About this blog
A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters
Tagged as “political”
Saturday, October 13, 2012
In 2008, Rafael López created a powerful poster for the Barack Obama for President campaign. His poster, "Voz Unida" ("United Voice"), was one of ten posters designed for the campaign's Artists for Obama series. The 1000 prints of López's poster sold for $60 each. Some of the other artists in the series were Robert Indiana, Shepard Fairey, Scott Hansen, and Lou Stoval. The style of "Voz Unida"—showing a blue-tinted Obama surrounded by red, yellow, brown, and orange tones—was calculated to appeal to Latino voters, among others.
This year, López designed a new poster, "Estamos Unidos" ("We are United") (seen at the right). He was inspired to do so, he said, because of President Obama's support for "early education programs for children" and because he "has doubled Pell Grants so working families can afford college." Also, according to López, Obama's "bold actions to fix the broken immigration system and support of the Dream Act prove he is on our side." The poster is characterized by the same "visionary" gaze that was evident in the 2008 poster, with the same background colors.
The evolution of the painting of "Estamos Unidos" can be seen at López's Web site.
The new poster will soon be available for purchase at the Obama for America Store.
Friday, August 31, 2012
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.
Saturday, August 11, 2012
Today, Mitt Romney added Congressman Paul Ryan to the Republican national ticket, with a new slogan, "America's Comeback Team," and a new logo. The logo does not use the large, stylized "R" in the presidential candidate's name; rather it allows Ryan to "keep" his own "R" (albeit a smaller, simpler one).
The slogan is reminiscent of Democrat Bill Clinton being termed the "Comeback Kid" by the media, after he did well in the 1992 New Hampshire Primary, although the Romney-Ryan slogan is a Reaganesque call for America to return to "greatness" under new leadership.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Next year's election campaign in the United States promises to be a wild one, with an incumbent president fighting increasingly longer odds on his reelection, given the terrible state of the economy. The campaign promises to be one in which both issues and personalities are prominent.
One hundred years earlier, another incumbent U.S. president, William Howard Taft, fought to retain power. And although issues (conservation, tariffs, rights of workers, and governmental reform) were important, the dynamic personality of former president Theodore Roosevelt loomed large (compared to the dull Taft). Taft's campaign was crippled by a split in his Republican Party, with Roosevelt leading the progressive wing of the party (and running under the banner of the Progressive or "Bull Moose" Party) against the conservatives, who supported Taft for the nomination. Robert La Follette, who had defeated Taft in two of the first four primaries, did not support either Taft or Roosevelt. Woodrow Wilson led a united Democratic Party to victory. Although Roosevelt’s popular and electoral vote totals surpassed those of Taft, Wilson’s margin over the former president in the popular vote was a substantial 14.5 percent.
In 1912, political campaigns did not use any of the media that emerged later in the twentieth century. Political campaigning did not change fundamentally until the medium of radio altered strategies in the mid-1920s, although campaign speeches had surpassed parades and rallies in importance around the turn of the century. Posters, banners, and billboards, however, continued to be a significant vehicle for political operatives. In 1912, the New Jersey Roosevelt Republican League issued a report on its primary campaign to defeat President Taft for the party’s nomination, stating, “Banners are swung across the streets in every city and town of importance, extolling the candidates. Billboards are plastered with huge posters eulogizing President Taft. Campaign pictures of ‘Teddy’ [Roosevelt] and Taft look out from windows everywhere.” Moreover, many lithographic posters were produced, and these were quite colorful, with backgrounds in bright hues for greater impact.
The election of 1912 was a watershed of sorts for U.S. campaign posters. Gone were the cornucopias and most of the patriotic symbols (such as eagles and flags) that had been used since the 1840s. Instead, Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party seized upon the symbol of the Bull Moose—which prompted the party’s nickname—to symbolize the strength of the candidate and his third-party movement. Its symbol was included on some of the posters, cloth banners, buttons, pennants, handkerchiefs, postcards, and other campaign promotions. Since three candidates were essentially “progressive,” personality qualities and symbols were really more important than issues. Slogans were also an essential ingredient: Roosevelt stumped the country calling for a “New Nationalism”; Wilson delivered campaign speeches for a “New Freedom”; and Taft generally stayed in the White House, with his banners proclaiming “Better be safe than sorry.”
