The Mad Men Who Invented the Modern Political Attack Ad

Since 1964, Advertising Agencies Have Sold Presidential Candidates As If They Were Cars or Soap

On September 7, 1964, a 60-second TV ad changed American politics forever. A 3-year-old girl in a simple dress counted as she plucked daisy petals in a sun-dappled field. Her words were supplanted by a mission-control countdown followed by a massive nuclear blast in a classic mushroom shape. The message was clear if only implicit: Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater was a genocidal maniac who threatened the world’s future. Two months later, President Lyndon Johnson won easily, and the emotional political attack ad—visceral, terrifying, and risky—was made.

Half a century later, …

How Big Data Replaced Don Draper

New Analytical Tools Are Making Ads More Effective—and Invasive—Than Ever

In the 1970s, I took a careful look at Oreos. Not the cookies themselves, mind you, but the way they were sold; I was an econometrics student at the University …

This Is Your Brain on Health Propaganda

Taking a Moment to Nod to Some Truly Effective Public Health Campaigns

Ever since we’ve had our brains compared to sizzling eggs on pans, we at Zócalo have enjoyed health propaganda. Sometimes, it even works. But when? It turns out that public …