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Posters and Election Propaganda

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

Tagged as “McCain”

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:23PM   |  Add a comment
Swiss People's Party, "Creating Security," 2007

The 2008 U.S. Republican Party Platform supported border security and English as the official national language, and opposed any amnesty for illegal immigrants. These stands—emphasized by most GOP presidential candidates during the primary campaign and continuing into the general election, particularly by state and local candidates, hurt many Republicans who ran: For example, in 2004, an estimated 39 percent of Latinos voted for George W. Bush; in 2008, only 31 percent voted for John McCain. But at least the U.S. does not have a party whose main purpose is to oppose immigration and immigrants. In other parts of the world, such parties abound.

In France, the increase in the number of immigrants and Arabs with French citizenship helped resurrect Jean-Marie Le Pen’s party, the Front National (FN), which had received little support since Le Pen helped found it in 1972. By 1988, however, Le Pen garnered 14 percent of the vote in the presidential election. The message of protecting white French citizens against the waves of immigrants was summed up on a Le Pen poster with the slogan “Defend our colors.” In 1995, he achieved 15 percent, with a blatant anti-immigrant campaign, marked by an FN poster that stated, “Three million unemployed, that is three million immigrants too many!” Another FN poster included a silhouette of an airplane in front of the setting sun, with the slogan “When we come in … They go out!” And in 2002, Le Pen (with his slogan of “France and the French First”) received almost 17 percent, getting him into a runoff against Jacques Chirac (who defeated him soundly 82 percent to 18 percent). But in the latest French presidential election, last year, Le Pen's share of the vote was down to 10 percent.

Unfortunately, anti-immigrant appeals have been evident in other countries, too. A poster distributed by the Danish People’s Party during the 2001 election showed a young blond girl with the statement, “When she retires, Denmark will be a majority-Muslim nation.”  In the same campaign, Venstre (the Liberal Party) erected a billboard that showed three Asian men, who had been tried for group rape, leaving the court after having been acquitted, with the caption “this will not be tolerated once Venstre gets in.” In that election, Venstre won the most seats in the parliament (a gain of 34 percent) and the People’s Party came in third in seats (a 70-percent increase). The Swiss People’s Party (SVP) achieved even more than its Danish counterpart, winning the most votes in the parliamentary elections of 1999, 2003, and 2007, possibly helped by posters that depicted foreigners as criminals shredding the nation’s flag. In the last elections, the SVP achieved its best result (29 percent), despite (or because of) issuing a subsequently banned poster that depicted three white cartoon sheep kicking a black one off the Swiss flag, as well as the slogan “Creating security” (see the illustration to the right). Anti-immigrant poster campaigns by political parties have also been conducted recently in other European countries, including Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, and The Netherlands, as well as in New Zealand.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 12:20PM   |  1 comment
USA Today, Political Spending (http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics)

This year has seen yet another record for campaign expenditures in the U.S. The projected total amount for the presidential and congressional campaigns is $5.3 billion, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. This money has been spent mainly on political marketing—including TV, radio, and Internet spot ads, and direct mail—but also for the conventions, canvassing, polling, and telephone calls.

Almost one-half of the above amount—a record $2.4 billion—has been spent on the presidential race. But, as USA Today's Fredreka Schouten noted, this "is less than the $2.6 billion Coca-Cola spent on advertising in 2006." Of course, it is also 50% more than the $1.6 billion expended on the presidential race four years ago.

It also should be mentioned that the Democrats raised almost 60% of the total this year, whereas fundraising by the two major U.S. political parties was approximately the same in 2004. Over 90% of Barack Obama's $639 billion has come from individual contributors, according to the Center, whereas only a bit more than 50% of John McCain's $360 billion has been given by individuals (23% are federal funds; 22% are "Other").

The minor parties? Well, independent Ralph Nader obtained only $4 million (of which 22% were from federal funds); Libertarian Bob Barr had about $1.25 million (with no federal funds); Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin raised $239,000 (with no federal funds); Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney had a mere $188,000 (with only about $5,000 from the federal government).

Interesting, independent "527 groups" devoted to federal races have raised less money this year: $424 million (a decrease of 12% from 2004), reports Ms. Schouten.

