DAISY: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF AN INFAMOUS AND ICONIC AD - PART THREE
When asked by CONELRAD if he could recall his first impressions of the ad, Lloyd Wright laughed and said: "'Wow.' That was my reaction. Wow, that really does hit. We knew it would have an enormous impact. It was a very impactful ad."
Wright added that "There was some debate (on whether to air the spot). Bill and I discussed it. We always tried to anticipate reaction. We judged that there would be—a very powerful reaction. But we judged it to be so effective in pursuit of our strategy that any risk involved was worth the taking."
Richard N. Goodwin who was present at the screening wrote about the experience in "Remembering the Sixties":
At the end of August, our small "council" assembled at the White House to view the final product… We watched with mounting jubilation as the screen showed a small girl with wind-tossed hair, plucking petals from a daisy as she stood in innocent solitude… After the viewing-room lights went up, the advertising executive looked with anxious uncertainty towards his momentarily silent and expressionless audience.
Finally, a voice was heard – I think it was Bill Moyers' – "It's wonderful. But it's going to get us in a lot of trouble." He was expressing what we all knew. The spot was a winner, but it would almost certainly be attacked as "unfair," even "dirty politics," by establishment pundits and publications.[ 64 ]
President Johnson's opening rhetorical salvo of the general campaign occurred on the same day that the ad premiered (September 7th). In a speech from Cadillac Square in Detroit, he stressed the importance of presidential control of nuclear weapons. Ironically, Johnson's affirmation of arms responsibility had been preceded by a plane ride without his "football" officer (the person who accompanies the President at all times with a briefcase containing nuclear strike plans). This breach in protocol was never fully explained, but according to a New York Times article, it was prompted by politics—Johnson was originally scheduled to be transported to Detroit on Air Force One, but because the Democratic party was paying for the flight, a smaller Jetstar plane was used. Johnson's physician and his "football" aide had to fly on a separate Jetstar because the President's 12-seat plane was full.[ 65 ]
In a story datelined "Washington, Sept. 4," the industry trade Advertising Age was the first publication to reveal when the Democrats would unleash their inaugural spot of the formal campaign season:
TV audiences are scheduled to get their first sample of 1964 campaign advertising next Monday, when the Democratic National Committee uses a one-minute spot in the 9:50-9:55 period (EDT) on NBC's "Monday Night at the Movies."
The Advertising Age piece did not disclose the title or the content of the ad that would be unveiled on September 7th, but the reporting did convey some information surrounding the types of ads being produced on behalf of the Johnson campaign:
Democrats are edgy about some of the stories which came out of the Atlantic City convention; these stories charged that some exceedingly hard-hitting material has been produced by their agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach Inc. They claim all these reports are based on nothing more than hearsay, and they suggest that the really dirty tactics will be coming from the GOP.
One of these "stories" was a front page Wall Street Journal article by investigative journalist Jerry Landauer that disclosed extremely accurate inner circle information on the White House's advertising strategy. In addition to revealing Fred Dutton's opposition research activities (specifically, the book assembled by the 5 o'clock'ers on Goldwater's statements), Landauer's August 28th piece disclosed several DDB ad concepts including the American – Soviet Countdown commercial. The Daisy spot, however, was not mentioned in the Journal story. Oddly enough, Lloyd Wright was quoted in the exposé worrying about White House campaign strategies being compromised (as if they weren't about to be by Landauer!): "If we tipped our hand now we'd only give the Republicans a chance to counterattack." Wright, it must be mentioned, does not recall commenting for this particular article or ever talking to Landauer.[ 66 ]
Regardless of whether Wright was erroneously quoted, the puzzling mystery remains: Why, after such an early public warning of Democratic tactics, did the Goldwater forces fail to organize and prepare a "counterattack."[ 67 ] Were they really that inept? If the GOP strategists weren't paying attention to the Journal, John Sutter, a New York City resident was. His impassioned letter to the editor published a couple of weeks later stated in part: "Your article left this reader stunned with disbelief. Has Madison Avenue discarded the techniques of the huckster for those of the cross-burner?"[ 68 ]
The movie that NBC ran that Labor Day evening was an overwrought biblical epic starring Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward from 1951: DAVID AND BATHSHEBA. It is unknown at what point in the story the network actually broke for the Daisy spot, but odds are it was a scene involving "David" interacting awkwardly with "Bathsheba."
