“When television emerged as a mass medium in the early 1950s, TV advertising became an essential campaign tool. In 1948, there were TV sets in just 400,000 American homes. Over the next four years, the number rose to nineteen million. In 1952, Madison Avenue advertising executive Rosser Reeves proposed the first political advertising strategy for television. He convinced Dwight Eisenhower that spot ads-twenty-second commercials played during such popular TV programs as I Love Lucy-would reach more voters than any other form of advertising. This innovation had a permanent effect on the way presidential campaigns are run.
Television commercials use the techniques of filmmaking-including script, visuals, editing, and performance-to distill a candidate’s major campaign themes into a few powerful images. These ads elicit emotional reactions, inspiring support for a candidate or raising doubts about his opponent. While the commercials use state-of-the-art techniques that reflect the trends and fashions of the times in which they were made, the fundamental strategies and messages have tended to remain the same over the years, so that familiar types of commercials have emerged.
In 2004, the major parties will spend hundreds of millions of dollars on TV commercials. As the now-ubiquitous Internet continues to grow, it has become equally crucial for candidates to use the Web effectively. The Desktop Candidate, an area of this site, focuses on the rapidly developing varieties of Web-based advertising. Ads on TV and the Internet have become the dominant form of communication in the modern presidential campaign.”