a critical analysis of presidential campaign advertisements

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A Critical Analysis of Presidential Campaign Advertisements

Introduction. The 2012 presidential campaign broke all records for campaign advertisements during an election campaign. The total amount spent on television advertising on the two major party candidates reached $900 million with over 1 million ads being aired. (Washington Post’s Analysis on Campaign Ad Spending) The vast majority of this money is being spent on ads that are commonly no more than 30 seconds long, and yet they are often credited with tremendous influence in determining the winning candidate. In the half-century since presidential candidates first started using television advertisements, these “spots” have become a vital part of any political campaign.

Background. Campaign ads are products of the time periods in which they were made. It can be said that they are historical artifacts – whether they address timely issues or more general themes, they can help teach us what mattered to voters in a given campaign. And when we look at a sampling of campaign advertisements from the past 60 years of presidential campaigns, we can come to an understanding of the extent to which presidential elections, the media and the issues that matter to voters has changed.

Your task: Today we are going to take a close look at campaign advertisements from several elections over the course of the second half of the twentieth century. Choose an election year to learn about

  • Use the website from the Museum of the Moving Image called The Living Room Candidate (www.livingroomcandidate.org)
  • Read the summary of the election in the box on the right side of the screen – this will provide you with the historical context necessary to understand the advertisements.
  • Browse through the campaign advertisements from the major party candidates in your Chosen election year.
  • Choose ONE advertisement to present to the class as being the most effective AND explain why you considered it to be effective. Use the worksheet below to help form your reasoning.
  • Be ready to present your findings to the class.

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