A series of photographic portraits of all the major candidates were issued with neither their names nor the names of their parties—another change for printed election propaganda. Other posters did contain some of this information, but one for the Progressive ticket of Roosevelt and Senator Hiram Johnson of California included only the last names of the two candidates, their full-length photographic portraits, and the final lines of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Ballad of the East and West” (See the figure to the right). Roosevelt’s image had come a long way since the last time he ran: in 1904, stuffed “teddy bears” were distributed, which related Roosevelt to both a huggable toy and “family values”; in 1912, he was associated more with the bull moose, with verses from Kipling fortifying the impression of strength. The Taft campaign used the party’s symbol of the elephant—which had been around for several decades, along with the Democratic donkey—on many campaign items, including a poster that displayed portraits of Taft and his running mate, Vice President James Sherman, on the animal’s blanket. Undoubtedly, with Roosevelt’s breakaway movement so powerful, it was important for the Taft strategists to emphasize party symbolism and loyalty.
For more on the election of 1912, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
The most famous political TV ad of all time—the so-called "Daisy Spot"—was only run once. But it made quite an impression.
The 1964 presidential election campaign—pitting President Lyndon B. Johnson (or LBJ, as he was commonly called), the Democratic nominee, against Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee—was marked by increased media expenditures for TV spots, and audience attentiveness to them. According to Larry Sabato, ten thousand TV spots were aired in the largest seventy-five media markets during the campaign.
Advertising firm Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) developed the memorable spot for Johnson, calling it “Peace, Little Girl.” A DDB media specialist, Tony Schwartz, conceived the spot, after doing commercials that included children for Ivory Snow®, Johnson’s® Baby Powder, Polaroid cameras, and other corporate products. Schwartz believed that by combining the right images, words, music, and sound effects, an ad could strike an emotional “responsive chord” in a consumer. The “Daisy Spot” opened with a young girl picking a daisy, and a narrator counting down from “ten.” The girl plucks off the petals as the countdown continues, the camera simultaneously zooming in to an extreme close-up of the girl’s eye. An atomic explosion erupts, and Lyndon Johnson is heard saying, “These are the stakes—to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.”
Although the Republicans tried to counter the tactics manifested in this commercial with their own spots—the theme of which was “we are the party of peace through strength” and which were highly critical of the Democratic administration’s “failures at the ‘wall of shame in Berlin,’ the Bay of Pigs in Cuba and in Vietnam”—Goldwater’s already hawkish image had become so negative for so many people that the deleterious consequences of the Democratic propaganda could not be undone. Even though the “Daisy Spot” ran only once, an estimated fifty million viewers saw it, and after the Republicans protested its airing, many more read and heard about it. While it is likely that, without the efforts of the advertising firm, Johnson would have won the U.S. presidency in 1964, his margin were probably increased substantially by the advertising campaign.
DDB’s propaganda campaign (which included the "Daisy Spot") did two significant things: (1) it created a convincing image of Goldwater as an “extremist” “product” and (2) it softened the image of Johnson as a “crass wheeler-dealer,” making him seem almost avuncular—virtually a “peace and love” advocate of the 1960s—in comparison to his “bellicose” opponent.
To see the "Daisy Spot" ad, click on: http://www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1964/peace-little-girl-daisy
Monday, January 24, 2011
Political banners have been used for a couple of centuries in the United States. At first, they were printed on cloth, and much later on vinyl for outdoor use. Many of these banners were (and still are) locally made, simple, and featured block lettering. Banners have been commonplace at rallies and parades.
The Whigs introduced two unique ideas to election campaigns: one was to use a potent symbol—the log cabin (often combined with soldiers and a jug of hard cider)—for their aristocratic candidate William Henry Harrison, the party's candidate for president in 1840, depicted as a rough-and-ready, common farmer; the other was the creation of silk flag banners, which added a portrait of Harrison and the phrases “Old Tip” and “The Hero of Tippecanoe” to the American flag. Some of the Whig rallies, with banners unfurled, drew an estimated one hundred thousand people, perhaps attracted by the seemingly endless supplies of hard cider. A variety of banners were produced, some with an eagle holding a scroll with the Whig candidates’ designations “Tip” and “Ty” (for Harrison's vice-presidential candidate, John Tyler) in its beak and the slogan “Our Country is safe, in such Hands.” One observer counted one thousand banners in a Baltimore parade for Harrison. Most cloth banners continued to be relatively simple in design: one for the Republican national ticket in 1884 imparted only the last names of the candidates on a cloth with three stripes (one red, one white, and one blue), and a row of stars.
