The Best of Political Advertising: I Like Ike

by buildingpharmabrands

1952 US Presidential Election Campaign

1952 US Presidential Election Campaign

Can a candidate for presidential elections be sold like a soap, soup or soft drink? That is the goal of political advertising. Like all advertising, political advertising is subjective, presenting a biased point of view. Christopher Malone, a political analyst at Pace University in New York once said, “ Don’t expect you’re going to get an objective voter information. That’s definitely out of question.”

President Harry S. Truman’s popularity plummeted by 1952, with the Korean War dragging into its third year. The political climate was turbulent with Senator McCarthy’s anti-Communist crusade stirring up public fears of an encroaching Red Menace and unprecedented disclosures of widespread corruption among federal employees. The country needed a hero for a president. President Truman did not seek reelection. Truman threw his support behind the reluctant Democratic nominee, Adlai Stevenson, who gave an eloquent keynote speech at the convention.

Both, the presidential candidate Eisenhower and the vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon of the Republican party embraced the new technology of the black-and-white television for election campaigning. Eisenhower was stiff, and TV lighting made him look older. The opposing candidate, Adelaide Stevenson, was an eloquent speaker and therefore a formidable opponent. BBD&O (Batton, Barton, Durstine and Osborn), a Republican advertising agency decided and took charge of the entire campaign including the look and feel of Eisenhower to suit the campaign theme, Ike, the returning war hero.

Rosser Reeves of the Ted Bates agency was roped in to work on Ike’s television spots. He, for the first time in the history of American political advertising introduced television spots of short duration. He ran the TV ads targeting the undecided voters just three weeks before the elections, so that the Democrats would not have a chance to answer and run a counter campaign. Reeves wrote and tested about twenty spots and had Eisenhower come to the studio for one day. Eisenhower did not like the idea that he was being orchestrated, but reluctantly went along. Reeves then wen to find the typical Americans who would ask Ike the questions that went with one of the set responses. It was foolproof.

Eisenhower’s war-hero status and leadership projected sincerity, fairness, and optimism; his greatest asset was his popularity. His affection and respect for American Citizens made him the most likable and admired American during the 1950s. The 1952 Ike for President campaign is considered as one of the best political advertising campaigns.

Eisenhower won a sweeping election victory.

The eminently hummable campaign jingle written by Irving Berlin was pleasant and was an instant hit. Click here to watch one of the top-ten US presidential election promotional themes. Here is the transcript of the video:

Group Singing:

Ike for president, Ike for president, Ike for president,

Ike for president.

You like Ike,I Like Ike

Everybody likes Ike – for president

Hang out the banners, beat the drums,

We’ll take Ike to Washington.

We don’t want John or Dean or Harry.

Let’s do that big job right.

Let’s get in step with the guy that’s hep.

Get in step with Ike.

You like Ike, I like Ike,

Everybody likes Ike – for president,

Hang out the banner, beat the drums,

We’ll take Ike to Washington.

We’ve got to get where we are going,

Travel day and night – for president.

But Adlai goes the other way.

We’ll all go with Ike.

You like Ike, I like Ike,

Everybody likes Ike – for president,

Hang out the banner, beat the drums,

We’ll take Ike to Washington.

Ike for President, Ike for president, Ike for president,

Ike for president…

Male Narrator: Now is the time for all good Americans 

to come to the aid of their country. Vote for Eisenhower. 

Source: The Living Room Candidate.org – Commercials – 1952