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Posters and Election Propaganda About this blog

Posters and Election Propaganda

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

Tagged as “billboards”

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 4:25PM   |  Add a comment
British National Party Billboard (2009) (http://bnp.org.uk)

Mark Jones, on a Reuters blog that focuses on Britain, speculates that social media could mean the death of election posters and billboards.

The use of new social media technologies was expanded by the Obama campaign in the U.S. in 2008. Many marketing people thought that these would be more effective than older media—even TV—in influencing voters, particularly younger ones. The Obama campaign had desktop wallpaper, blogs, posters and signs, logos, flyers, badges, widgets, IM buddy icons, and mobile ring tones available on its Web site, and people who signed up could receive campaign updates and notices about events on their cell phones (accompanied by an image of the candidate and his logo) or they could find them on Twitter. In addition, one of the first iPhone applications was developed for the Obama campaign, with which users could obtain news about the candidate, video spots, and photos. Additionally, the Obama Web site sold lots of posters via its online store, and there were dozens of Web sites that put up poster designs.

But social media were important. Chris Hughes (a founder of Facebook) developed the Obama Web site as a social network, and there were also Facebook and MySpace groups. Almost 60 percent of under-30 registered voters visited candidate Web sites, social-networking sites, or blogs in 2008, according to the Pew Research Center, and this age group was much more likely to turn out for Obama.

Political posters and billboards get a lot of media attention in Britain, but even there they may be used less in the future. However, nowadays, poster designs are often meant to be downloaded from Web sites, and electronic billboards are becoming more commonplace. In the past year in the U.S., for example, Coca-Cola put up ads on these digital outdoor displays in 27 markets, according to Natalie Zmuda in Advertising Age.

In close elections, posters have made a difference. Some interesting research, conducted before the 1996 parliamentary elections in Great Britain, suggested that poster campaigns persuaded swing voters, in particular, to change their political preferences. Researchers found that a Conservative Party's “New Labour, New Danger” poster, showing two red eyes peering out from behind a red curtain, was effective with focus-group members, 25–34 years old of age, who lacked strong party allegiances.

Overall, posters and billboards may have had some influence, according to researchers. Voters surveyed in the United Kingdom during the 2001 election campaign indicated that billboard advertisements had affected one in ten persons—2 percent reported that the ads had a “great deal” of influence on them and 8 percent indicated a “fair amount.” In comparison, the percentages for televised broadcasts were 6 percent and 16 percent for the same response categories. In addition, the survey data from 1992 to 2000 in Japan revealed generally similar findings about the influence of election posters in that country: when participants were asked if the medium assisted their voting decisions, the percentages ranged from 5 to 9 percent for posters (about the same as for newspaper advertisements)

Of course, these percentages could be lower in the years to come.

For more on the use of posters in British election campaigns and on the effects of posters on voting behavior, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 3:20PM   |  2 comments
David Cameron Images (http://www.mirror.co.uk)

Many have decried the "presidentialization," "Americanization," and infusion of marketing into British politics, although these trends have been apparent for quite a few years now.

The latest barrage of criticism is directed at Conservative leader David Cameron's "presidential-style" election billboard/poster campaign, in anticipation of the upcoming elections in the United Kingdom. Many dislike the poster's focus on only Cameron, with senior Conservative leaders such as George Osborne and William Hague ignored. Even the party's logo is missing. This is not America, after all!

While it is true that, because its political system is parliamentary, there is more emphasis on parties than there is in the United States, Great Britain’s campaigns became “presidential”—in many ways—in the 1990s. This “presidentialization” was stimulated, in part, by the concentration of broadcast and newspaper reporting on party leaders; decisions by the parties themselves to focus attention on these men and women as message deliverers also factored. Even earlier, in 1987, the Labour Party brought in American political consultant Joseph Napolitan. In the 1980s, the Labour Party (seeing how political marketing techniques had proven to be successful for the Conservatives) began to move away from its reluctance to employ “modern” strategic political advertising and promotional methods and began to embrace them. This transition accelerated in the early 1990s, under Tony Blair’s leadership. The “Americanization” (i.e., more emphasis on personality and image, simplification of problems to a few emphasized issues, targeting of voters, and negative and/or emotional messages) of the campaigns conducted by the Labour Party was manifest in the inclusion, on posters, of photographs of Blair.