How much does all this spending help candidates? There is some research to indicate that it does help somewhat. For instance, money spent on campaign advertising in British elections has been found to be generally effective, particularly for out-of-power parties against incumbent ones. This may prove to be the case in this year's U.S. presidential election.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 4:15PM   |  Add a comment
AFL-CIO, "Straight Answers," 2008 (http://marcambinder.theatlantic.com)

The final "surge" is on in the last four days of the election campaign!

Labor unions almost always work to elect Democratic presidential candidates in the U.S., and this year is no exception. The AFL-CIO, for example put together a huge campaign for the final four days—the largest in its political history—with more than 100,000 workers in 21 "battleground" states calling on almost 4 million union households, dialing 5.5 million telephone numbers, and disseminating over 2 million leaflets at workplaces in support of Barack Obama, wrote Jonathan Martin (http://www.politico.com).

This summer, the AFL-CIO sent cards (see the illustration on the right) to 600,000 union members in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, with their purpose to counter "myths and rumors about Sen. Obama,"  according to union spokesperson Steve Smith. The questions included the following about Obama (with all of the answers "Yes"):

  • Does he wear a flag pin on his lapel?
  • Is he a Christian?
  • Was he born in America?
  • Does he place his hand over his heart when he says the pledge?
  • Was he sworn in on a bible?

Another printed piece focused on health care and the economy. (see Marc Ambinder, The Atlantic)

 

As for the Republicans, the Politico's Martin reported that John McCain's campaign and the Republican National Committee are sending out robocalls and radio spot ads, featuring retiring Senator John Warner, to Virginians in that key battleground state. The messages emphasize defense. In the radio ad aimed at the voters in the Tidewater area (with its gigantic naval base), Warner says: "Barack Obama's liberal colleagues in Congress announced they will cut defense spending by 25%. Fellow Virginians, cuts in the defense budget will weaken Virginia's economy, weaken national defense."

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:00PM   |  Add a comment
Seymour Chwast, "No McBush," 2008 (http://www.30reasons.org)


Graphic designer Seymour Chwast has just displayed a pro-Obama poster design on the interesting Website known as 30 Reasons, which is putting up a different poster for each of the thirty days leading up to the election.


Chwast is a commercial artist, who has designed everything from food packages to posters. He was active during the Vietnam War creating protest posters, including one that showed Uncle Sam with warplanes dropping bombs inside his mouth.

 

Chwast has written many books, including Graphic Style: From Victorian to Digital (which he co-authored with Steven Heller).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 1:25PM   |  Add a comment
"America First," 1916 (in Michael Beschloss, Ed., American Heritage Illustrated History of The Presidents)

Before "Country First" (one of John McCain's slogans in this year's campaign), there was "America First."

Interestingly, this slogan was used in two different years, by two different political parties, in the early twentieth century, and again in 1992 (in a primary campaign).

In 1916, Democrat Woodrow Wilson's campaign employed it in the U.S. presidential campaign. In that election, the slogan was a reference to the Wilson administration having kept the country out of the war in Europe; and the slogan “Wilson, That’s All!” had been employed previously in advertisements for a brand of whiskey (according to Michael Beschloss in his American Heritage Illustrated History of The Presidents). Wilson's opponent, Republican Charles Evans Hughes, blamed the concerted “He Kept Us Out of War”/“America First” propaganda effort that so heavily used vivid pictorial posters and billboards for his defeat.

In 1920, it was the Republican campaign for Warren G. Harding that used this slogan, exploiting the public's disillusionment with World War I and its aftermath. One can see the "America First" slogan in Howard Chandler Christy’s idealized rendition of Harding with the candidate dramatically making the "V" sign with one hand and holding an American flag with the other.

Patrick Buchanan, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1992, also used the theme "America First." According to Ron Faucheux, "Buchanan's enemies drew unflattering comparisons between his slogan and the same one that had been used a half-century earlier by the 'America First' committee, an isolationist group that opposed U.S. entry into World War II." The "America First" committee's goal had been to prevent the U.S. from entering World War II. 

