July 14 - Election Day

Toledo Museum of Art

Presented by Taylor Cadillac, with additional support from Block Communications, Inc. and the 2016 Exhibition Program Sponsor ProMedica


What makes you vote?

Imagery, music, sound effects, camera angles and words convey the message of political ads—but are they speaking to your heart or your head? I Approve This Message explores emotional responses to political ads by decoding the symbols and cues meant to influence viewers. Historic, even shocking, political ads are spotlighted in the Canaday Gallery where you can interact with, dissect and answer the question, "Would these have impacted my vote?" Even if you think you never want to see another political ad again, this nonpartisan, take-no-prisoners exhibition is unexpected, spirited and surprising. It will give you new insights into what you see and hear during the U.S. presidential election season.

Test your campaign emotional intelligence.

Play the game

Past Programming


Adam Levine and Harriett Levin Balkind,
I Approve This Message

Saturday, July 16, 2 pm  •  Canaday Gallery

Join Adam Levine (TMA Assistant Director and exhibition co-curator) and Harriett Levin Balkind (guest co-curator) as they decode this exhibition and help you navigate fear, anger, enthusiasm, hope, and other emotions that political ads use to override your rationality. Balkind is founder of HonestAds, a nonpartisan nonprofit working to bring people into-the-know about political advertising.

Bike Ride

I Approve this Message Precinct,
Color Wheels Community Bike Ride

Saturday, August 27, 10 am  •  TMA Garden

Join for this TMA bike ride that explores the eccentric boundary of a political precinct with stops at the major party precinct headquarters as they ramp up for the November 8 election. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition I Approve this Message: Decoding Political Ads.


Eye on the Campaign: Celluloid Politico,
Wag the Dog
(1997, 97 minutes)

Thursday, September 1, 7 pm  •  Little Theater

Introduced by Tammy Kinsey (University of Toledo Professor of Film), Wag the Dog was directed by Barry Levinson and stars Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, and Anna Heche. Eye on the Campaign: Celluloid Politico is a film series sponsored by the University of Toledo’s School of Visual and Performing Arts in conjunction with the Toledo Museum of Art and the exhibition I Approve This Message.


Kyle Kondik, Why Ohio Picks the President

Thursday, September 22, 7 pm  •  Peristyle

Since 1896, Ohio voters have failed to favor the next president only twice (in 1944 and 1960). Time after time, Ohio has found itself in the thick of the presidential race, and 2016 is shaping up to be no different. What about the Buckeye State makes it so special? In this lecture, Kyle Kondik (author of The Bellwether: Why Ohio Picks the President), managing editor for the nonpartisan political forecasting newsletter Sabato’s Crystal Ball, blends data-driven research and historical documentation to explain Ohio’s remarkable record as a predictor of presidential results and why the state is essential to the 2016 election and beyond. A book signing and reception will follow in Libbey Court. This lecture is presented by the Toledo Lucas County Public Library and the Toledo Museum of Art. The reception will be hosted by the Library Literati.


Ted Brader, Campaigning for Hearts and Minds: How Emotional Appeals in Political Ads Work

Saturday, September 24, 2 pm  •  Little Theater

Ted Brader is Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan and at the Center for Political Studies in the Institute for Social Research. He is a Principal Investigator of the American National Election Studies and recipient of multiple grants from the National Science Foundation. Brader's research and teaching interests include political psychology, political communication, public opinion and voting behavior. A book signing will follow in Libbey Court.


Jane Elizabeth, Fact-Challenged: Finding Truth and Accuracy in a Fact-Resistant World

Saturday, October 1, 2 pm  •  Little Theater

As a senior manager at the American Press Institute, Jane Elizabeth works to improve and expand accountability journalism. In this lecture, she discusses the challenges journalists face in reaching voters with the facts during a fact-challenged campaign advertising season.


Eye on the Campaign: Celluloid Politico,
A Face in the Crowd
(1957, 126 minutes)

Thursday, October 6, 7 pm  •  Little Theater

Introduced by Matt Yokey (University of Toledo Associate Professor of Film), A Face in the Crowd was directed by Eliza Kazan and stars Andy Griffith and Patricia Neal. Eye on the Campaign: Celluloid Politico is a film series sponsored by the University of Toledo’s School of Visual and Performing Arts in conjunction with the Toledo Museum of Art and the exhibition I Approve This Message.