Banners with candidate portraits soon were widely deployed. A print (shown on the right) of a parade in Chicago for the 1892 Democratic Party national ticket shows a large cloth banner overhead, portraying candidates Grover Cleveland and Adlai Stevenson, as well as the Illinois governor, John Peter Algeld. About this time, flag banners were dying out, and flag desecration laws (passed at the beginning of the twentieth century) ended the practice of printing candidates’ names, symbols, and slogans on flag backgrounds.
By 1912, banners seemed to be omnipresent at election time. In that year, the New Jersey Republican League issued a report on its primary campaign to defeat President William Howard Taft for the party’s nomination, stating, “Banners are swung across the streets in every city and town of importance, extolling the candidates." Several companies printed campaign banners (for which only a few standard designs were available) on cloth, and some of the candidates’ portraits were painted by hand. At the end of the nineteenth century, one could order a thirty-by-forty-foot banner with portraits at a cost of between $112 and $140; without portraits, they could be purchased for $80. Taft generally stayed in the White House, with his banners proclaiming “Better be safe than sorry.” By 1928, banners were draped on automobiles for Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith.
Small cloth banners (typically colored in red, white, and blue) were popular campaign items in the 1930s and 1940s, displaying mottos and slogans, such as “God Bless America,” as well as drawn portraits of the candidates. One of these (shown on the right) exemplifies a patriotic banner from this period (from the 1932 campaign), depicting FDR, with flags and an eagle, "blessed by God."
In later elections, plastic banners were evident. One, in 1968, for example, proclaimed “Nixon’s the One!” Another, seen at the Republican convention in 2004, included most of the defining words from George W. Bush's acceptance speech, “We will build a safer world and a more hopeful America.”
Monday, January 17, 2011
Warren G. Harding, the presidential candidate of the Republican Party in the United States in 1920, is portrayed by actor Malachi Cleary in the HBO television series, "Boardwalk Empire." In fact, the title of the finale of the show's first season, "A Return to Normalcy," was one of Harding's campaign slogans. And a large Harding poster can be seen in the background during the Republican National Convention scene (as David Ettlin—a reader of this blog—points out). Harding, a silver-haired, adulterous, corrupt minor senator from Ohio, secured his party's nomination at the convention, with the help of several party bosses in a "smoke-filled room." On the TV show, Harding's campaign manager, Harry Daugherty is helped by “Nucky” Thompson (played by Steve Buscemi), who calls the candidate an "imbecile" while dealmaking to benefit both Harding and himself. "Nucky" also agrees to hide Harding's mistress, Nan Britton, in New Jersey during the presidential campaign.
During the 1920 campaign, the Republicans spent an incredible amount of money to elect Harding (who won by the huge margin of 26 percentage points). It was reported in The New York Times that five million posters that included portraits of Harding and his vice-presidential candidate, Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge, were printed, along with fifteen million buttons of Harding alone.
Although Daugherty was quite influential in the campaign, another figure, advertising executive Albert Lasker, loomed large. Lasker coordinated public relations and advertising, and posters and billboards were a fundamental part of the campaign. Lasker’s style of advertising, which often advocated the purchase of one product over another, worked very well in politics, with newspaper and billboard ads promoting politicians rather than products. It was a small leap for him to come up with another slogan for Harding, “Let’s be done with wiggle and wobble” (a reference to a Democratic policy that seemed first to have been isolationist, then interventionist), after concocting such slogans as “Keep that Schoolgirl Complexion” and “A Cow in Every Pantry” for products. Lasker’s slogan was seen on billboards across the country at a cost of four hundred thousand dollars (while the Democrats spent little on this medium)—and that was only 7.5 percent of the Republican National Committee’s total expenditures. The “wiggle and wobble” slogan strategy contrasted Lasker’s candidate with the outgoing president: Harding was depicted as a solid, steady leader with small-town values, who would return the country to “normalcy”; the outgoing Democratic president, Woodrow Wilson, on the other hand, had promised to keep the country out of the Great War, and then had led it into the conflict.
The visual images that were sometimes fashioned for the posters and billboards in the Harding campaing were imposing: a good example is Howard Chandler Christy’s idealized rendition of Harding with the candidate dramatically raising one hand and appearing to hold an American flag with the other. There were only two words accompanying the image: “America First!” (yet another slogan). This was the same slogan that was used in the Wilson poster in the previous election campaign, and, amazingly, the slogan that was included in some Democratic posters in 1920.
