Pinback button promoting Adlai Stevenson for president and Estes Kefauver for vice president, 1956. Litho. Green Duck Co., Chicago. Pictures the candidates on a television screen. Issued as part of TV-ad fundraising campaign.
By the mid-1950s, television was starting to become a viable form of mass communication, with a majority of middle-income homes having acquired TV sets and regularly tuning in to watch news and entertainment programs. Political observers recognized the pivotal role television would play in shaping public opinion, and the advantage it would give those politicians best able to exploit the new medium.
The Eisenhower campaign in 1952 had utilized TV commercials to great advantage, selling the candidate with a clever animation set to a catchy jingle (the campaign had hired a Madison Avenue ad company to produce the commercials). Democrats, gearing up for 1956 elections, knew they would have to present their candidate on the airwaves just as effectively if they had any hope of unseating the popular incumbent. Stevenson, however, insisted on running an issues-oriented campaign, and scoffed at the idea that candidates could be packaged and sold like toothpaste. He would appear on television, not as a cartoon character, but as himself, facing the camera, speaking directly to the people in lengthy, primetime orations. However commendable this approach was, it did not succeed. The election of 1956 was as much a victory for Madison Avenue as it was Ike and the Republicans.
This classic pinback is one of the earliest from a presidential campaign to make explicit reference to television.