The first political television ad, ever:

In 1952, there was no precedent in presidential elections for the use of television “spot” advertising—short commercials that generally run between twenty seconds and a minute. Governor Thomas Dewey, declaring spots “undignified,” rejected their use in his 1948 presidential campaign. In 1952, most campaign strategists preferred thirty-minute blocks of television time for the broadcast of campaign speeches.

Like most absolutely evil things, we have an advertising wonk to thank for it:

The idea for the spots came from Madison Avenue advertising executive Rosser Reeves, who had created the M&M “melts in your mouth, not in your hands” campaign. Reeves convinced Eisenhower that spot ads placed immediately before or after such popular TV programs as I Love Lucy would reach more viewers, and at a much lower cost, than half-hour speeches.

The Eisenhower ad is amazingly positive, which led me to wonder when the first negative political ad aired. Daisy, Johnson’s infamous ad from his 1964 campaign against Barry Goldwater, seems to be considered the winner of that race, though I think a few of the ads from 1952 could easily be called negative. Just not, “We’re all going to die!” negative.

While I’m down in this rathole, here’s a fun-fact I did not know:

The increasing use of negative political advertising has been promoted by two unrelated legal touchstones. First, the Communication Act of 1934 made an important distinction between candidate ads and product or service ads. It stated that broadcasters could refuse all deceptive advertising except for political commercials. Second, the 1976 amendment to the Federal Election Campaign Act allowed private individuals and political action committees or PACs, to spend unlimited amounts on behalf of candidates.

Ah, laws. Is there nothing they can’t accidentally do?