The Daisy Ad (1964)

Its not often that advertisements are picked apart piece by piece. They typically air in 30 second increments, and in my opinion, that’s just enough time to grab your attention and be visually stimulated. It’s not however, enough time to digest details of a package and interpret its effect. One of the greatest examples of the impact advertisements can have is within a campaign video.

The “Daisy Girl” ad was supportive of President Johnson’s campaign against Gary Goldwater. Though the classic image of the little girl picking the petals of the flower seems simple and romantic, in actuality its message is not. Followed by an mushroom cloud, this ad is a dig towards Goldwater’s stance toward using atomic bombs. Simple, yet it says so much. Unlike voters, Goldwater and his advisers took the message as it was implied, a diss to his name. He sued, despite the fact that Johnson never once included his opponent’s name.

Its not often that we see such compelling advertisements. And when we do, its for retail and consumers rather than seeking voters to the voting booths. The Daisy ad was so unique to the age that many people claim to have seen it run over and over again on television, though after Goldwater’s lawsuit filing, it was stripped from television. It only aired once!

Though I am no master in strategic communications I find I’ve learned a crucial message through taking the time to stop and interpret this ad. Like Daisy, messages should be simple but layered. Sometimes a single image or phrase can communicate more than expected. It also reminds me to never underestimate my audience, but to anticipate their interpretation.

Some may argue that advertising seems misplaced within the journalism school. But at its core are the same values as of those placed into all multimedia.

As a voter I hope to look for advertisements that reach viewership with a strong and rememberable message, one that uses suggestion rather than direct finger-pointing, one that is subtle but significant.

And for that, I thank Daisy.


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