McCain's "Country First" slogan does not imply any isolationism. In the present campaign, McCain is trying to say that the Republican candidate puts the "country" before any political considerations. For example, McCain called for the "surge" in Iraq when this was an unpopular strategy, even among members of his own party.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:10PM   |  Add a comment
Alex Ross, "SuperObama," 2008 (http://www.artofobama.com)


I've already discussed the guerrilla artists for Obama (Ron English and Shepard Fairey), but what about other artists' work? We've seen Ray Noland's "The Dream," but he has produced many other posters supporting Obama, such as "Coast to Coast" (Obama with a basketball) and "Next" (similar to "The Dream). I've created a gallery of Obama posters. Here are several pro-Obama ones:

  • "Obama Bomaye" by Emek
  • "Yes We Can" by Antar Dayal
  • "We Want Change" by Mear One
  • "Hope" by Mac
  • "Barack Obama" by Burlesque Design
  • "Nuestra Voz" by Rafael Lopez
  • "McSame" by Andrew Lewis
  • "The Republicans Present McSame" by Zoltron 

Click Here for the Gallery.


There are not many artists supporting McCain. The only one to be found is Baxter Orr, who created the "Dope" poster (seen bottom right).

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 1:30PM   |  Add a comment
"One Heartbeat Away," National Nurses Organizing Committee, 2008

According to The Spot (a blog about political ads by the Campaign Media Analysis Group, a division of TNS Media Intelligence), special interest groups are girding up to release TV spots in targeted states. These 527 and PAC groups may "prove to be a significant force, largely because they are more willing than candidates to include incendiary information and images in their ads," states the blog.

In the last week, these groups distributed ads that focused on abortion, rape, Obama's association with Tony Rezko, Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers, McCain's bouts with cancer, and more.

Planned Parenthood, the Committee for Truth in Politics, the California Nurses Association, and the Judicial Confirmation Network sponsored ads that ran over 1,000 times during the week—costing almost $375,000.

Here are two of the ads:




Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:40PM   |  Add a comment
Frame from "Better Off" Video, McCain-Palin Campaign, 2008



Along with Apple, Coors, Nike, and Zappos, the Obama and McCain campaigns have been nominated as finalists for Advertising Age's "Marketer of the Year" Award, 2008.

 

Obama's campaign used innovative marketing techniques to brand the Democratic candidate as the agent of "hope" and "change," and mobilized young people to support him.

 

McCain's campaign reinforced the Republican's brand as a "maverick" and a "hero," and partially grabbed "the mantle of change" from his opponent, according to Advertising Age

 


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.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 5:37PM   |  Add a comment
2008 Yard Signs

Yard signs hold a prominent position in twenty-first-century election campaign packages, although not much is said about them. Both the Obama and McCain campaigns are selling these signs (also called "lawn signs") on their Web sites. Both sides have added the names of the vice-presidential candidates to them in the past month or so.

Yard signs are often similar to the posters and bumper stickers produced. They are part of coordinated campaign packages, with their components (magnets, tee shirts, etc.) exhibiting the same logo-type design. They have much in common with TV political spots and product commercials: their messages have almost always been reduced to a few, carefully selected, pretested words and images that encapsulate why people should vote for a candidate or party, as well as—after much repetition—building “brand familiarity.”

Frequently a slogan or logo is included, which can further motivate voters to support a candidate. These play on emotions—an advertising practice, along with repetition, that works. Successful brand management for a candidate is characterized by simple slogans and logos that resonate with voters. The Obama campaign's logo, for example, is designed to get voters' attention and to make them feel good about the candidate, with its imagery evoking feelings of patriotism, the "heartland," and optimism.
 
Yard signs establish the presence of a candidate in a community and are mainly aimed at supporters— to increase their sense of urgency to work for the ticket and get other partisans to do so. In nineteenth-century American campaigns, parades with banners helped gain attention for candidates and stir supporters; today, yard signs help to accomplish this.

Since the 1950s, antilitter legislation in the United States has been a key factor in the heavy use of election yard signs, while limiting the display of posters and billboards in public places.

The display of yard signs often continues after the voting has occurred. This might reinforce citizens’ identification with parties and help them in the next round of elections. Researchers have found that a “basking-in-reflected-glory” effect can occur for posters and homeowners’ lawn signs. This phenomenon lasted for one week after the 1999 general elections in three urban areas of Flanders: a significant relationship was found to exist between the performance of the winning or losing party and the exhibition of those parties’ printed material. Homeowners were more likely to display the posters and lawn signs that favored the victors and to remove those for the defeated parties.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 4:51AM
Obama Wallpaper, 2008 (www.barackobama.com)

Obama Slogans:


"Yes We Can"
—Possibly derived from the United Farm Workers' slogan of 1972. The union's leader, Cesar Chavez, stated "Sí, se puede" ("Yes, it can be done"). Two years later, Philadelphia Phillies' second baseman Dave Cash came up with the "Yes We Can" slogan in support of his team, fighting for the pennant. Later, it appeared on the British children's TV show Bob the Builder, whose viewers heard the question "Can we fix it?" and the response "Yes we can!" Nevertheless, it is a very effective political slogan: positive and inclusive.