Many of the principal ad / campaign players recall watching it that night as it was aired:
Sid Myers: "Well, you know, I was always excited to see stuff that I had done on the air especially for the first time. It's like you give birth to this thing and then all of a sudden you see it on the air and 40 million people are watching it at the same time. It's like a very strange sensation."
Bernice Lee (Stanley Lee's wife): "I remember watching it with several people and they thought it was horrible. 'What are they crazy, that's really insane and Doyle Dane should be sued.'"
Lloyd Wright: "Yes, I know I definitely I watched"
Senator Goldwater's first public reaction to DDB's handiwork was heard on September 29th during a campaign train stop in Indianapolis:
The homes of America are horrified and the intelligence of Americans is insulted by weird television advertising by which this administration threatens the end of the world unless all-wise Lyndon is given the nation for his very own. I'm not worried about whose finger is on the (nuclear) button in the United States, I'm worried about the itchy finger on the button in Moscow.[ 69 ]
Goldwater's longtime administrative assistant, Judy Eisenhower, recalled in the documentary MR. CONSERVATIVE that "I wasn't in the room when he saw the Daisy commercial, I was around after he saw it and he was livid." Ms. Eisenhower added that Goldwater "called Lyndon Johnson and told him to remove the ad or he would sue him..." CONELRAD could find no supporting documentation to support this claim.[ 70 ]
The Daisy girl herself, Birgitte Olsen, was not watching that September evening as her parents did not want to "confuse" her. Incredibly, Olsen did not see the ad until she was in her twenties.[ 71 ]
Of course, many others were watching, too, and according to Bill Moyers, the President was coyly indignant about the calls he personally received about the commercial. Moyers recounted the President's immediate reaction for the 1980 book "Lyndon: An Oral Biography" by Merle Miller:
Johnson called me not too long after and said he'd been swamped with calls.[ 72 ] Some of his friends had gotten through to him, and there were some people having dinner with him. I could tell the moment he answered the phone that he was having a wonderful time putting on an act. He said, 'What in the hell do you mean putting on that ad that just ran? I've been swamped with calls, and the Goldwater people are calling it a low blow,' and on and on and on—typical, wonderful Lyndon Johnson fashion. His voice was chuckling all the time. He said, 'You'd better come over here and tell me what you're going to do about this.'
So, I went over at ten o'clock, and he said, 'Don't you think that was pretty tough?' I said, 'Mr. President, we were just reminding people that at this time it might be a good idea to have an experienced hand on the button.' I said I had only ordered that it be run once. There were eight or nine people in the room.
I turned and went back to the elevator, which is in a little alcove on the second floor, and I heard, 'Bill, Bill! Just a minute!' He got up and out of his chair and came down to the alcove with his back to the group. He said, ‘You sure we ought to just run it once?' I said, 'Yes, Mr. President.'[ 73 ]
Lloyd Wright remembered the decision not to air the Daisy ad again differently:
We had booked time to run it additional times and the reaction was so great that I said to Bill, 'I'm not sure we need to run it anymore. It was getting such exposure.' We were ecstatic, you know. My goodness, look at all this free exposure we're getting.
The cost of the "ad buy" for the Daisy spot on NBC was estimated in DDB documents obtained by CONELRAD at $24,000. Newsweek reported the actual charge as $30,000.[ 74 ] Given the fact that the ad subsequently ran on the news broadcasts of the major networks either figure can be considered a certified bargain. The estimated audience for its first airing was 50 million viewers.[ 75 ][ 76 ] The Republican overreaction to the spot and the resulting publicity (the Daisy girl appeared on the cover of Time magazine's September 25, 1964 "Nuclear" issue) almost certainly influenced the polling numbers. Author Theodore H. White summed up the GOP misstep in his election postmortem "The Making of the President 1964": "…the shriek of Republican indignation fastened the bomb message on them more tightly than any calculation could have expected."[ 77 ]
On September 11th Republican National Committee Chairman Dean Burch attacked the Daisy spot at the Sheraton-Carlton Hotel in Washington. Ironically, he was there with his Democratic counterpart, John Bailey, to sign a "fairness pledge" in a public ceremony sponsored by the non-partisan Fair Campaign Practices Committee (FCPC). The purpose of the gathering, organized by FCPC Chairman Charles P. Taft, was for the two party representatives to agree to promote a positive campaign.
