In the Spotlight

News & Features
Election 1996
Political Advertising

Ads from the past: View early TV commercials
Ads from today: View Boschwitz and Wellstone advertising
What insiders say: Read the transcript of a recent chat


What's changed ­ and what hasn't ­ in political advertising arenas since the 50s? We offer commercials from the Eisenhower and Johnson campaigns that signaled turning points in campaign strategy. They're accompanied by comments by political advertising expert Dr. Dean Alger.

QuickTime movies:
Eisenhower: "Answers America" (1952)
Johnson: "Daisy" (1964)


Business as usual or over the top? Weigh in with your own thoughts on the following ads produced for Minnesota's contenders for the US Senate seat. Email us at (We may post your salient commentaries.)

QuickTime movies:
Boschwitz: "Proud" (1996)
Wellstone: "Values/Education" (1996)
Wellstone: "Struggle" (1996)
National Republican Senatorial Committee: "Sides with Liberals" (1996)
While watching the ads, consider these questions -- they're similar to ones recently posed to a panel on Morning Edition:
  • Ask yourself both before and after watching the ads: what words would you use to describe the candidate?
  • To what extent do ads shape your image of a candidate? To what extent do they inform you of a candidate's position on issues?
  • How do you respond emotionally to attack ads? How do they affect your opinion of the candidate who is the target and the candidate who benefits from them?
  • Does it matter to you who pays for and produces an ad... the candidate or a 'third' party?
  • How much do political ads affect your vote?
  • Do you think a code of standards should be adopted for political advertising? How might it work? How would it be enforced?


Public radio listeners nationwide gathered around their computers Oct 8 to expound on the issue of campaign advertising. You may review the transcript from the discussion. Hosting was MPR reporter John Biewen whose guests included:

  • Bill Hillsman, President, Northwoods Advertising, award-winning producer of political campaign ads that helped Democrat Paul Wellstone upset incumbent US Senator Rudy Boschwitz in 1990.

  • David Sharp, Executive Director of the Citizens Campaign advertising code, which calls on candidates to review and appear in their own ads, to not use distorted pictures of their opponents, and to reject ads aired on their behalf by independent funders.

For more political chat, join the conversation every Tuesday evening now through the election from 6 - 7 pm Central Time at Soundprint Chat. No special software is required, although you will need Netscape 2.0 or higher.

QuickTime movie:
Wellstone: "Fast-Paced Paul" (1990)
Produced by Northwoods Adverstising

About the Commentator on the Videos, Dean Alger, Ph.D.
Dean Alger received his BA from Whittier College in Whittier California, and his Ph.D. in political science from the University of California at Riverside. Dr. Alger is author of The Media and Politics, 2nd ed., published in fall, 1995, and co-author of Crosstalk: Citizens, Candidates and Media in a Presidential Campaign, published in April, 1996; he is also author or co-author of numerous professional papers on the political advertising, the media's role in elections, and related subject matter. He is a former Fellow at the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Policy in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He has taught college in Minnesota and North Dakota, has extensive experience serving as an analyst for local media, and has moderated many panels and discussions of public affairs and candidates' debates.