Type of Commercial Documentary
Museum of the Moving Image
The Living Room Candidate - Transcript
"Nixon on Corruption," Eisenhower, 1952
[TEXT: This is a Paid Political Announcement By The EISENHOWER-NIXON California Committee]
MALE NARRATOR #1: The following is a paid political broadcast by the Eisenhower/Nixon California Committee.
[TEXT: Hear DICK NIXON, FIGHTING AMERICAN]
Nixon: Let's take a look at corruption. You know it ranges all the way from petty political larceny to grand government theft. And as far as corruption is concerned I want to make this one point very clear. I worked for the government, for nine months during 1942. Mrs. Nixon worked for the government in San Francisco while I was in service overseas. I am proud of the fact that I once worked for the federal government. I am proud of millions of fine, good, honest, decent, loyal people that work for the federal government. And I say that the best thing that can be done for them is to kick out the crooks and the others that have besmirched their reputations in Washington D.C. and that's what we're going to do.
MALE NARRATOR #2: Elect the Eisenhower/Nixon team on November 4th.
The use of news footage and documentary techniques can give an ad a feeling of authenticity and spontaneity.
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Vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon was shown in action giving a speech against corruption in Washington in the 1952 ad “Nixon on Corruption.”
That was, however, a prepared speech. John Kennedy’s campaign entourage included a documentary film crew, and the candidate was often shown thinking on his feet and interacting with people, as in the ad “Religion,” which addressed a public concern—whether Kennedy’s Catholicism would get in the way of his duties as president—but also showed his intelligence and charisma.
Cinéma vérité techniques were used in two commercials from 1972 that presented contrasting views of the Nixon and McGovern campaigns. The Nixon ad “Nixon the Man” offered a privileged inside view of the White House, even including an Oval Office meeting between the president and John Ehrlichman filmed in a candid style.
While the Nixon ad took full advantage of the formal trappings of the White House, the documentary McGovern ad “Convention” focused on the populist appeal of his grassroots campaign. This, like many of McGovern’s ads, was made by the renowned documentarian Charles Guggenheim.
Conventions often provide candidates with their best moments, and George Bush’s 1988 ad “The Mission” packaged highlights of his acceptance speech set to uplifting pop music.
Documentaries, of course, are the results of interpretation and choices, and the same event can be viewed differently. Excerpts from a presidential debate were used in the Michael Dukakis ad “Our Concern” to stress his vision for the future and to show him as a decisive, caring leader.
On the other hand, the George Bush 1988 ad “Credibility” used footage from the same debate to ridicule Dukakis’s claims that he was tough on crime.