For the next few months, you’ll be seeing one political attack ad after another. And you can thank Lyndon B. Johnson for getting it all started 50 years ago on Sept. 7, 1964.
The ad, titled “Daisy,” featuring a little girl standing in a field and counting petals off a daisy, intended to frame Johnson’s Republican opponent, Barry Goldwater, as a warmonger — even though it never mentions Goldwater by name.
The one-minute spot only aired once on NBC during the film “David and Bathsheba.” According to CNN, it was seen by an estimated 50 million people, for a cost of $25,000 — or approximatley $192,000 in today’s dollars. That’s a return on investment today’s politicians would be drooling over.
With people still fearful less than two years after the Cuban Missle Crisis, the ad zooms in on the little girl as a countdown begins from 10. It then cuts to a giant bomb exploding.
No one had attacked anyone like that before, said Robert Mann, a Louisiana State University professor who literally wrote the book about the Daisy ad. It was a pretty strong, implicit charge — that my opponent is a reckless cowboy who will destroy your children in a nuclear holocaust.
This was one of 27 spots that advertising firm Doyle Dane Bernbach did for Johnson.
“That symbol of a child counting, then a voice of doom melding into the child’s voice — a great symbol to show that this is what could happen to a child,” Sidney Myers, then the creative director at Dane Doyle Bernbach told CNN.
We’ve come a long way since that bomb from the Johnson campaign. Now, voters are getting ones that are increasingly clever, slick and downright nasty.
For example, here’s an anti-Bruce Rauner ad that was released today:
And here’s an anti-Pat Quinn ad that uses a special guest to help make the point: