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Roundtable on Political Advertising

In October 2000, I invited a group of five scholars to meet with three representatives of the advertising industry to discuss the subject of political advertising. My goal was to engage those who study and teach about advertising with those who produce it in an analysis of one of the most enigmatic and distinctive features of both modern political campaigns and contemporary advertising.

Since 1952 when Dwight Eisenhower used television commercials to take his campaign to the American public, political commercials have been part of presidential campaigns and most major state and local elections. I asked the group to consider how political campaign commercials are different from commercial advertisements and how their use has changed American politics.

The following persons accepted my invitation to the Roundtable: Professors Stuart Ewen of Hunter College, Montague Kern of Rutgers University, David Paletz of Duke University, and James Twitchell of the University of Florida; Dr. Fath Ruffins of the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History; and advertising industry professionals, Mr. Jerry Della Femina of Della Femina Rothschild Jeary and Partners, Mr. Donny Deutsch of Deutsch, Inc., and Mr. Burt Manning of J. Walter Thompson Worldwide. Randall Rothenberg, former advertising columnist for The New York Times agreed to moderate the discussion.

The group convened over lunch in the Board Room of the Museum of Radio and Television in New York City on October 5, 2000. Their discussion lasted more than two hours and ended only because some of the participants had to leave for other scheduled appointments. A transcript of their discussion forms the basis for this issue of A&SR.

The transcript has been edited in the ways that are necessary to transform conversation into readable prose. However, there are no major changes or deletions in the content of the discussion that took place. In a few instances, I have added explanatory notes and references when I felt that it would be helpful to readers. Otherwise, this issue offers readers the opportunity to "listen" to a dialogue between scholars and industry professions as they express their views about the role of political advertising in American society.

It is my intention to pursue the issue of political advertising in future issues of this journal. Scholars interested in this topic are invited to submit original articles and essays for consideration. Readers are invited to submit their comments in the form of letters to the editor.

William M. O'Barr
Editor