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A trip down memory lane: These might be the 10 most unforgettable political ads

Stock image/Photo by Robert King/Newsmakers
Stock image/Photo by Robert King/Newsmakers (Getty Images)

We are in the stretch run of the election, with ramped-up rallies, debates and of course, lots and lots of television ads from the candidates filling up our TV screens.

The number of political ads this time of year might make some cringe and count down the days until the election is over, but there have been many ads that have gone down in history for how much they’ve struck people and shaped public opinion during a presidential election.

Supporters on all sides of the political ledger may or may not like them, but it’s hard to deny the impact of these TV political ads below. For example ...

‘Ike for President’

Button in support of Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Button in support of Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Getty Images)

In 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower, also known as “Ike,” easily defeated Adlai Stevenson, thanks in part to an ad with a clever jingle that sang “Ike for President, Ike for President” and “You like Ike, I like Ike, everybody likes Ike.” The lyrics were accompanied by animated figures holding signs and flags adorned with the name “Ike."

To view the ad on YouTube, click or tap here.


‘Daisy girl’

Button in support of Lyndon B. Johnson during the 1964 presidential election.
Button in support of Lyndon B. Johnson during the 1964 presidential election. (Getty Images)

Considered one of the most controversial presidential ads ever, this was an attack in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson’s campaign against Republican candidate Barry Goldwater, although Goldwater’s name is not mentioned in the ad.

The ad starts with a 3-year-old girl picking the petals of a daisy as she counts them, but then she’s interrupted by a male narrator starting another countdown.

As the narrator’s countdown continues, the camera zooms on the girl’s eye. When the countdown reaches zero, an explosion and mushroom cloud depicting a nuclear bomb can be seen.

The narrator then says “These are the stakes. To make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.”

At the end, another voice says to vote for President Johnson on Nov. 3 because “the stakes are too high for you to stay home.”

Critics of the ad claimed it was a scare tactic to voters implying that Goldwater would start a nuclear war if elected, even if Goldwater wasn’t mentioned.

The ad only ran once during the airing of a movie on a Monday night on NBC, but it had enough of an effect to help Johnson beat Goldwater in a landslide and take its place as one of the most influential political ads ever.

To view the ad on YouTube, click or tap here.


Obama ‘Yes We Can’

An Obama supporter holds up a sign which reads "Yes we can" as U.S. President elect Barack Obama gives his victory speech during an election night gathering in Grant Park on November 4, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois.
An Obama supporter holds up a sign which reads "Yes we can" as U.S. President elect Barack Obama gives his victory speech during an election night gathering in Grant Park on November 4, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. (Getty Images)

During Barack Obama’s campaign for president in 2008, a web-only ad appeared that went viral, collecting more than 26 million views in just a few days. The ad consisted of various celebrity performers singing Obama’s words from a concession speech he gave after losing the New Hampshire primary to Hillary Clinton.

To view the ad on YouTube, click or tap here.


Nixon on the McGovern defense plan

Votes are tabulated on the set of ABC-TV's news coverage of the presidential election between Richard Nixon and George McGovern, New York City. Photo by Hulton Archive
Votes are tabulated on the set of ABC-TV's news coverage of the presidential election between Richard Nixon and George McGovern, New York City. Photo by Hulton Archive (Getty Images)

Toy figurines depicting military members, airplanes and ships were at the forefront of this ad. President Richard Nixon didn’t agree with the defense plans of his Democratic opponent, George McGovern, and the ad conveyed this by having a hand swipe away a portion of the toy figures on display to illustrate how much of the defense budget Nixon accused McGovern of wanting to cut.

To view the ad on YouTube, click or tap here.


Reagan’s ‘It’s morning again in America’

President Reagan gives the thumbs up sign under a sign "Four More Years" at the "Victory 84" celebration at the Century Plaza 11/6. President Reagan defeated Democratic challenger Walter Mondale in a landslide victory.
President Reagan gives the thumbs up sign under a sign "Four More Years" at the "Victory 84" celebration at the Century Plaza 11/6. President Reagan defeated Democratic challenger Walter Mondale in a landslide victory. (Getty Images)

Seeking reelection in 1984 against Democratic challenger Walter Mondale, President Ronald Reagan’s team put together an ad trying to convey how much better, in his opinion, life was in America than when he took office in 1981. Reagan went to beat Mondale handily, collecting 98% of the electoral vote.

To view the ad on YouTube, click or tap here.


JFK’s jingle

John Kennedy Presidential Campaign Posters. Photo by David J. & Janice L. Frent
John Kennedy Presidential Campaign Posters. Photo by David J. & Janice L. Frent (Corbis via Getty Images)

Kennedy was elected at the age of 43, and a prominent tool in his campaign was a TV jingle that tried to portray his youth as a benefit.

Part of the lyrics were, “Do you want a man for president who is seasoned through and through, but not so doggone seasoned that he won’t try something new?"

To view the ad on YouTube, click or tap here.


Bush’s revolving door ad

Michael Dukakis and George H.W. Bush.
Michael Dukakis and George H.W. Bush. (Getty Images)

In 1988, then-Vice President and Republican nominee George H.W. Bush wanted to attack Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis for allowing prisoners to be released on weekend furloughs. The black-and-white ad features prisoners going through a revolving bar door.

Bush easily defeated Dukakis in the election.

To view the ad on YouTube, click or tap here.


Hubert H. Humphrey laughter

Hubert H. Humphrey.
Hubert H. Humphrey. (Corbis via Getty Images)

In 1968, Hubert H. Humphrey was the Democratic candidate running against Richard Nixon, but Vice Presidential candidate Spiro Agnew was the target of a short ad that consisted entirely of someone laughing at a TV screen that displayed the words, “Agnew for Vice President?”

The ad then finished by saying, “This would be funny if it weren’t so serious.”

The ad didn’t help Humphrey win the election, but it did resonate with some voters.

To view the ad on YouTube, click or tap here.


Younger Bush windsurfing attack on Kerry

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and U.S. President George W. Bush shake hands at their first debate at the University of Miami, in Coral Gables, Florida on September 30, 2004.
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and U.S. President George W. Bush shake hands at their first debate at the University of Miami, in Coral Gables, Florida on September 30, 2004. (Getty Images)

During a 2004 reelection bid that was ultimately successful, the George W. Bush campaign launched an attack on Democratic challenger John Kerry, showing video of Kerry windsurfing. The narrator alleged that Kerry was indecisive on several issues and that he was essentially just “riding political winds.”

To view the ad on YouTube, click or tap here.


Bill Clinton’s ‘Hope’ ad

Bill Clinton greets a crowd of supporters in Hannibal, Missouri. Clinton on his Mississippi River Tour to campaign for the 1992 presidential elections.
Bill Clinton greets a crowd of supporters in Hannibal, Missouri. Clinton on his Mississippi River Tour to campaign for the 1992 presidential elections. (Corbis via Getty Images)

The last challenger to defeat an incumbent president running for reelection, Bill Clinton, tried to get the message out on who he was to voters by running an ad about how he rose up from the small town of Hope, Arkansas to become a presidential candidate.

It’s still considered a compelling biographical ad, and helped Clinton win 69% of the electoral vote in 1992 to oust George H.W. Bush.

To view the ad on YouTube, click or tap here.

Which of these ads would be most effective in this year’s election? Let us know in the poll below.


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