Political campaign advertisements have played non-stop on our televisions, surfaced on every website we visit and planted themselves in front lawns throughout America. Although we have seen more ads this election than ever before, they are nothing new, and have been a key part of every Presidential campaign in some form or fashion.
Advertisements try to appeal to our emotions and logic to persuade us to vote for a candidate, or to motivate us to take action in the campaign. Presidential historian Michael Beschloss recently came across an ad from the 1976 Presidential campaign between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter that focus groups at the time said was so emotionally charged that President Ford's campaign decided not to air it.
The ad, says Beschloss, makes the best case Ford had for reelection -- "that he had healed a ravaged country."
The Ford media team produced the 5-minute television commercial late in the '76 campaign. The imagery; Ford giving a speech where what sounds like a gunshot goes off in the crowd, Ford parading through Dallas in a motorcade similar to John Kennedy's fatal caravan of 1963; intends to show how different the country was after Ford's term than it had been only 13 years earlier.
Between the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy and the 1976 election, the country had also gone through the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal; two events that had greatly shaken the American people's faith in their government.
However, when pollster Bob Teeter showed the commercial to a secret focus group, he discovered that "it was shocking to them," as he later told Jules Witcover, author of "Marathon: The Pursuit of the Presidency 1972-1976." "It was just too emotional. ...It was just frightening."
Memories of the Kennedy murder -- and of Ford's close calls -- were too recent.
The commercial was kept in the vault and never aired.
"Neither the cherry bombs of a misguided prankster nor all the memories of recent years can keep people and their President apart. When a limousine can parade openly through the streets of Dallas, there's a change that's come over America," - President Ford campaign ad.
1. Have you seen any political commercials on television? What did they say?
2. What is a "focus group"? What are they used for?
3. Have you ever seen a commercial that changed your mind or inspired you to action? Why or why not?
1. How was this political commercial similar and different to the ones you have seen during the 2012 campaign?
2. Do you think this was an effective advertisement? Why or why not?
3. Do you think a single political ad could change the election? Why or why not?
4. Why do you think President Ford's media team wanted to evoke memories of the Kennedy assassination?
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