Type of Commercial Real People

High Prices


Museum of the Moving Image
The Living Room Candidate - Transcript
"High Prices," Eisenhower, 1952


MALE NARRATOR: Eisenhower answers America.

WOMAN: You know what things cost today. High prices are just driving me crazy.

EISENHOWER: Yes, my Mamie gets after me about the high cost of living. It's another reason why I say it's time for a change, time to get back to an honest dollar and an honest dollar's worth.


"High Prices," Citizens for Eisenhower, 1952

Maker: Rosser Reeves for Ted Bates and Co.

Video courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

From Museum of the Moving Image, The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2012.
www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1952/high-prices (accessed June 21, 2024).


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If the candidate is usually the star of a commercial, then “real people” can serve as valuable extras. Sometimes they even find themselves in starring roles. These citizens represent the electorate, and they are used in commercials to show that the candidate is in touch with their concerns and feelings—or that the opponent is not.

Basically, there are two types of “real people” spots: one shows the candidate directly interacting with one or more people, in a situation that looks as candid and unrehearsed as possible; and the other uses man-in-the-street testimonials in documentary-style scenes of supposedly genuine off-the-cuff reactions.

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High Prices Endorsement: Woman Sills Family This Time Man on Street - Democrats Lorraine Train Morning Real People:  Rhonda Nix
Although Dwight Eisenhower was filmed separately from the people asking questions in the “Eisenhower Answers America” ads, these pioneering commercials, such as “High Prices” created the impression of a bond between the voters and the candidate. The voters were filmed looking up, and Eisenhower looking slightly down, in order to enhance his stature.
Adlai Stevenson used straightforward endorsements from real voters, as in “Endorsement: Woman,” in which the woman is photographed above a ballot checkbox. President Eisenhower’s 1956 ad “Woman Voters” used numerous testimonials from suburban women voters, reflecting the campaign’s careful targeting of a growing demographic.
Although John Kennedy’s speaking style may seem formal and rehearsed by contemporary standards, the ad “Sills Family,” which presented JFK as “a man who cares about America’s problems,” was filmed documentary-style in a typical American living room.
Documentary filmmaker Charles Guggenheim produced a series of cinéma vérité ads for George McGovern’s 1972 campaign, including “This Time,” which showed the candidate in casual work clothes, surrounded by citizens. These ads expressed the grassroots nature of the campaign and offered an implicit contrast to Richard Nixon’s Rose Garden strategy.
Gerald Ford’s campaign cleverly used comments from Georgia Democrats in this ad—even including a former McGovern supporter—to denigrate the relatively unknown Jimmy Carter.
In this ad from his 1980 campaign, President Carter listens gratefully as a woman voter offers a heartfelt endorsement at a town meeting.
Part of Ronald Reagan’s 1984 “Morning in America” series, “Train” created a stirring all-American image of small-town folks closing up their barbershops and taking a break from their daily routines to pay homage to their leader.
Bill Clinton’s ad “Morning” offered an alternate view of the reality of small-town America, as part of his campaign, which focused on the economic problems of working-class voters, and the need for change.
Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris made a powerful series of ads on behalf of John Kerry featuring interviews with real Republican voters explaining why they were voting for Kerry. The ads were released not by the Kerry campaign but by the independent group MoveOn.org.