed for viewers’ hearts with an adorable little girl (commercial actress Monique Corzilius). They tapped into viewers’ greatest nightmare with footage of a huge mushroom-shaped cloud. (Remember, this was less than two years after the Cuban missile crisis.) They reinforced the visuals with intrusive sound effects (provided by the genius sound engineer Tony Schwartz). They had Johnson read a snippet of spiritual poetry (by W.H. Auden). And they hired a voice-of-God baritone (sports announcer Chris Schenkel) to wrap things up.

●By all means, trash the tropes. Nowhere in “Daisy” does an image appear of either candidate. Barry Goldwater is not mentioned. There are no American flags, bunting, stirring music or other cliches of the genre. Johnson’s ad agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach, deployed every bit of the imagery and verbal power typically used with nonpolitical clients such as Volkswagen, Avis Car Rental and Levy’s Rye Bread. DDB wasn’t going to pussyfoot around for the LBJ brand just because this was politics. The agency had its share of gentlemen and ladies, but when it came to gaining market share for its clients, they were New York street brawlers.

●Overreacting can boomerang. Before there was something called “earned media,” “Daisy” did just that. The Republican campaign erupted in outrage. The Johnson campaign, which anticipated the heat, quietly and quickly pulled the ad, and it never ran again. But the networks (only three of ’em, remember?) duly registered the GOP ire and — to show people what all the fuss was about — ran “Daisy” ad nauseam. Result: The one-time- only spot was shown over and over. And under the aegis of newscasts, it undoubtedly picked up credibility along the way.

The credits

So who crafted and produced this message? Who’s responsible for it?

Tony Schwartz is often given sole credit. But commercials are like little movies. They’re collaborative. The collaborators include Bill Bernbach, DDB’s creative director; Sid Myers and Stanley Lee, art director and copywriter, respectively; and producer Aaron Ehrlich. On the account management side, Jim Graham was the point person.

But a creative agency always needs a creative client, so you have to give a nod to the White House, too. Steve Smith was the “matchmaker” who had recommended the upstart agency to his brother-in-law John F. Kennedy. Bill Moyers, Jack Valenti and Richard Goodwin seem to have been on the receiving end of the pitch. Lyndon Johnson, ultimately, approved the ad.

The reverberations

We’re on the cusp of another expensive, nasty election. Gird up your loins, everyone.

Many of 2014’s candidates and their brilliant operatives weren’t alive when “Daisy” aired. But what they do and what they’ll produce will be influenced by those 60 seconds that ran 50 years ago.

Happy birthday, “Daisy.”

Link for TV ad.


Political Tidbits…9.01.14

Monday, September 1st, 2014

It’s Labor Day…traditionally the start of the 2014 campaign season… but it started 11.07.12…not to be outdone the 2016 is already underway…at least for the presidency…and Senator Manchin being a placeholder for WV Governor.

State GOP Chair Lucas and his 2014 team have much at stake…they have put their political reputations on the line…promising to take over the House of Delegates…encouragement came Friday in The WV Poll…showing 41 percent of those polled favor Republicans controlling the Legislature compared to 39 percent of Democrats.

Already on high alert…incumbent House Democrats who normally feel safe…had better not run their normal style of campaign…or they could pay the price…modern campaigns are not just about showing up…but includes social media…telephone banks to GOTV…town halls…and lots of door knocking.  BTW…don’t forget to check your voting record.

These mostly local battles…will be difficult to follow…but smart candidates will be using free social media… that should be where to follow…outside of nasty TV ads…which Associated Press says is cued up.

Unless The WV Poll is wrong…the race for US Senate if nearly over…reported Friday in the Charleston DM…Capito has 54 percent and Tennant 37.

The entire 2014 election could be impacted by the Senate race…Republicans feel like Shelley is a shoe in…and stay home…costing local House of Delegate candidates needed votes…on the other side Democrats feel their local House candidates being incumbents are safe…that being the case it will all come down to getting the vote out…more than normal.

A movement of Republicans…is opening up with more support of Democrat Nick Casey…the 2nd congressional district…a “Republicans for Casey” organization took shape in the Charleston area just after the primary…it has been expanded to the Eastern Panhandle…reports coming out of the State Chamber’s annual meeting…is that well known GOP members were meeting with Casey…with his Maryland opponent Alex Mooney within sight…it is likely more is going on underground.

Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito…who Alex Mooney wants to succeed…paid lip service to him…by including Mooney in the visit Gov. Romney made to support her Senate race…if you’re a Facebook reader you have to be impressed with the territory  Capito has covered during the summer congressional recess…she knows how to use social media…lots of messages in her pictures.

FINALLY…the voters have spoken up and told candidates…coal is not their top issue…but that is all you hear from candidates…jobs & unemployment continues as the top issue…granted coal plays into jobs…but wonder what would happen if a candidate actually had a vision about our future… without a strong coal economy…thanks Charleston Daily Mail for bringing this to the forefront.

There is growing unhappiness and disgust among normal Republicans with how mean those running Chairman Lucas’s State Republicans headquarters…have become…which backfire in turnout…negative is one thing…meanness another.

Democrats are not going to turn over the WV Legislature without a fight…and with August Interims over…the battle will be joined…with incumbents looking to those they have supported on various issues over the years…for extra support in this tough year for all incumbents…lobbyist plan on spending more.

Republicans are still asking who invited author Dinesh D’Souza who was about to be sentenced for federal charges of breaking campaign finance laws  to keynote a “Victory Dinner”…insiders say National Committeewoman Melody Potter…bragged at recent GOP Women’s lunch…about extending the invitation.

Speaking of Melody Potter…it was noticeable her name was not included on Kris Warner’s host committee for a coming fundraiser…they serve together on the national GOP committee.

ICYM…State BOE President Gayle Manchin and State Senator Donna Boley are at each other…Boley part of a team helped organize a WV Town Hall Forum about Common Core standards…which occurred as the legislature started August interims…an unexpected large turnout must have upset Manchin…and the emails started.

Outside money is pouring into the state to support campaigns in both camps…remember when an out-of-state group started running negative ads in Underwood’s 96 campaign for Governor…and he called for them to stop…how things have changed.

Cannot pass up mentioning the WV Derby at Mountaineer…a place where Politics & Horses come together annually…and the politics being playing out across the country…as horsemen figure out the future…not unlike what should be going on with WV’s economy.


We mourn the passing our friend Jim Reed who represented WV on the Republican National Committee from 2004 until 2012.  Jim’s support of our party was never ending.