As I mentioned the other day, there have been some truly classic presidential campaign attack ads out there -- 1988 featured "Revolving Door" and "Tank," but there probably has been none so completely effective as "Daisy," used by Lyndon Johnson's campaign in 1964. Daisy did not, once, mention Barry Goldwater by name, but it didn't need to. Everyone who saw this alarmist nuclear era smear knew just who was being talked about.
On September 7, 1964, during NBC’s top-rated “Monday Night at the Movies,’ viewers were treated to a lovely shot of a little blonde girl walking through a field. She stops to pick up a daisy, and begins pulling the petals off and counting in a high, innocent voice, “1...2…3...4," charmingly getting her numbers wrong. At the same time, a military voice begins a count down: “10…9…8…7…6” At the counting reaches zero, the little girl looks up, startled. You stare into her frozen face and…a huge mushroom cloud explodes, filling the screen. Over the mushroom cloud, Lyndon Johnson’s voices says. “There are the stakes. To make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must love each other or we must die.”
Produced by Doyle Dane Bernbach, the ad aired only once—one paid appearance, that is. To the delight of the Democrats, newscasts continuously replayed the spot in its entirety, driving home the message and give free exposure. The more the Republicans screamed, the worse it was.
You can watch it here, courtesy of YouTube. You absolutely can't take your eyes off it.
Also, I want to throw in a plug here for another classic campaign commercial, Ronald Reagan's 1984 "Morning in America" bit. Not an attack ad per se, but a glorious bit of whitebread propaganda which is quite hilarious to watch--at one point, Reagan takes credit for the fact that "6500 young Americans" will be married in a single day. (No mention that half of them would be divorced within ten years.)