28 Oct 2009
John F. Kennedy Jingles His Way to Presidency
The presidential campaigning process has been around since the 1700s when the concept of having citizens elect a person to lead as president of the United States first began. However, it has only been in recent years that this whole process has been entirely revolutionized by the introduction of the television. During the 1950s, televisions became a mainstream home commodity in America. While consumers saw it as a modality for entertainment, consumer goods companies and politicians saw it as another marketing medium by which to ing despite your age or gendere for both males and females of all ages the name "lows with two more "clamation " is simply up convey their product or message to audiences across America. Since television advertisements are shown serially for three- to five-minutes at a time, the importance of making a distinguishing and effective ad becomes vital. While watching commercials, many Americans are not conscious of the influential power that the advertisement has on the audience. The methods used to get this subliminal effect are known as propaganda and campaign technique. John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign advertisement “Jingle” is the perfect example of a commercial in which a plethora of these techniques are used to sway the audience’s opinion.
“Jingle” begins with a regal instrumental introduction with a still picture of Kennedy that pans vertically. The tune of the jingle is very upbeat and chipper, similar to that of a children’s song. The lyrics, sung by both males and females, begin with the triumphant proclamation, “Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Ken-ne-dy for me.” Each time “Kennedy” is proclaimed, there is a different picture of cartoon hands holding up signs that say “Kennedy”. The introduction sequence is followed by a flashframe montage of pictures of people of all genders, races, and ages. As each new picture appears, a male or female voice shouts the name “Kennedy!” A male soloist then begins by asking the audience, “Do you want a man for president who’s seasoned through and through, but not so doggoned seasoned that he won’t try something new.” While he is singing, pictures of Kennedy appear on the screen alongside the phrases “president”, “a time for greatness”, “greatness”, and “vote democratic”. Between each breath that the singer takes, the song takes a break from the lyrics to make two quick trumpet horn sounds accompanied by more stills of cartoon hands holding “Kennedy” signs. The soloist then sings, “A man who’s old enough to know,” immediately followed by a female singer who sings, “and young enough to do”. As they sing, three more pictures of Kennedy appear on the screen alongside the phrases “president”, “vote democratic” and “leader for the 60s”. A chorus of tough-sounding men then begin to sing, “It’s up to you, it’s up to you”, followed by a soloist that says, “it’s strictly up to you”. During this portion of the jingle, where the lyrics urge the audience that “it’s up to you”, there is a montage of pictures of people of all genders, races, and ages that make flashframe appearances on the screen. The next verse of the song is, “Do you like a man who answers straight, a man who’s always fair? We’ll measure him against the others and when you compare, you’ll cast your vote for Kennedy and the change that’s overdue.” During this verse, there is a large poster that pans horizontally across the screen with the Kennedy pictures and phrases that appeared earlier in the commercial as well as the names of many states from all around America. As the verse finishes up with the lyrics, “so it’s up to you it’s up to you it’s strictly up to you,” another flashframe montage of a diverse group of citizens develops on the screen. The song finishes with the lyrics, “Yes, it’s Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Ken-ne-dy for me.” The lyrics are accompanied by flashframes of all the stills used of Kennedy throughout the advertisement. The commercial then returns to the alternating male and female shouts of the name “Kennedy!” with pictures of Kennedy campaign buttons appearing on the screen with each shout. As the regal instruments wrap up the tune, a final set of flashframes of cartoon hands with Kennedy signs flash rapidly across the screen. The very end of the commercial ends in a group shout of the name “Kennedy,” followed by a picture of the Kennedy family: John, his wife Jaqueline, and their daughter Caroline.
