In 1952, Rosser Reeves did not commission any special poll to create
"Eisenhower Answers America." He simply asked pollster George Gallup
for Americans' chief concern. Gallup responded
that Washington corruption, the cost of living, and the conflict in
Korea topped the list, and Reeves went about shaping ads on those
While today, thirty second ads for candidates are taken as a given,
in 1952 the Eisenhower campaign needed convincing to use television
advertising. Reeves had a colleague prepare a report spelling out
the advantages. In the early days of television, companies who wanted
to advertise often paid for an entire program. That show would carry
the company's name and would only carry the company's ads. Shows like
"Camel News Caravan" and "Texaco Star Theater" are famous examples.
But Rosser Reeves figured out that if you place your ads between programs
you reach the audience built by popular shows at a fraction of the
cost. These short advertisements came to be known as "spots"
and to be effective had to be brief and memorable.
Reeves was a master of the form. Up to this point, most campaigning
on television was limited to buying airtime to broadcast speeches.
In fact, Democratic opponent Adlai Stevenson's television spending
was already committed to speeches. Reeves had spoken to people who'd
listened to Eisenhower's speeches and found they retained little of
what he'd said.
The research report argued that spot advertising should be adapted
to the Eisenhower campaign and called for an intensive airing of the
spots in the three weeks prior to the election.