To learn much more about the Harding campaign, see the book Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
In its May auction, Heritage Auction Galleries sold a copy of what it called "Perhaps the Most Sought After of All Color Political Lithography from This 'Golden Era'." The period referred to went from the last decade of the nineteenth century through the first decade of the twentieth, and the poster was issued in 1896 and/or 1900 in support of Republican presidential candidate William McKinley.
Heritage stated: "Here graphic appeal combines with rarity, as there are surely fewer than ten examples of this poster known in the organized hobby, and several of those exhibit condition issues. This example is in superb condition and is assuredly unimprovable."
The poster sold for almost $18,000.
McKinley, the governor of Ohio, was largely in favor of retaining the gold standard. In addition, he was the author of the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890, which was largely protectionist. His campaign manager, Mark Hanna, a wealthy businessperson who applied the principles of business of that period to political campaigns, raised millions of dollars, outspending the Democrats by anywhere from seven to thirty-two times.
Hanna packaged his candidate, creating the image of him as a leader who had a simple and clear message (encapsulated in the slogan on the poster, "Prosperity at Home, Prestige Abroad"). Overall, the Republican campaign theme in 1896 was that a McKinley administration could pull the country out of a depression and return it to prosperity, which did actually happen by 1900. This theme is illustrated in the poster, with the Republican presidential candidate holding a flag while literally standing on a platform of “sound money” (i.e., paper currency backed by gold), held up by businessmen and laborers. In the background are ships and factories, to symbolize "commerce" and "civilization," respectively. There are also rays of sunshine—used in the political posters of many countries to convey optimism.
Hanna’s tactics with which he associated his candidate and the Republican Party with the icon of the American flag, helped build support twenty years later to declare Flag Day an official national holiday.
To learn more about the McKinley campaigns and their posters, and much more, see the book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Carl Paladino, the Buffalo real estate and development millionaire, who won the New York State Republican gubernatorial primary in September by a landslide and lost by twenty-seven percentage points to his Democratic opponent, Andrew Cuomo, in November ran an unusually negative campaign. Typical were the flyer/posters, which one could download from Paladino's Web site. All told, there were twenty-four designs from his primary and general election campaigns, which included the following (most attacking Cuomo):
- "Cuomoween 2"
- "The Usual Suspects"
- "The Business Council endorsing Cuomo is like asking the Boston Strangle to massage your neck."
- "Clean up Albany? Start with Cuomo."
- "No Cojones"
Most flyer/posters of this kind have been positive in the past. More extensive flyers—such as one linking furloughed convict Willie Horton to Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988—have been negative in the other elections and had a visual or two, with lots of supporting text. But Paladino's designs are really posters, with little text. They are meant to be downloaded and displayed, or sent as email attachments. "The Usual Suspects" is a faux-film poster that shows Cuomo in a yellow zoot suit and accuses him of taking bribes; "Lying Again" illustrates Cuomo as the long-nosed Pinocchio; one "Clean up Albany? Start with Cuomo" has the Democrat soaping up in the shower, and another has him as "Super Mario, Junior," who "has been playing the Albany game for 30 years"; and "Will You Stand with Carl...." has (Albany Democratic) tanks aimed at "One Man."
Backed by tea-party groups, Paladino declared that he was "mad as hell," and promised to “clean up Albany with a baseball bat.” High unemployment, a record budget deficit, and missed budget deadlines in the state legislature all could have worked in his favor. But his campaign was so inept, that he turned a possible victory into a crushing defeat by threatening a reporter, focusing on secondary issues, and showing up totally unprepared for the one debate. He kept saying that he would reduce spending and taxes, but did not present many details on how he would accomplish these things. In the end, the vast majority of voters felt—as Cuomo's ads stated—that Paladino was "unfit for the office."
Saturday, October 2, 2010
California voters next month could approve a proposition to permit anyone 21 years or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. Right now, the polls show voters in favor of the proposition by six points. Proposition 19 would also allow local governments to regulate and tax the commercial production and sale of marijuana, but prohibit possession on school grounds and other public places, as well as smoking it in the presence of minors or providing it to anyone under 21 years old. Laws against the use of marijuana while driving would continue to be in force.
