Many say the reason Kennedy won the 1960 election was the televised candidates debate. Television played a major role in the election of America’s youngest and first Catholic president. Two different advertising companies were responsible for bringing Kennedy’s two hundred advertisements to America’s living rooms.
On the first season of Mad Men, Episode Ten, the office watches this iconic Kennedy ad:
This catchy jingle is a hard one to get out of your head. It might have even swayed you to rethink your vote. This ad is simple and to the point. It subtly reminds you of important issues without flooding you with information that is anti their opponent. This Nixon ad was also featured on the show.
The Kennedy jingle was revolutionary because it hadn’t been thought of before. It was the perfect compliment to the “out with the old in with the new” ideas that defined Kennedy’s campaign. Nixon’s ad is just so typical; it is what is expected of a classic grass roots candidate. The youthful approach to Kennedy’s campaign is ultimately why Nixon looses to the “new model” that Kennedy represents.
This is the election that truly showed the power of TV, but it was not the first election to use it as an advertising vehicle. Take this ad for president Eisenhower’s 1952 campaign:
Does it look similar? I am sure it does. Kennedy uses the same technique. Both candidates, Eisenhower a republican, and Kennedy a democrat won their elections. Crediting these catchy advertisements with the win would be wrong. However, the recycled tactic allowed for a new product to be marketed. Like, Don Draper (Jon Hamm), says, “Happy days are here again.” The advertisements play on nostalgia. What was old is new. It gives hope to the U.S. citizens when the country’s future looms in uncertainty. It brings safety by recognizing the familiar. This seems to be a repeating theme on the show especially when Don sells the Kodak Carousel in Episode Thirteen of the first season.
Using the old to sell the new is something that is relevant more than ever today. Just look at how many old trends are reinvented in pop cultures many outlets. With the State of the economy and the laundry list of other things that this current administration and the country has inherited it’s no wonder that we are looking to the past to move forward. On more than one occasion Obama has been compared to many leaders Kennedy included. So, it shouldn’t come as a shock that when this commercial for his presidential campaign was created it stirred a positive response:
It plays on all the Kennedy gimmicks a catchy tune, an inspirational speech, an unforgettable slogan, and celebrity endorsement. It’s hard to deny its effectiveness. It reminds the viewer the power of good things. Obama also won his campaign. This is proof that digging through the past to find the latest greatest is more than effective. It wins presidential campaigns regardless of party affiliation and so much more.
What a shame Nixon lost, if only the guys at Sterling Cooper thought of this sooner!