The Cameron billboard has also been attacked because of the obvious airbrushing and manipulation of the Tory leader's image, including his nose being slimmed down, his hair increased, and, according to Didi Danso (the Mirror's Fashion Editor), "he has pouting lips Keira Knightley would be jealous of." Of course, this "image enhancement" has occurred before. In 1929, British Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin was featured on a poster, with him appearing quite handsome, even though one contemporary reporter, Ernest Marshall, wrote that although “Baldwin has been described as the homeliest man in a conspicuous position in British politics, … [his] facial lineaments are now displayed on posters all over the country as an attractive appeal to the voters, … [with his] features … rounded out almost to John Bullish fullness.”

The accompanying slogan in the Cameron billboard/poster is a negative one (as so many have been in the contentious election campaigns in Britain): "We can't go on like this. I'll cut the deficit, not the NHS." Cutting spending and not health services? Does this sound familar to U.S. voters?

According to the Mirror, over 700 of these billboards—at a cost of £500,000—have already been put up.

To learn more about the use of posters and billboards in British politics, as well as British political history and the influence of advertising and marketing, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:45PM   |  1 comment
Dueling billboards for parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn (left) and former Foreign Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in downtown Kyiv (2009) (RFE/RL)

The Ukrainian Republic will hold its presidential election on January 17, 2010. A candidate must receive at least 50% in the first round of voting, or a runoff election is held in February between the top two vote-getters. 

According to World Audit, Ukraine is a "qualified democracy," with some concerns expressed about "freedom of the press" and "corruption," although "civil liberties" is rated quite good.

The presidential election of 2004 was considered to be rigged by most observers, and the Orange Revolution resulted in the opposition—led by Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko—gaining power for two years, and Tymoshenko of the "Fatherland" Party became prime minister after the September 2007 elections.

Eighteen candidates are running for president, including [Poll results in brackets]:

  • Viktor Yanukovych, leader of the pro-Russian Regions Party and a former prime minister [32%]
  • Yulia Tymoshenko, the present prime minister and pro-Ukrainian language [16%]. The posters in the photo state, "Yulia will win."
  • Arseniy Yatseniuk, leader of the center Front for Change Party and former foreign minister [6%].

Billboards are an important medium of political propaganda in the Ukraine, with slogans encapsulating each candidate's campaign, according to Irena Chalupa of Radio Free Europe. Slogans for Tymoshenko include "They strike -- she works," "They block -- she works,"  "They ruin -- she works," and "She works, she will win, she is Ukraine." "They" meant the Ukrainian Parliament. Her hair is usually braided in Ukrainian style. Another candidate, Inna Bohoslovska, however, has billboard's that make fun of Tymoshenko's slogans, with two sloganing: "I will win, so she can stop working," and "I will win, so she can have a rest."

Billboards for Yanukovych aver "Your opinion has been heard. The problem has been solved" and "Ukraine for the people" (similar to the Soviet slogan "Everything for the people"). 

Yatsenyuk's billboards are similar to Shepard Fairey's for Barack Obama in their Photoshoped simplification and stylization (see photo to the right).

There are also lots of TV spots and parties even distributed surgical masks to voters worried about H1N1 flu!

Interestingly, there are several American political consulting firms and individual consultants advising the candidates, including Mark Penn's group (Penn advised Hillary Clinton in 2008), Paul Manafort (for John McCain last year), Tad Devine (for Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004), and AKPD, John Anzalone, and Joel Benenson (for Barack Obama in 2008). Penn's firm is working for Viktor Yushchenko (who is running far behind in the polls); Manafort and Devine are consulting for Yanukovych; AKPD and Anzalone are working for Tymoshenko; Benenson helped Yatseniuk.


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