Burch used the forum to complain about the Daisy spot by stating it implied that President Johnson "is a careful man and Senator Goldwater may somehow cause some sort of atomic conflict because he is a perfectly reckless person." He then continued by claiming the ad was not only libelous, but also "the most violent political lie that be told." Bailey responded: "They (the GOP spokespeople) think we are trying to scare people with the image of Mr. Goldwater. I think any image of Mr. Goldwater has been created by Mr. Goldwater himself."
Shortly after Burch announced that he planned to lodge a formal protest against the Johnson Daisy spot with the National Advertising Council and the FCPC, the two party chairmen signed the pledge.[ 78 ] Burch did indeed follow through on his complaint threat. He wrote to Taft the day after the pledge signing ceremony that "This horror-type commercial is designed to arouse the basic emotions" and added that the GOP had received "thousands of complaints throughout the country" regarding the ad. Burch then shared his most dramatic example from the alleged nationwide uproar to hammer home his point: "I know of one case where a child watching the Johnson spot was so violently upset that she cried and had nausea all night."[ 79 ] Taft provided Burch's letter to Bailey with an invitation to comment, but there is no evidence in Taft's papers that any further action was taken with regard to the complaint.[ 80 ] The FCPC later took credit for playing a role in the Daisy spot being retired from the air, but in actuality the spot had already been voluntarily retired by the Johnson team the same night it aired.[ 81 ]
On September 12th Republican Minority Leader Senator Everett Dirksen insinuated himself into the Daisy dispute by writing a letter to Vincent T. Wasilewski, the Executive Vice President of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). In it Dirksen assesses the commercial to be in bad taste, unfit for children and in violation of the NAB's Code of Ethics.
Wasilewski replied to the senator's complaint on September 15th stating in part: "While it is true that the NAB Television Code contains provisions with respect to taste in advertising, we have never considered the application of these provisions to political announcements. Because of the unique character of political advertising and, indeed, political campaigns, the imposition of the Code restraints involves issues not present in other forms of television advertising."[ 81 ]
Two other rhetorical eruptions against "Daisy" were heard on September 12th: Congressman John J. Rhodes, a Republican from Arizona, accused the Daisy commercial of "callously playing on the fears of the American people by deliberately trying to picture Sen. Barry Goldwater as a man who would get this country into a nuclear war. The television spot paid for by the Democratic National Committee with the obvious approval of President Johnson was deliberately and viciously designed to scare the nation into a vote wave of hysteria." And Idaho Governor Robert E. Smylie who was the Chairman of the Republican Governors Association made a public demand that the Federal Communication Commission bar the commercial from being rebroadcast.[ 83 ]
On September 13th Bill Moyers wrote a memo to President Johnson that neatly summarized the intended strategy behind the Daisy spot and how pleased the campaign was with its impact:
While most of our radio-television campaign is to project you and your record, we decided - - - as you may recall - - - to run a few earlier spots just to "touch up" Goldwater a bit and remind people that he is not as moderate as his recent speeches want them to believe he is. The idea was not to let him get away with building a moderate image and to put him on the defensive before the campaign is very old.
I think we succeeded in our first spot - - - the one on the control of nuclear weapons.
It caused his people to start defending him right away. Yesterday (Republican National Committee Chairman) Burch said: "This ad implies that Senator Goldwater is a reckless man and Lyndon Johnson is a careful man." Well, that's exactly what we wanted to imply. And we also hoped someone around Goldwater would say it, not us. They did. Yesterday was spent in trying to show that Goldwater isn't reckless.
Furthermore, while we paid for the ad only on NBC last Monday night, ABC and CBS ran it on their news shows Friday. So we got it shown on all three networks for the price of one.
This particular ad was designed to run only one time. We have a few more Goldwater ads, none as hard-hitting as that one was, and then we go to the pro-Johnson, pro-Peace, Prosperity, Preparedness spots.
