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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 11:31AM   |  Add a comment
Andrew Redford Young, Poster Promoting Mitt Romney, 2011


So far, it seems that neither major party candidate for the U.S. presidency has inspired many artists to include their images in posters promoting President Barack Obama or former Governor Mitt Romney (There are a number of posters that show the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, however). For Obama, this is a remarkable departure from 2008, when a multitude of graphic designers and painters created posters that depicted the then-Senator from Illinois in a very positive manner. Among the dozens of pro-Obama posters produced four years ago, the most popular were Shepard Fairey's "Hope" and "Change" creations, which were inspiring, patriotic, and conveyed, as Fairey stated, "noble confidence,... a suggestion of looking into the future."

One poster, designed by Andrew Redford Young in 2011, does show Romney in an inspirational and patriotic way. Like Fairey's posters, it bathes Romney in red-white-and-blue, idealizes his features, and has him gazing into the beyond with confidence. Additionally, Young gives Romney a hint of a smile, accompanied by the simple slogan, "Jobs."

Now that the Republican National Convention is over (soon to be followed by the Democratic convention), it will be interesting to see what, if any, imagery includes the candidates in poster designs.

 

 



 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 3:10PM   |  Add a comment
"Obama Isn't Working" (http://www.mittromney.com, 2011)

Mitt Romney's campaign has now borrowed from the British Conservative Party's very successful campaign that brought Margaret Thatcher and her party to power in 1979. Romney's Website features an "Obama Isn't Working" banner that is almost identical to a British poster used more than thirty years ago.

The 1979 campaign in Great Britain was marked by the aggressive and innovative advertising campaign for the Conservatives devised by Saatchi & Saatchi, and its “Labour Isn’t Working” poster was the key element. The firm’s Tim Bell (whom Thatcher later knighted for his efforts) was given the account and he decided to emphasize emotions, not issues, which would appeal to voters—an approach that was hardly new.

In 1979, high inflation, strikes, unemployment, declining market shares in many industries, monetary devaluation, and skyrocketing oil prices plagued the Labour government. In fact, many of the same problems beset U.S. President Jimmy Carter at the end of the decade. As a result (and with effective political marketing specialists aiding the conservatives in the two countries), both Carter and Labour lost power to Reagan and Thatcher. The faltering British economy and the Tories’ advertising strategy clearly convinced many voters to side with Thatcher’s party, which increased its share of the vote from 36 percent in the previous election to almost 44 percent (while Labour’s share declined from 39 percent to 37 percent).

As Maurice Saatchi said years later, "in great advertising, as in great art, simplicity is all … [with] simple themes, simple messages, simple visual images."

As both U.S. parties have acknowledged, jobs and the economy are the dominant issues in the 2012 campaign. And imagery—even if borrowed—may play a role in determining the election outcome.

For more on the 1978-1979 election campaign in Great Britain, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.  


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