Museum web project casts a sharp eye on presidential TV ads

by Dennis King Published: September 4, 2012

— As election season gears up and American voters gird themselves for a media onslaught of campaign ads and counter-ads, the Museum of the Moving Image in New York has assembled a timely and historically rich web project that tracks the powerful influence of TV ads in past presidential elections.

“The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2008” is accessible through the Museum of the Moving Image website at and offers a sweeping historical perspective on advertising's place in modern American politics.

During the 1956 campaign, Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson railed against what he viewed as the undue influence of TV advertising, saying, “The Idea that you can merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal is the ultimate indignity to the democratic process.”

In the 1952 election, the cunning “I Like Ike” TV ads of candidate Dwight Eisenhower helped sweep the Republican to victory.

By 1968, the inculcation of TV into the election process was virtually complete, and Roger Ailes, Richard Nixon campaign consultant and eventual boss of TV's Fox News, noted, “Television is no gimmick, and nobody will ever be elected to major office again without presenting themselves well on it.”

Commercial clips

“The Living Room Candidate” has compiled video clips of more than 300 TV commercials from every presidential candidate since 1952.

by Dennis King
Movie Critic (Contributor)
King spent 31 years as an ink-stained wretch working for newspapers in Seminole, Ada, Oklahoma City and Tulsa. He holds a B.A. degree in English from the University of Central Oklahoma and for 16 years served as an adjunct instructor in journalism...
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