Johnson's other trusted right-hand man from Texas, Jack Valenti, issued some curiously late-in-the-game campaign memos urging that Barry Goldwater be depicted as a lunatic ("A-Bomb Barry"). The memos—dated September 7, 1964 and September 14, 1964—seem calculated to ensure that Valenti's strategic insights were preserved for history. The Special Assistant to the President was himself a former advertising executive, so perhaps he couldn't resist making a sales pitch in his own words. In reality, Valenti's grand thoughts had already been uttered to the President by press secretary George Reedy (and others) and executed by DDB.[ 84 ]
On September 16th the "fallout" continued when Republican Senator Thruston B. Morton of Kentucky took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to denounce the two DDB ads that had aired thus far in the general election campaign as "slime" (a second anti-Goldwater ad had aired five days after the Daisy spot; this ad featured a little girl licking an ice cream cone while a maternal voiceover discusses the dangers of Strontium 90 and Goldwater's opposition to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty). Morton stated that the ads were "scaring the wits out of children in order to pressure their parents."[ 85 ] The senator then proceeded to read descriptions of the two ads into the Congressional Record at which point the Daisy spot literally became history:
No. 1: A child is eating an ice-cream cone while a narrator explains about atomic bombs, fallout and the nuclear test-ban treaty. "But now there's a man who wants to be President … and he doesn't like this treaty," the narrator says. "His name is Barry Goldwater and he fought against it. He wanted to go on exploding more bombs."
No. 2: A little girl in a field is pulling daisy petals while a voice runs through a countdown. At "zero" there is a sound and view of a nuclear bomb exploding. Then President Johnson's voice: "These are the stakes: to make a world in which all of God's children can live or go into the dark."[ 86 ]
On September 21st, Congressman Donald C. Bruce of Indiana lashed out at the Daisy and Ice Cream ads at a Republican Ward dinner. He suggested that the spots aided Soviet political goals by "repeating as fact a Communist-sponsored lie which for years has been Kremlin-directed propaganda aimed at neutralizing the American will to resist the Communist program for world conquest by promoting fear of 'the bomb.'"[ 87 ]
Even Johnson's running mate Senator Hubert Humphrey received questions about the Daisy spot. During a September 20, 1964 appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," Humphrey was asked about his impressions of the commercial. The senator replied: "I did not approve of the ad. When my opinion was asked I requested that it be removed from the air."[ 88 ] According to Johnson aide Richard N. Goodwin, Humphrey's remarks about the spot were "cleared by the White House."[ 89 ]
Another person from within the campaign who raised questions about the appropriateness of the spot was E. Hayes Redmon. Redmon, who was Moyers' assistant, expressed his concerns in a September 18, 1964 memo to his boss:
I'm worried about the count-down ad. We cannot let people forget BMG's (Barry M. Goldwater) nuclear irresponsibility but I'm wary about throwing more bombs around. We already have people worried about Barry the Bomber. Scare ads could have what Scammon called an "overkill" effect. Perhaps serious responsible reminders would be better.
While they may not have impressed Mr. Redmon as "serious" and "responsible," DDB created other brilliant and effective commercials that reinforced the perception of Goldwater as too dangerous to entrust with the presidency. One such minimalist ad titled "Telephone Hot Line" (aka "Hotline") showed a blinking / buzzing telephone with the words "White House" on the dial. The dire voiceover states: "This particular phone only rings in a serious crisis. Keep it in the hands of a man who's proven himself responsible..."[ 90 ] A spot that did not air because it was produced over the objections of the White House team was "Pregnant Lady." The ad, which featured an expectant mother strolling through Central Park while a female voiceover discusses Goldwater's opposition to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, implied that a Goldwater presidency posed a risk to unborn children. This was a level of attack that the White House strategists were not willing to venture to.[ 91 ]
Other ads exploited Goldwater's shoot-from-the-hip domestic statements such as this one from December of 1961: "Sometimes I think this country would be better off if we could just saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea." Myers and Lee created a commercial in which a saw is seen cutting off the east coast of a model of the United States in a pool of water. In another spot, a Social Security card is ripped in half with a voiceover suggesting that Goldwater would "wreck" the program. It should be noted that the name on the Social Security card that is torn is "Robert Myers," Sid Myers' son.[ 92 ]
