Political campaigns always intrigued me. I used to watch the Presidential conventions every four years as a kid with my mom, and attended Detroit's Wayne State University to earn an undergrad degree in Political Science with the intention of pursuing a career in political and campaign management.
My career interests and goals changed a bit later when I earned a Masters degree in Communication and Rhetoric, eventually concentrating on written communication and freelance writing projects in the field of regional travel.
Still, I'm a bit of a political junkie. I pay close attention to the political process and always vote.
So, I voted to head down to the Toledo Museum of Art for their exhibit about the evolution of political advertising and how political ads seek to appeal to potential voters.
I Approve of This Message: Decoding Political Ads runs through Election Day (November 8, 2016) and offers a fascinating look at ads for the most recent 60 or so years of presidential campaigning. It includes many thoughtful ideas and images to consider as we make our own presidential picks in November.
One of the most infamous political ads on display is the "Daisy Girl" ad from 1964.
The 60-second clip, considered shocking in 1964, ran only once on television and did not mention Goldwater by name, but Johnson won the election two months after it aired and it lives on as the forerunner of many of today's negative campaign ads,
The ad, created by the Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) agency on behalf of the presidential campaign of Lyndon B. Johnson, carried the implicit message that Johnson's opponent Barry Goldwater was dangerous candidate with policies that would threaten the future.
The ad features a 3-year-old girl sitting in a sunny field as she plucks the petals from a daisy, and you slowly see the image of the little girl supplanted by the image of an ongoing mission control countdown that ends in a nuclear blast and a mushroom-shaped cloud.
I remember seeing it many times during my subsequent political science classes as a forerunner of modern negative political attack ads.
The museum exhibition uses historic ads like "Daisy Girl" to explore the use of emotion and to answer questions like what spurs voters to think and vote in certain ways.
Imagery, music, sound effects, camera angles and words can convey political messages in ads and other campaign vehicles. It's instructive to learn from examples on display here whether the messages you receive are eliciting reactions that speak to your heart, or to your head.
Even those weary of the idea of seeing yet more political ads find that the non-partisan exhibition encourages viewers to take another look at the ads you're seeing today and gain further insight into what your current political opinions and decisions.
Emotions like pride, anger, fear and hope are particularly potent weapons in the war for your vote, and it's fascinating to see how these appeals have played out in campaigns from 1952 through today's contentious contests.
Modern-day political ads have increasingly used more creative and emotional appeals, and you can see the rise and increasing success of such appeals and techniques through the more recent campaigns spotlighted in the displays.
Seventeen seven-feet-tall ad displays give museum goers a step-by-step and up-close view of some of the tools and techniques used by modern political persuaders.
A Mood Room offers an immersive experience illustrating how political ads use tools like lights, images and sound to evoke specific emotions among potential voters.
The Interact Zone is where museum guests create their own ads or judge the appeal of ads created by others.
The exhibit's Cultural Change station looks at how presidential ads historically spoke to different constituencies and how campaigns express those appeals as modern-day voters tend to vote more for a candidate because they like or dislike the candidate makes them feel, rather than reacting strictly on the basis of the issues, facts and figures themselves.
The exhibit barely touched on the ever-increasing role that social media plays in today's political campaigns. It's something I think it's something that will be especially interesting to examine in the future as online tools and communication evolve in the future.
Check out The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President by Kyle Kondik. Ohio intrigues political pundits and scholars because of its reputation as a predictor of the results of the U.S. Presidential race every four years. An interesting history of how Ohio voted for president over the past century is heavy on stats, but intriguing for a political junkie especially that isn't as familiar with Ohio's political history (my degree is in political science, but my practical experience was in Michigan over the years). This Ohio University Press book is new this year. It was a hardback textbook when I originally heard about it and looked for it in Michigan. It wasn't so easy to find earlier this year, but I found that the best deal for me was to buy it as a Kindle edition at the time. I saw it in the gift shop at the Toledo Museum of Art in a paperback edition last month.
© Dominique King 2016 All rights reserved