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Daisy (advertisement)

Complete "Daisy" advertisement

"Daisy", sometimes known as "Daisy Girl" or "Peace, Little Girl", was a controversial political advertisement aired on television during the 1964 United States presidential election by incumbent president Lyndon B. Johnson's campaign. Though only aired once (by the campaign), it is considered an important factor in Johnson's landslide victory over Barry Goldwater and an important turning point in political and advertising history. It was created by Tony Schwartz of Doyle Dane Bernbach. It remains one of the most controversial political advertisements ever made.[1][2]


The advertisement begins with a little girl (played by three-year-old Monique M. Corzilius, now Monique Luiz) standing in a meadow with chirping birds, picking the petals of a daisy flower while counting each petal slowly.[3][4] Because she does not know her numbers perfectly, the little girl repeats some and says others in the wrong order, all of which adds to her childlike appeal.[3] When she reaches "nine", an ominous-sounding male voice is then heard counting down a missile launch, and as the girl's eyes turn toward something she sees in the sky, the camera zooms in until her pupil fills the screen, blacking it out. When the countdown reaches zero, the blackness is instantly replaced by both a simultaneous bright flash and thunderous sound, the film continues to roll and footage of a nuclear explosion, an explosion similar in appearance to the near surface burst Trinity test of 1945 is displayed, followed by another cut to footage of a billowing mushroom cloud.

As the fireball ascends, the final cut is made, this time a cut to a close-up section of incandescence in the mushroom cloud, over which a voiceover from Johnson is played, which states emphatically, "These are the stakes. To make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die." Another voiceover (sportscaster Chris Schenkel) then says, "Vote for President Johnson on November 3rd. The stakes are too high for you to stay home."


In the 1964 election, Republican Barry Goldwater campaigned on a right-wing message of cutting social programs and pursuing aggressive military action. Goldwater's campaign suggested a willingness to use nuclear weapons in situations when others would find that unacceptable, something which Johnson sought to capitalize on. For example, Johnson used Goldwater's speeches to imply that he would willingly wage a nuclear war, quoting Goldwater: "by one impulse act you could press a button and wipe out 300 million people before sun down." In turn, Goldwater defended himself by accusing Johnson of making the accusation indirectly, and contending that the media blew the issue out of proportion.[5] While Johnson wished to de-escalate the Vietnam War, Goldwater was a supporter and even suggested the use of nuclear weapons if necessary.[6] The attack ad was designed to capitalize on these comments. It was not the only ad developed at this time, though it is the best-remembered. One was called, "Girl with Ice Cream Cone", and it also talked about the risk of nuclear proliferation.[7] Another was called, "KKK for Goldwater", and it portrayed Goldwater as being racist, by noting that Alabama KKK leader Robert Creel supported him.[8] Another notable ad of the Johnson campaign, "Eastern Seaboard", took aim at Goldwater's statement: "Sometimes I think this country would be better off if we could just saw off the eastern seaboard and let it float out to sea." Bob Mann, author of Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater and the Ad that Changed American Politics, wrote: "were it not for the "Daisy Girl" spot, "Eastern Seaboard" might today be considered the most effective presidential attack ad."[9]

Broadcast and impact

"Daisy" aired only once, during a September 7, 1964, telecast of David and Bathsheba on The NBC Monday Movie. Johnson's campaign was widely criticized for using the prospect of nuclear war, as well as for the implication that Goldwater would start one, to frighten voters. The ad was immediately pulled, but the point was made, appearing on the nightly news and on conversation programs in its entirety. Jack Valenti, who served as a special assistant to Johnson, later suggested that pulling the ad was a calculated move, arguing that "it showed a certain gallantry on the part of the Johnson campaign to withdraw the ad."[10] Johnson's line "We must either love each other, or we must die" echoes W. H. Auden's poem "September 1, 1939" in which line 88 reads, "We must love one another or die." The words "children" and "the dark" also occur in Auden's poem.

In 1984, Walter Mondale's unsuccessful presidential campaign used ads with a similar theme to the Daisy ad. Mondale's advertisements cut between footage of children and footage of ballistic missiles and nuclear explosions, over the song, "Teach Your Children", by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.[11]

The ad was also re-made in 2010 by the American Values Network and was aimed at getting voters to ask their senators to ratify the New START program.[12]

Johnson's majority in the 1964 election was the largest since James Monroe's, in the 1820 election.

Further reading

Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater, and the Ad That Changed American Politics, 2011, by Robert Mann.

See also

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Cultural references


  1. ^ "The Tony Schwarz commercials are back" (October 30, 1976) Independent Press-Telegram, Long Beach, California
  2. ^ Kurson, Ken (2011-11-07). "Book Review: Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds -". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2011-11-07. 
  3. ^ a b Daly, Michael (March 26 – April 2, 2012). "Flower Power". Newsweek (New York City: The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company LLC.): 17.  One-page interview with Monique Corzilius with stills from the TV ad and photograph of Corzilius, age 50 and living in Phoenix, Arizona, taken for the article.
  4. ^ Daisy Girl
  5. ^ "1964 Johnson v. Goldwater". Kennesaw State University. Retrieved 19 November 2011. 
  6. ^ "Presidential Election of 1964". History Central. Retrieved 22 November 2011. 
  7. ^ Girl with Ice Cream Cone on YouTube
  8. ^ KKK for Goldwater on Youtube
  9. ^ "Goldwater’s ‘Eastern Seaboard’ Comment", TPM, September 19, 2012
  10. ^ "Interview with Jack Valenti, 1981.” 04/23/1981.WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved 3 November 2010.
  11. ^ Mondale ad
  12. ^ Daisy Ad 2010 on Youtube

External links