What did the punditocracy and the average citizen make of the Democratic ad campaign as it was unfolding? The following are some selected contemporaneous excerpts:
Syndicated columnist William F. Buckley, Jr. wrote of the Ice Cream spot star: "Poor little girl. She doesn't know, and John Bailey (the DNC Chairman) won't tell her, that Edward Teller announced last week that the United States has developed hydrogen bombs that are 100% free of fallout..."[ 93 ]
Syndicated columnist James J. Kilpatrick took the following away from his viewing of the Daisy spot: "The plain message: Barry Goldwater hates little girls. Barry Goldwater will incinerate little girls. Barry Goldwater hates people. Lyndon Johnson loves everybody. Don't you wish everyone loved Lyndon, too?"[ 94 ]
Syndicated columnist John Chamberlain railed: "The really appalling thing about the present campaign is not the smear element, which is a hardy perennial. It is the evidence that people can be herded by Madison Avenue techniques into going against all they know to be true. The TV pictures of little girls picking daisies and then being blown to bits by an atomic blast, or of children licking ice cream cones and dying of poisonous Strontium 90, are beneath contempt, yet they have helped greatly to create an idiotic miasma of fear."[ 95 ]
A Los Angeles Times editorial hedged: "The Democratic advertisement featuring a little daisy-plucking girl about to be incinerated by a nuclear blast is indeed in appallingly bad taste. But as an appraisal of a political opponent, however egregiously farfetched, it can be defended."[ 96 ]
Time magazine weighed in with the following: "These political commercials have recently appeared on television under the sponsorship of the Democratic National Committee. Their obvious implication: if Barry Goldwater is elected President, eating ice cream will be dangerous, and daisy picking will be a thing of the past. Vicious? Of course. But the very fact that such commercials are being used speaks mouthfuls about what now stands as the decisive issue of the 1964 presidential campaign—the argument over control of nuclear weaponry."[ 97 ]
Donald A. Blumenstein, a Los Angeles resident, vented his anger in a letter to the editor that the Los Angeles Times headlined "First Stone": Blumstein said, in part, "I have grown most weary of the GOP criticism of the so called objectionable commercial depicting the little girl in the daisy field and the A-bomb blast. The Republican nominee seems to feel this was done in very bad taste and is something his angelic GOP would never think of attempting. I wonder how many of us have forgotten that Goldwater called the incumbent President a phony? How many people remember Goldwater stating that President Kennedy planned the Cuban crisis of 1962 for his party's political gain?"[ 98 ]
C. Burgwald of Detroit, Michigan wrote the editors of the Chicago Tribune complaining about the Daisy and Ice Cream spots and then concluded his / her letter with the following plea: "I wish Johnson would keep his gutter politics out of the office of the President."[ 99 ]
"W.M." of Evanston, Illinois heartily endorsed the Daisy ad in a letter to the Chicago Tribune: "Nothing more appropriate could have happened in the political campaign than the TV commercial showing a little girl picking daisies suddenly destroyed by an atomic bomb. The only reason I can see for ridicule of the commercial is that it strikes a telling blow against Sen. Goldwater who, by word and deed, has made himself the image of a war monger."[ 100 ]
William Bernbach himself defended the Daisy spot in no uncertain terms to the New York Times in October of 1964:
The little girl commercial was deplored on absolutely erroneous grounds. The central theme of this campaign—whether you like it or not—is nuclear responsibility. Perhaps that theme is not a tasteful one; there is no way to make death pleasant. But I am satisfied that our presentation of the issue was done dramatically, truthfully, and with taste. We built an agency on taste.[ 101 ]
In addition to the highly successful sanctioned efforts of DDB, others joined in the fun at the GOP candidate's expense. One creative, independent pamphleteer came up with a snarky booklet ("Cures for What Ails America") of Goldwater quotes and presented them as snake oil sales ads (e.g. "Dr. B.M. Goldwater's All Purpose Defoliation Tonic," etc.). And a flier that featured a mushroom cloud on its cover and a selection of incendiary Goldwater quotes inside the fold (produced by Union Women United for Johnson and Humphrey) functioned like a print version of the Daisy spot.