Mark Clague, How Music Helps Elect the President

Saturday, October 8, 2 pm  •  Little Theater

The power of music to inspire devotion and mobilize individuals to action is no less evident in electoral politics than on the football field. University of Michigan musicologist Mark Clague will discuss how music has responded to and even shaped Presidential contests in the United States in this election-season parade of presidential classics and musical missteps, showcasing songs ranging from nineteenth-century political parody to today’s pop anthems that transfer chart popularity to popular votes.


Bill Yosses, The White House State Dinner: Lessons in Soft Power plus Stories of Cultural Diplomacy

Friday, October 21, 7 pm  •  GlasSalon  •  $

William “Bill” Yosses, a Toledo native and founder of Kitchen Garden Laboratory, served as the White House Executive Pastry Chef under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. With his insider’s perspective, he intertwines anecdotes about his time at the White House under two administrations – one Republican, one Democrat – with a discussion about how understanding the food we eat on a molecular level can help create a food literate America. This ticketed event is presented as part of Art in Food, a week-long series of programs sponsored by the TMA Ambassadors.


Don Levy, The Impact of the Visual

Thursday, October 27, 6 pm  •  Little Theater

Don Levy (Media, Entertainment & Technology Executive/ Advisor) discusses the persuasive power of visual effects, illusion, and perception. He will show how the images that we see, whether on the big screen in movies, on television or in print/online, present a distorted reality and challenge our ability to separate fact from fiction.


Eye on the Campaign: Celluloid Politico,
(1998, 108 minutes)

Thursday, November 3, 7 pm  •  Little Theater

Introduced by Holly Hey (University of Toledo Associate Professor of Film), Bulworth was directed by Warren Beatty and stars Beatty, Halley Berry, and Don Cheadle. Eye on the Campaign: Celluloid Politico is a film series sponsored by the University of Toledo’s School of Visual and Performing Arts in conjunction with the Toledo Museum of Art and the exhibition I Approve This Message.

The Layout

You'll find a lot to explore, so as you walk into the Canaday Gallery, take a quick look at the Orientation Map so you know where you're heading.

Check out the Emotion Theaters: FEAR, ANGER, HOPE, PRIDE where you'll learn something about each individual emotion and, in some instances, be shocked by the most compelling presidential ads starting from 1952.

gallery map
Annotated Ads

Breaking down the Ads

Find 17 Ads Displays 7 feet tall on the exhibit walls showing you the tools and technique that are meant to persuade you -- frame-by-frame.







Exhibition Features

As you make your way through the exhibition, don't miss these features.

Brain and Heart icon


Immerse yourself in lights, imagery, sound, color, and motion in combinations that will impact your emotions in ways you may not expect. Are you guided by your head or your heart? You might just answer that question here.

Visual Literacy Logo


Make your own ads, post them and vote "I Approve" for ads others make. Take a quick tutorial through "visual literacy," which may just open new ways of viewing art and imagery.

American Flag icon


Find out how presidential ads spoke to different audiences then versus now. Then follow a timeline that demonstrates how technology, laws, news, and advertising have all merged together to bring us to where we are today

  • I Approve This Message: Decoding Ads

  • Johnson 1964 - Peace Little Girl (Daisy)

  • Eisenhower 1952 - Man From Abilene

  • Nixon 1968 - The First Civil Right

  • Reagan 1984 - The Bear

Get merch here.


Media and Candidate Policy

General Media Coverage

Media planning to cover Toledo Museum of Art and/or the exhibition I Approve This Message when political candidates are not involved should consult the Museum’s standard media policy.

For the protection of our visitors and art, unscheduled media visits or photo/video shoots that cannot be staffed will be declined.

Political Candidate Visits

Requests for candidates to visit the Museum should be submitted at least one business day (24 hours) in advance and coordinated through the Museum’s Marketing Communications Office:

Stephanie Elton
Director of Communications
419.255.8000, ext. 7428

Full details available in this document.