As illustrated in Phil Taylors article “The Fine Art of Propaganda”, the Institute for Propaganda Analysis has defined propaganda as, “[the] expression of opinion or action by individuals or groups deliberately designed to influence opinions or actions of other individuals or groups with reference to predetermined ends" (Taylor, screen 1). Within the general category of propaganda there are several subtechniques, two of which are blatantly used in Kennedy’s “Jingle” advertisement. The most prominent technique used in the ad is known as bandwagon. Taylor defines bandwagon as “[the propagandist’s attempt at convincing viewers] that all members of a group to which we belong are [voting for him] and that we must therefore follow our crowd and ‘jump on the bandwagon’” (Taylor, screen 5). Kennedy clearly uses this technique through the diverse montage of pictures of people of all genders, races, and ages, as well as the names of many states written all over the large poster during the second verse. The lyrics, sung by a large group of people that insist Kennedy is their choice for president, also add to the “follow us” sensation of bandwagon. Many Americans succumb to peer pressure as they do not want to feel left out. Thus, the commercial’s use of bandwagon is understandably effective as it makes it seem as if everyone is voting for Kennedy.
Another form of propaganda used in Kennedy’s “Jingle” ad is the technique known as plain folks. “Plain folks is the method by which [the propagandist] attempts to convince his audience that he and his ideas are good because [he is an ordinary person just like everyone else]” (Taylor, “The Fine Art of Propaganda”). At the end of the commercial, a picture of Kennedy, his wife, and their child flashes on the screen. This is the last impression of Kennedy that is left on the audience before the next commercial appears on the television. The family portrait serves an important purpose as it creates rapport with normal, everyday society. This photo makes the Kennedy family appear to be no different from “the family next door”. This also gives Kennedy the largely respected “family man” appearance. For many people, it is important to feel that there is someone representing and leading their country to whom they can relate. By having as little as a photograph that builds a connection with the audience, Kennedy is able to create a sense of trust in the viewers.
In addition to propaganda, Kennedy’s ad uses several general campaigning techniques. One of these techniques is the use of a jingle. Jingles are short, engaging songs that are commonly made for television commercials. The purpose of a jingle is to get the tune and lyrics of the song stuck in the audience’s head. Once this happens, people subconsciously find themselves humming the melody or singing the lyrics aloud, which simply serves to drive the message further into their head, as well as spread the message to those listening around them. Kennedy’s “Jingle” is upbeat, chipper, and catchy, and thus it is the ideal type of song to be viral.
The advertisement also uses repetition effectively. The chorus of Kennedy’s “Jingle” is put together using the simplest of lyrics: his name. The lyrics of the chorus are “Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy, Ken-ne-dy for me”. Throughout the duration of the commercial, the name “Kennedy” is exclaimed by the chorus singers twenty-seven times. Repetition has proven an effective method in getting any message across as it gives a deeper impression of the importance of that point, phrase, or word. Thus, the use of Kennedy’s name repeatedly throughout the commercial serves to drill his name into the audience’s head. Consequently, anyone who sees the commercial should be fairly familiar with his name and be able to recognize it on voting day when they see it on the ballot.
“Jingle” also effectively promotes audience participation by urging viewers to vote. When the song repeats, “It’s up to you, it’s up to you, it’s strictly up to you,” it gives the audience a sense of empowerment. By encouraging audience participation, voters who may not have been planning to cast a vote on election day may feel more incentive to do so after having seen and heard the commercial. The lyrics of the jingle propose a presidential reign that will be straightforward, fair, and innovative. Assuming this is what most people want, the song works to encourage voters that the best way to get what they want is to simply cast a vote. Additionally, through the aforementioned use of bandwagon, the audience is further motivated to participate so as not to be left out what seems to be the general consensus.
The ultimate goal of any presidential election is to ultimately be elected by the people. Within the past 60 years, television has become increasingly important as an avenue for campaigning. In 1968, Roger Ailes said, "Television is no gimmick, and nobody will ever be elected to major office again without presenting themselves well on it” (Quoted on “The Living Room Candidate”). This statement could not be more true. As seen in Kennedy’s “Jingle”, what may seem like a perfectly innocent commercial is in fact a cleverly- and carefully-crafted work of propaganda and campaign technique. Americans must recognize that while television is an excellent source for information and education on a candidate, political campaign advertisements do not provide an unbiased view. Therefore, it is important to remember that anything an advertisement insists on must be taken with a grain of salt, as the creators of the commercial are ultimately out to further themselves and their cause.
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