Barry Goldwater's campaign never gained any traction and its advertising was amateurish compared to DDB's creative demolition work. The majority of the candidate's ad work was handled by a subsidiary of a consortium (Interpublic), Erwin Wasey, Ruthrauff and Ryan, Inc. (EWR & R) The agency that produced the single memorable slogan to come out of the Goldwater campaign ("In your heart, you know he's right") was one outside of Interpublic—the Leo Burnett Agency of Chicago. EWR & R reportedly had over fifty people working on the Goldwater ad campaign including a special "strategy board" to attend GOP planning meetings.[ 102 ] The majority of Goldwater's ads were five minute spots or long-form 30-minute presentations. However, there were a few interesting one-minute spots including one with an angry Raymond Massey fulminating about the "no-win war" in Vietnam.[ 103 ]
The very first spot run by the Goldwater campaign was on CBS's daytime game show "Password" and it concerned the dangers of "welfarism."[ 104 ] Rather than attempt to rebut the Daisy spot, at least one Goldwater print advertisement referenced the ad in an effort to shame the administration: "Why did Lyndon Johnson's campaign sponsor a television commercial showing a little girl being destroyed by a nuclear blast as she pulls petals from a daisy? Why do they use terror on television? Why are they planting fear?"[ 105 ]
Charles Lichtenstein, a speechwriter for Goldwater who also managed much of the campaign's advertising effort, made no secret of his admiration for DDB when he spoke with Kathleen Hall Jamieson for her book "Packaging the Presidency": "Johnson's campaign made a brilliant choice. Doyle Dane Bernbach made famous the Beetle. They happened to be on the cutting edge of the new media technology. They were brilliant. I'm not so sure our agency had the same skills at the same level of polish… At that time I didn't have much experience with TV. I didn't look at it very much. I didn't even like it very much. I was an amateur in the technique of political advertising on TV." Of the two most controversial Johnson ads (Daisy and Ice Cream), Lichtenstein could barely contain himself for Jamieson: "They were brilliantly devised commercials. I admire Doyle Dane as skilled professionals for coming up with them. They were much more imaginative than anything we ever did."[ 106 ]
One long-form Goldwater commercial ("Conversation at Gettysburg") featured former President Eisenhower chatting stiffly with the candidate on his Pennsylvania farm and calling the Democratic assertions of war mongering against the GOP as "actual tommyrot." President Johnson was so delighted when he learned of the program's low ratings, he shared with the press that "Gettysburg" had been trounced by "Petticoat Junction" and "Peyton Place."[ 107 ] Another Goldwater commercial featured a juxtaposition of American school children reciting the pledge of allegiance with footage of Nikita Khrushchev's ranting "Your children will be Communists." The ad was suddenly rendered moot when Khrushchev was ousted from office on October 15th.[ 108 ]
Perhaps the most famous Goldwater commercial is one that has rarely been seen by anyone then or since. It is a 30-minute film entitled CHOICE that was spearheaded by Citizens for Goldwater-Miller public relations manager Rus Walton and sponsored by the hastily created front group "Mothers for Moral America" (whose elite membership included Nancy Reagan and Mrs. Buddy Ebsen). The film was intended to be a devastating indictment of Lyndon Johnson's America (as represented by topless models, race riots and Twist dancers) and a celebration of Goldwater's America (as represented by Plymouth Rock, colonial patriots and astronauts). After negative accounts of the film began cropping up in the press, the candidate himself branded the film racist and vetoed its airing. One Republican activist defied Goldwater's order and coordinated the program's broadcast on a local Los Angeles television channel. The movie, which is narrated by Raymond Massey and features a cameo by John Wayne, is so bizarre and its production history so fascinating, CONELRAD will be devoting a special feature to it in the coming months complete with video excerpts.[ 109 ]
On November 3, 1964, of course, President Johnson won the election in a landslide. His opponent won just 6 states (including—barely—his home state of Arizona) and 52 electoral votes.[ 110 ] Goldwater, however, achieved some measure of petulant satisfaction by refusing to issue his concession speech until the following morning. This irked Johnson who remarked to Texas Governor John Connally in a late night post-election telephone call: "Why do you think the son of a bitch won't concede?"[ 111 ] When Goldwater finally did affirm his loss on November 4th, he read aloud from a telegram he had sent the President in which he promised that "Republicans would remain the party of opposition when opposition is called for." Johnson, who watched the speech on television from his Texas ranch, fumed "That damned son of a bitch!" when he heard the senator's partisan pledge.[ 112 ]A Time for Choosing") for Goldwater during the last days of the campaign, would emerge as the ideological heir to the defeated candidate. The future president wrote in the December 1, 1964 edition of the National Review: "All of the landslide majority did not vote against the conservative philosophy, they voted against a false image our Liberal opponents successfully mounted."[ 113 ] Given the margin of President Johnson's victory, this is perhaps the highest praise DDB ever received for its Johnson campaign efforts. In addition to the Gipper's backhanded compliment, the DDB team (but not Tony Schwartz) won the 1965 Distinctive Merit Award at the Art Directors Club Annual Awards Show.[ 114 ] DDB would have to be satisfied with this non-monetary recognition because it took the DNC three years to pay off their television advertising bill (the Republicans, meanwhile, spent more, but ended their losing battle without a budget deficit).[ 115 ]
President Johnson went on to disappoint many of the true believers who worked so relentlessly on his 1964 campaign. The crusaders had thought they were helping to keep a "war monger" out of office and instead they helped elect one. Stanley Lee's wife, Bernice, recalled for CONELRAD her late husband's regret: "He was really upset that he had even worked for LBJ because LBJ upped (escalated) the Vietnam War anyway."
