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Posters and Election Propaganda

A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 1:06PM   |  1 comment
Frame from Brave New PAC's "A Fellow POW on John McCain," 2008

In early nineteenth-century America, negative advertising and distortion of candidate records were all practiced in politics—in partisan newspapers, broadsides, and posters. Today, this is mainly conducted on the Internet and with TV spot ads.

Vinny Minchillo (Chief Creative Officer, Scott Howell & Company) says that presidential advertising is like auto advertising. Here are the similarities, according to him (in Advertising Age, September 19, 2008):

  • "Both decisions come with a commitment of two, four or six years"
  • "Potential customers are engaged for a short period of time"
  • "People actually do their homework before committing"
  • "People want us to believe they decide based on facts, when it's really an emotional decision"
  • "There's plenty of negative advertising"

The key for shoppers—for presidents and cars—writes Minchillo, is to "make a connection to the brand that is both logical and emotional." There are a number of important questions asked by these shoppers, but perhaps the most important ones are "How will this car make me look?" and "What will my friends say when I reveal my candidate choice?" Minchillo states that Obama—"a stunning orator and tremendous narrator"— is a "Ferrari"; McCain—"with tons of experience and decent qualifications"—is a "Toyota Camry."

Then there is the "comparative advertising" between "products." Although surveys have indicated that many voters dislike negative political ads, researchers have shown that they are often effective. Two of the most successful were the Willie Horton spots in 1988 and those by the Swift Boat Veterans in 2004.

The most malicious video spots are not even shown on television; rather they are posted online. Both TV and online spots have been financed by so-called "527 groups." These groups can raise unlimited funds independent of the authorized groups supporting candidates and parties, but must disclose donors. One 527 group, calling itself the "Brave New PAC" targeted John McCain with a spot attempting to tarnish his "hero" image as a Vietnam POW. Here it is:


An anti-Obama spot, posted by "Our Country PAC," called into question the Democrat's "patriotism." Here it is:


These are just two. You can find many more out there.


1 Comment

This is a really interesting comparison and it is so true.



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