There are lots of posters for and against the initiative. Two of them are presented here. The use of the Sun in posters is common in political propaganda, with the goal to stimulate positive feelings about an issue or candidate. It is also present on a Web site put up by Prop 19 supporters: http://yeson19.com/. Here is a Web site in opposition: http://www.noonproposition19.com.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The Japanese now has a movement similar to the U.S. tea-party movement, but in their country, there is a real political party to vote for.
The party is called "Minna no Tō," which means "Everyone's Party" in English, although I have usually seen it referred to as "Your Party." The party is a new one—founded less than a year ago by politicians who left the Liberal Democratic Party.
The party stands for lower taxes, less regulation, aid to small businesses, and less government intervention.
In the election held this past Sunday, Your Party garnered ten seats in the upper house in parliament (still well below the main parties' numbers).
Your Party leader Yoshimi Watanabe stated after the vote that his group would not join the ruling coalition: "I think the prime minister should gracefully step down—a political gesture that would be in line with the results of the election."
"Forming a coalition is out of the question," Watanabe said. "Your Party is all about agenda, and we can't cooperate with a party with a different agenda. But we can coordinate in areas where our agendas are consistent."
Source: The Japan Times—http://search.japantimes.co.jp/rss/nn20100713a2.html
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Although the donkey is used as a symbol of the U.S. Democratic Party, it has never been officially adopted. The rooster, however, was. The story begins in 1840, when the famous "Log Cabin Campaign" occurred. More on that shortly. It must be said that the donkey did come first. In 1828, Democrat Andrew Jackson was ridiculed and called a "jackass" by the supporters of John Quincy Adams during the heated presidential campaign. In 1870, Thomas Nast used it as a symbol for the Democratic Party. And it has been widely recognized as the party's unofficial symbol since that time.
Now for the rooster. According to John Fowler Mitchell, Jr., the origin of the rooster as the emblem of the Democratic Party was in Greenfield, Indiana. Joseph Chapman, a native of Greenfield, a Jacksonian Democrat, and a state legislator, was an acclaimed orator and derided by the opposition Whigs for his "crowing." During his campaign for a seat in the lower house of the Indiana State Legislature, the Whigs' critical "Crow, Chapman, Crow!" was seized by the Democrats and used in support of their candidate and Chapman won, despite the Whigs' nationwide victory that year. Indiana Democrats, followed by the national party, soon chose the rooster as their symbol, and Chapman was hereafter known as "Crowing Joe Chapman."
A century or so later, the rooster was seen on a poster in support of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S Truman, and is still evident on posters in some states.
Monday, May 10, 2010
The Whig Party's campaign in the United States in 1840 for William Henry Harrison can be called the first great political marketing campaign that mythologized a candidate. The campaign, called "The Log Cabin Campaign," targeted the so-called "common man"—previously a main source of support for Andrew Jackson (and his successor, Martin Van Buren) and the Democrats.
The Whigs in 1840 introduced three ideas to election campaigns: one was to use a potent symbol—the log cabin (often combined with soldiers and a jug of hard cider)—for candidate Harrison, typically depicted as a rough-and-ready farmer and military hero; another was the creation of silk flag banners, which frequently added a portrait of Harrison and the phrases “Old Tip” and “The Hero of Tippecanoe” (a battle during the War of 1812) to the American flag; the party also introduced effective slogans into politics, with "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too," which referred to the Whig's ticket, headed by Harrison, with John Tyler as his running mate.
Some of the Whig rallies, with banners unfurled, drew an estimated 100,000 people, perhaps attracted by the seemingly endless supplies of hard cider. It mattered little to most partisans that the “common man” image concocted for Harrison was false. The log cabin was used to represent Harrison’s “poor” and “humble” background. His background was neither; rather, he was born in a mansion on a Virginia plantation and lived in a fancy house in Indiana when nominated for the presidency. Regardless of the truth, the imagery and the hard cider that was distributed at the gigantic rallies undoubtedly excited voters and boosted the Harrison campaign. This is evident in the voter turnout that increased from 54 percent in 1836 to 77 percent in 1840; the Harrison-Tyler ticket won by a 6 percent margin in the popular vote and claimed 80 percent of the electoral votes. The Democrats were thrown out of power—after holding it for a dozen years—and the Whigs gained their first president.
