Based on true events, Daisy is a political drama that presents the moment in TV history that ushered in the age of negative advertising and forever changed how we elect our leaders. It also tells the more cynical tale of how a nation got led into war, distracted by the “packaging” of a seemingly peaceful U.S. president. Daisy explores the art and science of political manipulation, the forces at play on public consciousness in our mediated world, and the impact that fear has had on our democracy.
Set during the 1964 U.S. presidential election, with brutal race riots erupting across America, the play takes place in the high-pressure advertising world of Madison Avenue: a group of “ad men” working for Lyndon Johnson unleash the most powerful political commercial ever conceived, the “Daisy” ad. War was the objective. Peace was the bait. Everyone got duped.
Thoroughly and painstakingly researched, Daisy’s characters are based on real-life figures that are icons in the advertising world, including Bill Bernbach, the creative pioneer who founded the Doyle Dane Bernbach agency, and Tony Schwartz, the eccentric “sound man” who forever revolutionized the science of communications. Mixing fact with fiction, the story’s protagonist is a conflicted idealist named Louise Brown, a brilliant copywriter who withholds a damning secret as she struggles against her ethics and her ambition.
Daisy is further example of Canadian playwright Sean Devine’s use of historic events to shine new light onto contemporary questions. The tools and impacts of “negative advertising” that were unleashed in 1964 have bored their way deeper and deeper into our television screens and our individual consciousness ever since. And as for the art of political deception and distraction, who knows how low we can go?