You like Ike
I like Ike
Everybody Likes Ike...
Hang out the banner and beat the drum
We'll take Ike to Washington.
These are the words to the catchy jingle of Dwight D. Eisenhower's 1952 campaign advertisement, "Ike for President." You can watch it here. See if you're not singing the tune for the rest of the day! The year 1952 marked the first time television advertisements were used in a presidential election. And they haven't gone out of fashion. They've been filling our airwaves each election season ever since. Television reaches more Americans than any other medium, so campaign ads are a very important part of campaign strategy.
I love teaching about campaign ads. If students are bored by the Electoral College and party platforms, they'll sit enraptured watching campaign ads. Students can learn so much from campaign ads, from what leadership image the candidates are trying to get across to the issues that are important in the campaigns.
Campaign ads come in two forms: positive and negative. This week, we'll take a look at positive ads. The first televised ads were positive ones; those that aired during the 1950s and early 1960s were cheery and optimistic. Today, campaigns still put out positive ads, though attack ads or negative ads have also become important parts of media strategy. We'll talk about negative ads next week.
In positive ads, we see the candidates looking good. They brag about the great things they have done and what kind and generous people they are. Positive ads tell about the candidate’s personal story and values. In positive ads, there is usually pleasant music playing in the background. Pictures of the candidates’ family are flashed on the screen. Candidates often speak directly into the camera. They try to come across as one of the people. The images convey hope.
This week, we're going to take a closer look at a positive ad for each of the major party candidates, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.
1. Have your student view this positive ad "Dorothy" from Hillary Clinton and this one called "America Soaring" from Donald Trump.
2. Tell your student there are five main elements in every campaign ad: pictures, sound, words, color, and voices. Re-watch the ads as many times as you need to in order to really soak them in. Consider the following questions.
a. Pictures: What positive images are used? How do they portray the candidate in a good light?
b. Sound: Is there music in the background? How does it set a positive tone? What about other sounds?
c. Words: Does text (printed words) appear on the screen? What positive messages does the text convey?
d. Color: How is color used to create a positive message?
e. Voices: Whose voices do you hear? How do they sound? How do they make the viewers feel?
Students can write out 3-5 sentences on each question. More advanced students can write a 5oo-word essay on "The Five Elements of a Positive Ad," applying the elements to one of the ads.
The best Website for campaign ads in history is The Living Room Candidate. On this site, you can view campaign ads from 1952 onward.
You can find the current candidates' campaign ads and more on their YouTube Channels: Hillary Clinton and
Donald J. Trump for President.
Another really fun activity is to go to The Living Room Candidate and pick out one or more positive ads between 1952 and 2012. Then repeat the above exercise on pictures, sound, words, color, and voices.
For more resources, exercises and detailed lessons, check out our Presidential Unit Election Study.