Advertising wasn't new to presidential politics when Vice President Nixon made his first White House run in 1960; President Eisenhower, after all, had the New York agency of Batten, Bar-ton, Durstine & Osborn on retainer for his first term, and his 1956 re-election effort was treated as another entry on the agency's client roster.
But it was in 1968 that Mr. Nixon leaned on a triumvirate of communications and legal professionals to decide what his ads would say and how they'd say it.
Harry Treleaven, creative director of advertising for the 1968 Nixon team, was an 18-year veteran of J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, who proved his political mettle in 1966 when he masterminded a come-from-behind congressional win by little known Texas businessman George Bush.
Frank Shakespeare had been a CBS executive whose star ceased rising when mentor Jim Aubrey was fired as CBS president.
Len Garment was a lawyer at Mr. Nixon's law firm.
They relied on an agency, Fuller, Smith & Ross, New York, to shoot the footage, but the trio, along with a 28-year-old TV producer named Roger Ailes, came up with the media ideas that helped win in '68.
"I think he introduced, or at least refined, the concept of putting together an in-house group of experts," said Walter Staab, chairman of SFM Media, New York, and chief media buyer for the 1972 Nixon campaign. "In 1972, we put together a team-the November Group-that proved to be highly efficient, very responsive and just blew away the previous ways of conducting presidential campaign advertising.
"In 1968, they did it too, but they had an agency to do some of the work; by '72, they did away with the agency altogether."
Peter Dailey was president of Campbell-Ewald in Los Angeles when he worked on campaign ads for Mr. Nixon in 1968. He was a friend and former UCLA classmate of Bob Haldeman, who had been top man at the Los Angeles office of JWT before serving as President Nixon's chief of staff. Mr. Dailey was tapped to serve as chairman-CEO of the November Group, the first storied all-star ad team that turned out the Nixon re-election campaign ads in '72.
Other ex-JWT executives who worked with the November Group were Dwight Chapin and Ron Ziegler, who had served with Mr. Haldeman in the agency's Los Angeles office; they later became a White house aide and Nixon's press secretary, respectively.
Mr. Staab's explanation for why President Nixon and his allies turned from outside shop to in-house agency coincided with one of the hindsight rationalizations for Watergate: "There was a determination to have more control. We didn't realize its significance until much later."
Mr. Staab said President Nixon never displayed any interest in his campaign ads.
"We never heard from him," Mr. Staab said. "He was not hands-on when it came to advertising."
Mr. Dailey, however, said President Nixon recognized the role of campaign ads.
"He knew they were an integral part of the process-he certainly didn't dislike the idea," Mr. Dailey said.
President Nixon's ad legacy isn't limited to creating an organizational structure, said Ray Strother of political consultancy Strother, Duffy, Strother.
"Richard Milhous Nixon put me in this business," Mr. Strother said. "After the  presidential debate, people were talking about the influence of TV and how Nixon came across as not being well-coached or well-prepared. I think that bred an uncertainty among political candidates that they wouldn't be able to use this medium very well ... so they started to look for people who knew the medium to help them."
Media consultant Tony Schwartz did the sound work on the famous 1964 "daisy" ad from Doyle Dane Bernbach, New York, that helped Lyndon Baines Johnson stay in the White House by painting Barry Goldwater as too dangerous. He believes President Nixon left another imprint on political media-and not a good one.
He recalled Mr. Nixon's 1950 U.S. Senate race in California against U.S. Rep. Helen Gahagan Douglas, who had voted to cut off funding for the House Armed Services Committee, which was spearheading anti-Communist activity. Letters went out intimating she was soft on communism; they were printed on pink paper to help drive home the message. Mr. Nixon won with 59% of the vote.
"Only in one way did he leave a mark-his dirtiness," Mr. Schwartz said.