The log-cabin imagery, along with emphasis on Harrison’s military leadership, was accompanied by pageantry. The Whigs borrowed most of the Democratic Party’s past publicity ideas and took them to new heights. They published their own newspapers (one of which became the New York Herald Tribune); wrote campaign songs; organized rallies and parades; printed broadsides and banners; and produced goods such as hairbrushes adorned with portraits of Harrison, ceramic dishes with his “modest” farm on them, “Tippecanoe Shaving Soap or Log-Cabin Emollient,” and, above all, miniature log cabins. One observer counted one thousand banners in a Baltimore parade for Harrison.
At present, Heritage Auctions, Inc. has a rare silk campaign flag banner from the 1840 campaign up for auction. Most of these flags, as Heritage's Web site points out, "feature merely a campaign slogan or a central portrait of the candidate," but this banner shows the candidate in front of a log cabin, with a barrel of hard cider being tapped alongside it. Heritage estimates that this campaign banner will sell for between $20,000 and $25,000.
Sources: Paul F. Boller, Jr., Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush, 2nd rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Robert Gray Gunderson, The Log-Cabin Campaign (Lexington, Ky: University of Kentucky Press, 1957); Keith Melder, Hail to the Candidate: Presidential Campaigns from Banners to Broadcasts (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1992); Peter F. Nardulli, Jon K. Dalager, and Donald E. Greco, “Voter Turnout in U.S. Presidential Elections: An Historical View and Some Speculation,” PS: Political Science and Politics 29 (1996): 480-490.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
It is surprising that televised debates—which began in the United States in 1960—just arrived in the United Kingdom this year! After all, British prime ministers have responded to questions posed by the opposition in parliament for hundreds of years, sometimes with outrageous results.
The recent debates among the leaders of the three main British political parties, according to Sarah Lyall (writing in The New York Times) "were meant to provide a corrective to that, replacing the histrionics with gravity and purpose. But their main effect, it seems, has been not to get people thinking about issues so much as to accelerate a different trend entirely—the move to an American-style obsession with personality politics."
In other words, the emphasis is more on image over issues. Many observers of British political campaigns believe that candidates' appearance, charm, likability, eloquence, seeming sincerity, and even family members have become much more important in the U.K.—even though the country is facing grave economic issues. According to MORI pollster Robert Worcester, "[i]mage makes up about 60 percent of the determinants for the floating voter and 40 percent is about issues." [quoted in Reuters]
In the U.S., it is usually critical for a candidate to present him or herself as being in touch with the common person, and that is increasingly the case in the U.K. as well. As Lyall points out, even though Nick Clegg (the Liberal Democrats' leader) and David Cameron (leader of the Conservative Party) come from "posh" or "privileged backgrounds," they were often presented as "down-to-earth" blokes. For example, Cameron is depicted as a man who rides to work on a bicycle, washes the dishes, and spends time with his wife and children.
Image management in politics has taken place in the U.K. for quite awhile, even if it has picked up in the last few decades. Posters distributed during World War II featured the Winston Churchill with planes and tanks in the background. Television spots in the late 1960s showed Conservative leader Edward Heath in a pub and at a football game to try to “humanize” him. By 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 Labour Party campaigns had begun in earnest, manifest in the inclusion, on posters, of numerous photographs of Blair, who had a winning personality and was quite photogenic.
The recent debates may have made election campaigns in the U.K. even more of "a charisma contest," as Simon Schama wrote in The New Yorker, with the image of Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Labour suffering, since he "still managed to exude a gloomy fatalism," while Cameron was "eager to berate bankers for their wicked bonuses," and Clegg was "fresh of face and forthright and fluent in his opinions, look[ing] straight into the camera."
Friday, April 30, 2010
Jonathan Gabay of brand forensics talks to the BBC about the British Conservative Party's poster campaign for this year's elections that directly attacks Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
It echoes Saatchi & Saatchi's famous 1979 campaign for Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives, best seen in the classic poster, titled "Labour Isn't Working."
Thursday, April 22, 2010
The first round of Poland's presidential election will take place on June 20. If no candidate garners more than 50% of the vote, a second round will be needed, which will occur on July 4.
Acting Polish president Bronislaw Komorowski, who called the election, is also a candidate for president, representing the ruling centrist Civic Platform party (PO). Komorowski became president after President Lech Kaczyński of the rightist Law and Justice party (PiS), his wife, and many Polish officials died in a plane crash in Russia earlier this month.
