On Oct. 9, Michael Lesser returned to FDU to deliver the second part of his three-part series about advertising during elections, this time focusing on the historical overview of 60 years of campaign advertising.
Lesser, who worked with the November Group to re-elect President Richard Nixon, talked about his life and gave a brief overview of his experience in the advertising field.
Lesser graduated from the College at Florham in 1964. He was a marketing major.
Within advertising, Lesser learned persuasive techniques. From there, he was able to go into television and utilize its correlation with politics.
In today’s political environment, candidates rely on television advertisements for support.
Lesser discussed the three phases of advertising and politics.
The first phase was advertising experts and political experts gaining power through the use of television advertising.
In 1948, the first political advertisement appeared on television. From 1952 to 1960, televisions became an important commodity in the American household and thus more prominent.
Lesser had the opportunity to work alongside these political professionals during his career.
The second phase was consultants taking over negatively in advertising. People began to realize that you could make a profit and choose sides – Republican or Democrat – and once these political consultants chose a side, they realized that their future was set. These consultants had a different type of power. They were political experts and they knew what they were doing.
The third phase dealt with the era of the super PAC – a political action committee that raises money in support of a particular candidate or legislation – which has been thrust into the spotlight during the current presidential election.
Lesser also explained that everyone’s social circle in Washington, D.C., was based off of who had the closest connections to the president. It was all about social status and who you knew, he explained.
Discussing the role of money on political advertising, Lesser touched upon the Federal Election Campaign Act.
He later went on to discuss the significance of television. In 1952, television advertising used jingles to catch the attention of audiences.
Lesser referred to the first television commercials as radio commercials with pictures and music.
He played a commercial that was intended to persuade voters to vote for Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower, using the motto “Everybody likes Ike.”
This commercial was put together by Roy Disney.
Annie Sendrowitz, a junior who attended the lecture, thought the presentation was very informative.
“I thought it was interesting to see the variation of commercial advertisements throughout the history of the debates,” Sendrowitz said.
Lesser gave information on Nixon’s Checkers Speech, which dealt with Nixon being accused of using money donated to his campaign for personal reasons.
In 1952, Nixon had to go on television and explain himself to the American people.
In his speech, Nixon came clean and told the public that someone – a man Nixon never met – had given his family a dog, a cocker spaniel they named Checkers.
“And you know, the kids, like all kids, loved the dog, and I just want to say this, right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we are going to keep it,” Nixon said, according to a transcript posted on pbs.org.
Nixon told this story to the public so that they would be aware of everything he had been given and so, in the end, nothing would be held against him.
The Checkers Speech was a widely-viewed televised spectacle at the time.
The broadcast introduced the idea that Nixon understood television and could go past the media and political barriers to connect with the American people.
In 1960, “made-for-television” politician John F. Kennedy came to the scene. Kennedy was charming, spontaneous and a man with a sense of humor who was likeable. He used this to his advantage in order to win the presidency.
Lesser showed brief clips from the famous Nixon-Kennedy televised debate.
According to Lesser, “The most riveting broadcast that took place on American television was during the Cuban Missile Crisis.” It was a time of immense urgency under the Kennedy administration that has held such historical importance.
At press time, the last part of this series was scheduled to conclude on Oct. 23 in Lenfell Hall, with a discussion of political advertising in the current presidential election.