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Brace yourselves: Presidential campaign ads are coming

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Citizens for Eisenhower

Take Two evaluated the effectiveness of several campaign ads from past elections.

Sen. Bernie Sanders airs his first campaign ads Tuesday. The spots will target voters in Iowa and New Hampshire — the first and second states to vote in the presidential primary.

The Sanders campaign is running a little behind, however. Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton started airing her campaign message in the key nominating states three months ago.

Candidates will shell out millions in the coming months to take their messages directly to voters, but in the age of smartphones and Snapchat, do TV ads still translate into votes?

Take Two evaluated the effectiveness of several campaign ads from past elections with UCLA political science and communications studies professor Lynn Vavreck.

Who doesn’t like Ike?

Citizens for Eisenhower shelled out the money to bring Americans  catchy jingle during the 1956 presidential race. Eisenhower, the incumbent, would go on to beat Democrat Adlai Stevenson for a second time.

Vavreck tells Take Two that Eisenhower’s approach was effective because he was a unique candidate.

“Eisenhower … everybody pretty much knew him, so he’s celebrating himself,” Vavreck says. “Someone’s banging a drum, kids, parents, workers, dogs, and cats are all marching to Washington. And so it’s a celebration of who Eisenhower was, and it’s a way of introducing him.”

Verdict: Effective

Liberating Europe may have also helped.


During the 2008 election, Sen. John McCain funded an attack ad on then-Sen. Barack Obama, critical of his qualifications and comparing him to celebrities.

Vavreck says the McCain campaign's goal was to make viewers question Obama's ability to lead.

“In the beginning, people hear snapshots of the paparazzi, who are taking pictures of celebrities, in this case it’s Paris Hilton and Britney Spears,” she says. “The suggestion is that those people are famous for being famous, and that Barack Obama seems to think that he should be famous just for being himself and being famous.”

Verdict: Not effective enough

Press the play button above to hear more about the role political ads play in a presidential campaign.

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