Opinion polls have Komorowski in the lead for president, whose duties are mainly ceremonial, but who can veto legislation (although a veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote in the parliament) and participate in foreign-policy discussions. In one poll, Komorowski is at 55 percent and Jaroslaw Kaczyński (Lech's twin brother) is at 32%, although the latter figure has not announced that he will be a candidate. Other parties, such as the agrarian Polish People's Party (PSL), are also putting up candidates.
The logo of Law and Justice features a stylized white eagle with a crown, which associates the party with the same symbols on the national coat of arms.
The first posters for the upcoming election have not appeared yet, but they will. All parties produce many posters, as well as banners, TV spots, radio programs, bumper stickers, buttons, leaflets, and newspapers, for the country's political campaigns. Such campaigns have taken place for a long time in Poland. Beginning in 1573, the gentry (even those who were impoverished) elected the king after much debate, wining, and dining. Members of the parliament also were elected.
To read more about Polish politics and posters, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
The influential parenting Web site in Britain, Mumsnet.com, is being used by the political parties to get across their messages to "mommy bloggers." The May election in the U.K. is now being called the "Mumsnet Election," according to Emma Hall in AdAge.com. In fact, the Web site has a section with exactly that title, with links to an article, a survey, a discussion board, leader biographies, and Web chats.
Just as "soccer moms" were a key targeted group for Bill Clinton's 1996 U.S. campaign, middle-class, college-educated mothers are being targeted in this year's British campaign, as Rachel Sylvester points out in the TImes. According to Sylvester, "Labour is planning manifesto pledges to increase paternity leave, allow greater flexibility at work and give more help to those caring for elderly parents. The Tories are also preparing to pitch to the Mumsnet vote with an increase in parental leave...."
Both the Conservative and Labour Parties have developed ads for the Web site and their leaders have participated in online chat sessions with some of the site's users. One Labour ad says, "Are you earning more than 42,000 pounds? Say hello to David [Cameron, the Conservative Party's leader]. And goodbye to your child tax credits. Vote Tory and you'll get less than you bargained for." The Conservative Party's ad exclaims, however, that the party favors child tax credits for people who earn under 78,000 pounds.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
This Friday is Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Lincoln, who was born 201 years ago in Kentucky, was ranked recently as the greatest U.S. president (albeit in a poll conducted by the Times of London).
In 1860, with the nation divided, the Republican Party promoted its candidate, Lincoln, as a common man of integrity and worth—the rail-splitting frontiersman. A poster for the ticket of Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin that year, titled “The Union Must and Shall be Preserved,” included a rail fence and it took care to show laborers on either side of a shield that declared “Protection to American Industry,” as well as the customary eagle, cornucopias, and flags. The motto “Free Speech, Free Homes, Free Territory” referred to the party’s platform positions on the elimination of slavery in federal territories, support of the Homestead Act, and freedom to voice anti-slavery views. The overriding issue was slavery expansion, which had finally reached the crisis stage, after decades of agitation by abolitionists and pro-slavery expansionists.
The parades, rallies, campaign newspapers and songs, and free food and drink that had been used in the past continued to be employed by all parties, of which there were four: (1) the Republicans, headed by Lincoln; (2) the regular Democrats, whose presidential nominee was Stephen Douglas; (3) the National Democrats, headed by John Breckenridge, who supported the federal government’s protection of slavery in the territories; and (4) the Constitutional Union Party, which nominated Bell and, as its paper banner proclaimed, was in favor of “The Union, the Constitution and the Enforcement of the Laws.” Placards and posters, as well as refreshments (such as barbecued meats, crackers, and bread), were essential ingredients at the rallies—attended by as many as 30,000 people.
Lincoln’s supporters published two weekly newspapers, both called the Rail Splitter, which not only propagated his stands on issues, but also raised funds. Numerous portrait prints of the candidates were produced for rallies and parades, or simply distributed to potential voters—a practice that had occurred for some time. Many copies of Mathew Brady’s photographs of Lincoln were distributed, as were lithographic portrait posters of Lincoln, Bell, and Douglas. Lithographic portraits of Lincoln by Currier & Ives, idealized from Brady photographs, were sold for twenty cents each. Some of the lithographic prints were hand-colored: a portrait of Lincoln, for example, used during his first presidential campaign, had only red added to his lips and the background curtains.
In 1860, the Republicans’ presidential ticket was not even on the ballot in ten states in the South, but Lincoln won the election overwhelmingly in the North and West, with a popular vote north of the 41st parallel greater than 60 percent (for an easy electoral victory), and garnered about 40 percent overall. Despite Lincoln’s attempts to reassure the South, his election led to its secession and the bitter Civil War that ensued.