Bill Moyers told the Los Angeles Times in 1989 that "it haunts me all this time that Johnson was portrayed as the peacemaker in that campaign, but he committed the country to a long, bloody war in Vietnam."[ 116 ]
Ironically, Barry Goldwater, over time, became something of a hero to those "Liberal opponents" Reagan wrote of in his National Review piece. It was Goldwater who led the political "intervention" session at the White House that finally forced Richard Nixon to face the reality that he would not survive Watergate. It was Goldwater who, in response to the Religious Right's opposition to Supreme Court nominee Sandra Day O'Connor, stated that "I think every good Christian ought to kick (Jerry) Falwell right in the ass." He also referred to the followers of televangelist Pat Robertson as "a bunch of kooks." And it was Goldwater who, late in life, publicly supported gays in the military with the classic line: "You don't need to be 'straight' to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight."[ 117 ]
The shadow of the Daisy spot followed the senator throughout the remainder of his life and beyond—the ad was mentioned in the major obituaries published following his death on May 29, 1998.[ 118 ] When Goldwater discussed or wrote about the spot, there was, understandably, a degree of bitterness present in his tone. He held Bill Moyers in particular contempt and stated in his 1988 memoir "Goldwater": "Everytime I see him (on TV), I get sick to my stomach and want to throw up."[ 119 ]
Twenty years after the Daisy spot first aired, Moyers expressed his second thoughts about the groundbreaking work that the Johnson campaign and DDB were responsible for: "We advanced the technology and the power far beyond what is desirable for political dialogue. We didn't foresee the implications of serious messages in such an abbreviated form. Our use of the commercial was regrettable. The Frankenstein we helped to build is loose in the world."[ 120 ]
The Daisy spot may very well have inaugurated the endless age of negative political advertising, but somehow it seems more important than the average hack job that we see today. The resounding impact of the ad suggests there was something deeper at work. Tony Schwartz theorized in his 1973 book "The Responsive Chord" that "the best political commercials are Rorschach patterns. They do not tell the viewer anything. They surface his feelings and provide a context for him to express these feelings." Schwartz argued in his book that the Daisy ad is a prime example of the Rorschach philosophy of advertising: "The commercial evoked a deep feeling in many people that Goldwater might actually use nuclear weapons. This mistrust was not in the Daisy spot. It was in the people who viewed the commercial. The stimuli of the film and sound evoked these feelings and allowed people to express what they inherently believed."[ 121 ]
The still-radioactive power of the Daisy ad has been tapped at least twice for lesser political causes over the years. During the 1996 presidential campaign, footage of the Daisy girl was "sampled" into a Bob Dole ad entitled "Threat" that warned about the dangers of drugs and how little the Clinton administration had done about the problem. During the 2000 presidential campaign, a non-profit, Texas-based company—Aretino Industries—financed an update of the Daisy ad that targeted the Clinton-Gore administration for its alleged compromise of U.S. national security to Red China. The spot earned a scornful review from political advertising expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson: "This is a heavy-handed ad," Jamieson told the New York Times in 2000. "It lacks the subtlety of the original ad…" On the other hand, Moveon.org evoked the spot in an effective 2003 campaign to protest the imminent invasion of Iraq.[ 122 ]
The mostly cynical political exploitation of the original ad is, indeed, an insult to the sincere spirit of the 1964 model. William Bernbach, who passed away in 1982, spoke of this philosophy of sincerity with interviewer Denis Higgins in 1965 for his book "The Art of Writing Advertising":
Well, I fundamentally believe that what you think about something affects your writing. You know we had the Johnson campaign because we believe; we would never have taken the opposite side. No matter how much money was involved, we would not have taken it. What you believe, if you believe in something deeply, and you know it, is going to come across even if you don't have the skills your competition has. Now if you can combine skill with a deep belief, you're way ahead of the game.[ 123 ]
In the final analysis, the Daisy spot transcends mere advertising. It is firmly entrenched in the popular culture. The spot has been paid homage to in a number of different forms including a Fatboy Slim music video, the pilot episode of the TV series "Jericho," and, perhaps most notably, in a 1995 episode of "The Simpsons" entitled "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming." The program features a multitude of Cold War references, but none more resonant than shots of baby Maggie picking at a daisy prior to a fizzled detonation.[ 124 ]
