VOA Program Examines 'Dark Art' Of Political TV Commercials

Sep 26, 2016

Glenn Hartong
Credit Provided by Glenn Hartong

While watching all the political attack commercials on TV, did you ever wonder how it all started?

Glenn Hartong -- a local video producer, director, photojournalist, editor and teacher -- will explain the history of negative political campaign advertising 7 p.m. Wednesday at the National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting, 8070 Tylersville Road, West Chester Township.

During his "Dark Art of Political Campaign Advertising" presentation, Hartong will show about 20 TV commercials, starting with a catchy jingle for Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's successful 1952 presidential campaign. Irving Berlin wrote the tune, and Roy Disney did the animation.

Quickly campaign managers discovered that attack ads helped get their candidates elected.

"Of the 20 I'm showing, two of them are positive. Everything else is an attack ad," says Hartong, one of my longtime Enquirer colleagues who left the paper last year. The photographer/videographer is  teaching photojournalism at Miami University this fall.  

He will show TV commercials from John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and others, including President Lyndon B. Johnson's infamous "Daisy Girl" ad in his 1964 re-election campaign against conservative Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona).

A little girl counted the petals she plucked from a daisy, then you hear a countdown before the detonation of a nuclear weapon as LBJ 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."

"It was so devastating, it aired only once," Hartong said on WVXU-FM's "Cincinnati Edition" talk show last week. "It gives me chills just to hear it, and I've seen it three dozen times now."

Admission is $10 per person at the door. Reservations can be made by calling 513-777-0027 or emailing admin@voamuseum.org. 

You can hear Hartong discussing some of the commercials with Howard Wilkinson and Mark Heyne on a  24-minute "Cincinnati Edition" interview last week here.