Lyndon Johnson V. Barry Goldwater, President, 1964
Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.
One of the most significant things about the 1964 presidential race between Johnson and Goldwater is that it marks the moment when the negative TV ad was born. In fact, you could say that Johnson's campaign invented the negative TV spot—or at least perfected it and brought it into the big time.
Barry Goldwater had an image problem. He had a talent for saying things that sounded, well, looney. The Johnson campaign took Goldwater's public comments and used them against him, reinforcing and encouraging the doubts that many Americans had about his candidacy.
Johnson's TV spots were created by political advertising guru Tony Schwartz of the Doyle Dane Bernbach advertising agency. They are considered classics. The best known, and perhaps the most famous political TV ad of all time, is the "Daisy Girl" spot. As I have said before, this ad is "the Mother of all televised attack ads."
Tony Schwartz was a pioneer in the use of images and sound in the early days of television. In his book The Responsive Chord, he explains that political ads do not have to change fixed beliefs or political philosophies to be effective, but merely "touch" certain feelings or emotions in the voter that will affect his or her voting behavior.1
According to Schwartz, the real question in political advertising is how to surround the voter with the proper images and sounds to evoke the reaction