Whether there was one, true auteur behind the Daisy Spot will never be known with 100% finality. Given the available evidence it would appear that, in the end, the ad was a collaborative effort. "Daisy" belongs to history now, so perhaps dwelling on its paternity is a waste of time. It should be noted, however, that the Nixon administration never had any difficulty assigning sole "credit" for DDB's groundbreaking 1964 campaign work. In one of the original "Enemies List" memos, agency co-founder Maxwell Dane was singled out because of his leadership of DDB. Referencing the agency, the memo offers this rationale for Dane's inclusion: "The top Democratic advertising firm – They destroyed Goldwater in '64. They should be hit hard starting with Dane." Next to this "hit" recommendation is a checkmark added by Special Counsel Charles Colson indicating that a "priority" should be given to those so identified.[ 125 ] Mr. Dane was reportedly honored and delighted to have made the cut.[ 126 ][ 127 ]
Copywriter Stanley R. Lee became the Creative Director for DDB in Los Angeles in 1966, but returned to the New York headquarters not long after. In 1973 he was promoted to Senior Vice President. During a company-mandated vacation after working on the notoriously demanding Volkswagen account, Lee and many of his colleagues were laid off in 1974 because DDB had just lost a major account worth millions of dollars. The frustrated novelist at that point had plenty of time to write. In 1984 Harper & Row published Lee's political thriller "Dunn's Conundrum" which sold respectably well and was also optioned as a film property. In 1990 Grove / Atlantic published another political thriller by Lee titled "The God Project" that featured an advertising man with unique skills who is recruited by the President of the United States to work on a special mission (shades of DDB in '64?). According to Lee's widow, Bernice Lee, the author was working on a non-fiction novel about the military when he died after falling in their apartment in 1997.[ 128 ]
Producer Aaron Ehrlich continued with DDB for some years and in his New York Times wedding announcement from 1971 the paper refers to him as a "vice president" with the agency. Ehrlich died in 2004.[ 129 ]
According to James H. Graham's widow, Peggy B. Graham, after the election, the ad executive was offered a job in the White House by Bill Moyers. This is a detail not recalled, but not disputed by Moyers who stated to CONELRAD: "I don't remember offering Jim a job, but it wouldn't surprise me if I did. I liked him very much." Graham was hired away from DDB in 1968 by John DeLorean of General Motors. Graham spent the next twenty years at GM starting as the director of marketing and communications for the Pontiac Motor Division where he produced shows all over the country to promote new model cars and motivate sales staff. Later in life he started his own industrial exhibit company, The Graham Group. Graham, who had made his home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, died of congestive heart failure in 2006.[ 130 ]
Since 1964 Tony Schwartz has worked on numerous major political and public service commercials (some with DDB) including the famous "Laughter" spot from 1968 in which the name "Agnew" as seen on a television screen elicits uncontrollable guffaws on the part of an off-camera viewer. Schwartz was a pioneer in the field of anti-smoking ads. Schwartz has written two well-reviewed and influential books on the media: "The Responsive Chord" and "Media: The Second God." Daisy Feature Update: On June 16, 2008, the New York Times reported that Tony Schwartz had passed away at his Manhattan home on the previous Saturday (June 14, 2008).[ 132 ] Schwartz's nephew, Jonathan Schwartz, who provided his childhood voice to the original counting tapes, now runs a successful finance company in Los Angeles.
The three visionary co-founders are now all deceased, but the advertising agency that they built, Doyle Dane Bernbach, lives on as DDB Worldwide. In 1986 the company merged with Needham Harper Worldwide and it is now part of Omnicom, the globe's largest advertising holding company. Since the Daisy spot, DDB has been responsible for numerous well known ad campaigns including "Three Brothers" (aka Life Cereal's "Mikey" spot), the James Garner-Mariette Hartley Polaroid One-Step Camera ads, and the McDonalds' "You Deserve a Break Today" campaign. William Bernbach, who died in 1982, was called by Ad Age "the single most influential creative force in advertising's history."[ 133 ]
To learn what became of the star of the Daisy spot, Birgitte Olsen, please see Bill Geerhart's interview.
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