Political Advertising

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Last week, I wrote about how even something that we could seemingly all agree upon — fighting cancer —has become politicized. Specifically, how cancer has been divided between cancer types in an effort to attract the most fundraising. Here is the latest on the Susan G. Komen fund’s attempt to recover from its dust-up with Planned Parenthood.

This week, I was struck by a different realization. It used to be that politics and religion were the two off-limit subjects that most people kept in different compartments. Separation of church and state. But since part of the health care debate over the Affordable Care Act has meant staking out coverages and beliefs on sensitive social issues such as birth control and abortion, including at religious-based employers, things have gotten a lot messier.

Personally, I follow politics and don’t mind the free flow of information, but I am suddenly finding myself completely campaign fatigued by the sheer volume of messages, including in some unlikely places. Technically the unofficial start of the Presidential race isn’t until after Labor Day. Right.

Here’s a rundown of places that have now become fair game to insert politics.

Mailbox — Been that way for a long time, but the number of political mailings between now and Election Day will become a tidal wave. And a boon for recycling centers.

Emailbox — The fundraising appeals keep piling up in direct proportion to all the forwarded hot button emailings from friends and family. Some of these are gems. But others turn out to be purposely slanted by their original creators, passed along by hordes of others, and easily dispelled via Snopes.com and similar sites.  The flip side of viral is that too often it is accompanied by a fever and aches and pains.

Airports (And Diners, Restaurants, Bars, etc.) — Because of its 24-hour news format, CNN has become the de facto wallpaper of digital screens everywhere. Even as its overall ratings are in decline. When a major news event actually occurs, people tune in. Otherwise, the round-the-clock talking heads nature of CNN gets into perpetual politics and tends to lead many places to turn the sound way down.

Cabs, Gas Pumps, Bank Drive-Throughs — More screens everywhere. And most play syndicated networks featuring comedy, entertainment news, and sometimes community events. However, I found it really odd that my bank drive-through recently featured news about the Occupy Wall Street movement, given that one of the movement’s goals is to bash and punish banks.

Home Phones, Mobile Phones— The robocalls are coming. If you haven’t heard from candidates or pollsters, it must be because you keep your phones unplugged, on silent, and out of earshot.

Warning: Morning Joe has been politicized and I don't mean Scarborough.

Warning: Morning Joe has been politicized and I don't mean Scarborough.

Beverages — My stop for coffee on the way to the office led to the following eye-opener as pictured in this week’s blog. 7-Eleven has evidently been running this unique promotion during the last three Presidential campaigns. (I must have strictly been hitting Wawa and Starbucks four years ago, because I don’t remember it).  Anyway, now when you purchase a cup with your candidate’s name on it, you are voting in the convenience store chain’s mock election (forget delegates, primaries, registered voters, and Electoral College — this is as much caffeine/ballot box stuffing as you can handle for the next two months). According to 7-Eleven, their coffee cup voting promotion has been right in 2000, 2004, and 2008. Maybe we should give up on voter ID and just register with our favorite barista.

With apologies to Green Day, wake me when November ends.



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Our agency has never done political advertising (maybe because our principals are split evenly along Republican and Democratic lines), but political campaigns have long been an interest of mine. In my junior high years, I won a social studies class contest by coming closest to guessing the electoral college results for the Nixon-Humphrey race. My prize? A Hershey bar, which I regrettably put in my pocket for later (I was always better at history than science).
Around that time, three of us had solidified our friendship by hanging around the Ardmore business district, collecting giveaways from the local campaign offices of both parties and visiting a small shop on a side street that sold a curious mix of hippie gear and collectibles from yesteryear, including what we found instantly fascinating — political buttons. It was the launch of a new pastime — collecting political buttons, a passion that I haven’t kept up in adult life, but I still have the small collection as a connection to my youth.
Among the gems my friends and I uncovered were a Landon-Knox sunflower button from 1936, a lucky (no one indicated good or bad luck) Hoover coin from just before the Depression (good for four more years of posterity), and many political statements from the time (a Nixon “Now More Than Ever” button and a photo button of Spiro Agnew, which simply read “Keep Nixon Alive”). Later, family friends and relatives learned of my interest and gave me great additions. My favorite was from my Uncle Jack, who was Commissioner of Port Everglades at the time. He brought back a delegate key from the Republican National Convention of 1972.

Campaigning For President

Campaigning For President

Recently, I acknowledged (I no longer celebrate) my birthday and my family gave me a terrific gift — Campaigning for President, subtitled Memorabilia From The Nation’s Finest Private Collection, by Jordan M. Wright. Clearly, the button-collecting bug bit Jordan in a much more serious way than it did me. I highly recommend this Smithsonian Books edition, because it is full of rich and colorful history. Every page vividly illustrates that we have always been dealing with many of the same issues we still deal with today. As they say, politics ain’t beanbag, and the gloves haven’t recently come off, because they were never on in the first place. The battle for the American presidency has always been a bare-knuckled brawl.
Here are a few entertaining examples. Buy Mr. Wright’s book and enliven your coffee table (and dinner table conversations):

William McKinley, 1896.

This flip-over doll purported to answer the question whether William McKinley fathered a child out of wedlock.

William Garfield, 1880

A William Garfield mechanical toy thumbing his nose at the opposition.

William McKinley again, 1896.

This paper hanger oddly links William McKinley with a little girl looking none-too-happy perched on a chamber pot.

William Jennings Bryan, 1896.

William Taft went after William Jennings Bryan for his endless, deadly-dull speeches using this toy coffin.

William Taft, 1908.

Forget debating weighty issues. Go after your heavier opponent like William Jennings Bryan did running against a rotund William Taft.

Franklin Roosevelt, 1936.

Thirty years before Mad magazine adopted and named him, Alfred E. Newman was created to illustrate the obliviousness of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s supporters.

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