MIT21W_784F09_Pointing_Fin - MIT Student Becoming Digital...

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MIT Student 10/23/08 Becoming Digital Pointing Fingers The Rise of Television Advertisements and Negative Political Campaigns The first television advertisement was aired on July 1 st , 1941. It was paid for by the Bulova Watch Company and cost nine dollars for a twenty second spot (About Us). Since then, advertisements have become ever present in television, and television advertising has been critical to the success of many products. It was only a matter of time before presidential candidates used this new medium to promote themselves, and once Eisenhower and Stevenson started the trend in 1952, political candidates in the United States never stopped (1952 Eisenhower Vs. Stevenson). However, television advertisements have some restrictions that dictate their tone. They are short, so unlike in print advertisements or debates, there is much less time to explain an argument, so rhetorical devices and logical fallacies are much more commonplace. Also unlike a debate the other candidate does not have a chance to respond. In the Illinois Senate race of 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas faced off in a series of debates. Although not actually a presidential campaign, these two men both ran for president in 1860 and the debates attracted national attention. In a series of seven debates around Illinois, each man spoke for ninety minutes about their political views. Full transcripts of the debates were printed in national papers such as the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times. As such, Americans knew exactly where each candidate stood on the important issues of the day. This was typical of 19 th Century
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elections, where candidates would give speeches (although not necessarily debate) and the transcripts or some quotes would be published (Holzer). These speeches and print ads were the predominant form of political campaigning until 1948, when the two major candidates, Harry S. Truman and Thomas E. Dewey, both produced short film clips weeks before Election Day to be played in theatres. Polling that ended well before Election Day predicted Dewey to win in a landslide, yet Truman was the eventual victor. Some historians have speculated that the films had a huge influence on the results and that Truman’s film was the reason he won the election (United States). Although there wasn’t a study conducted to see if this is what truly changed voter’s minds, it is plausible that the sheer power of the visual media was the biggest force in the campaign. There were no television spot advertisements in the campaign, as Dewey rejected their use as “undignified” (1952 Eisenhower Vs. Stevenson). Even so, visual media was starting to affect political campaigns. Televised campaign advertisements were first used in the 1952 election between
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This note was uploaded on 02/09/2012 for the course WRITING 21w.785 taught by Professor Edwardbarrett during the Fall '03 term at MIT.

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MIT21W_784F09_Pointing_Fin - MIT Student Becoming Digital...

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