"Change We Can Believe In"
—This slogan reinforces Obama's call to withdraw combat troops from Iraq, at first perhaps to differentiate his position from that of his Democratic primary opponents, particularly Hillary Clinton. Now it competes with McCain's call for "change."

McCain Slogans:


"Reform, Prosperity, Peace"
—Very similar to others in political history, including Wilson's “Peace With Honor” (U.S., 1916); the Bolsheviks' "Peace, Bread, and Land" (Russia, 1917); Cox's “Peace, Progress, Prosperity” (U.S., 1920); Willkie's “For Peace, Preparedness and Prosperity” (U.S., 1940); Truman’s “Secure the Peace” (U.S., 1948); Eisenhower's "Peace and Prosperity" (U.S., 1956); Koizumi's “Kaikaku” ["Reform"] (Japan, 2001). It attempts to communicate quite a lot: that McCain is for "change," "economic growth," and wants to get out of Iraq, but with "honor" (He could use Wilson's slogan, too). 

"A Cause Greater Than Self" a call to service for the country. This is a natural slogan for McCain, who has been in the U.S. Navy and Congress most of his adult life. In his memoir, McCain wrote, "Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you, but is not defined by your existence alone."

"Country First"—Partially a tactic to distance McCain from President Bush and the Republican Party; partially an attempt to stress McCain's heroism during the Vietnam War; partially a veiled effort to cast suspicion on Obama's patriotism.

"A Leader You Can Believe In"—McCain's campaign took the Obama slogan, changed it to emphasize a perceived strength for McCain, and made it, at the same time, into a negative attack on Obama.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 12:39PM   |  Add a comment
McCain Logo


The basic McCain design has good contrast and it is dominated by the candidate’s name. Notice the star and the gold line that symbolizes John McCain’s military background. Unlike most U.S. election campaign designs, this one lacks the usual red, white, and blue colors. 


The candidate's name is in bold Optima, a popular sans-serif font that was also used for the names displayed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., as Michael Bierut and Ellen Lupton noted in The New York Times. John McCain, of course, is perhaps the most famous Vietnam vet. Optima is a strong typeface, especially when in bold. That is what the McCain campaign is trying to communicate about him: that he is a leader who is principled and tough.  Good logos are part of good image management, and the McCain logo succeeds well enough. If all three of the colors of the flag had been used, it would be even better though.

 

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 10:48AM   |  Add a comment
Byron, McCain Poster, 2008 (http://www.johnmccain.com)



The winner of the McCain Poster Contest was announced this week. The design by Byron of Mesa, Arizona won the most votes in the competition on the Republican candidate for president's Web site. Let's take a look at the design. It features a determined-looking McCain thoughtfully gazing to the side. This pose seems appropriate, considering the serious times that the senator says we are in. (Posters for Carter, Nixon, and Ford also used this approach.) Alongside the candidate is a flag, with an eagle ornament above it. Both symbols have been used repeatedly by the major parties in U.S. election campaigns. Finally the slogan, "Integrity We Can Trust," reinforces the theme that the Republican campaign has developed: "McCain is a man of honor, who will put his country first."



The McCain design is relatively conventional. Unlike some of Obama's posters, it is not very artistic or "cutting edge." It uses design techniques that have been employed dozens of times before, probably because they are thought to be effective. In 1984, for example, idealized drawings of President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H. W. Bush, against an American flag backdrop, and the façade of the White House, were seen in a poster. In 1840, Whig banners were produced, some with an eagle holding a scroll with the designations “Tip” and “Ty” (for the ticket of William Henry “Old Tippecanoe” Harrison and John Tyler) in its beak and the slogan “Our Country is safe, in such Hands." Patriotic slogans and symbols are propagandistic because they appeal to voters' emotions, and are always evident in election campaign material. This year is no different.

 

 


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