For more on the momentous 1860 campaign—as well as an account of the 1864 campaign to re-elect Lincoln—and the printed propaganda used, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
In the video posted below, Bill Whittle, on Pajamas TV, makes some good points (made by many, including this blogger) about the importance of branding and graphic design in politics, rightly pointing to the Obama logo as brilliant, but also overdoing it by calling the logo and its use symptomatic of a "cult of the personality."
There is no doubt, however, that the team commissioned by the Obama campaign developed a distinctive logo, which helped establish a brand of "hope" and "change" for the candidate, and succeeded—just like the logos for Nike and Apple—to gain recognition and which communicated the "essence" of the "product."
[Thanks to Sean Quinn for alerting me to this video.]
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Three books with posters that promoted Barack Obama for president of the U.S. last year have just been released:
- Hope: A Collection of Obama Posters and Prints by Hal Elliott Wert. With more than 170 posters (many little known) from Wert's collection and a foreword by Ray Noland, the street artist who created "The Dream." Wert is a professor at the Kansas City Art Institute.
- Design for Obama. Posters for Change: A Grassroots Anthology, edited by Spike Lee and Aaron Perry-Zucker, with an essay by Steven Heller. A selection of posters from designforobama.org. Heller is Co-chair of the School of Visual Arts MFA Designer as Author Program and writes a column on visual design for the The New York Times Book Review. You can leaf through the book on the publisher's Web site.
- Art for Obama: Designing Manifest Hope and the Campaign for Change, edited by Shepard Fairey and Jennifer Gross. Fairey, of course, is the controversial street artist who created the most prominent image of Obama. This collection reportedly has many collages, paintings, photo composites, prints, and computer-generated designs, with many by little known artists, as well, but also posters by Ron English and Fairey.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The Swiss People's Party (SVP) is at it again—this time with a poster urging a ban on the building of any minarets in the country. The poster shows a woman in a burka and the minarets on top of a Swiss flag. Some have said that the minarets look like missiles. There will be a referendum on November 29 on a possible ban on the building of new minarets.
The cities of Zurich, Geneva, Lucerne, and Winterthur have allowed this poster to be displayed as a matter of freedom of speech, according to BBC News. However, Basel, Lausanne and Fribourg have banned the public display of the poster.
According to a poll, about 35% of voters favor the ban, while 51% are opposed to it.
The SVP is the top vote-getting party in parliamentary elections in Switzerland.
[Thanks to Joshua Seidman-Zager for sending the link to the BBC News article.]
Sunday, October 4, 2009
President Manuel Zelaya was ousted by the Honduran military in a June 28th coup, after he planned to have a vote on a non-binding resolution on constitutional change.
If voters had approved such change, a referendum authorizing a commission to change the country's constitution to allow presidents (including Zelaya) to serve more than one term, could have been held this November. However, Zelaya denied that he intended to stand for re-election. In any case, the Supreme Court and the Congress voted that the change was illegal, and that Zelaya could not fire the head of the armed forces, Romeo Vásquez (who had opposed his plan). When Zelaya did not accept the rulings by the Supreme Court and Congress (as well as the county's human-rights ombudsman), they voted to remove him from office.
It was feared by many that Zelaya (allied with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Cuba's Fidel Castro) was working to seize power. Protests and sanctions by other governments have wracked Honduras since his ouster. The United States and many other countries (as well as the Organization of American States) have said that the crisis concerning Zelaya must be resolved or the upcoming November 28 election will be considered to be illegitimate. Polls indicate that Zelaya has the support of about one-fourth of Hondurans.
Zelaya is now being protected by Brazil, in its embassy in Honduras. Interim President Roberto Micheletti (a member of Zelaya's Liberal Party) has stated that Zelaya can leave the embassy "either through political asylum or by obeying the courts." And last week, Micheletti suspended civil liberties and banned protests.
Meanwhile, six candidates for the Honduran presidency are now campaigning, but without the typical rallies. The campaign posters that are put up are almost immediately destroyed and/or taken down, but TV spots have continued to be aired.
Elvin Santos (the Liberal Party candidate) is trying to be get elected by being friendly with both Zelaya and Micheletti. "We may have profound political differences," Santos declared. "But that doesn't mean I can't hug any Honduran I want, as I did when I greeted President Micheletti, when I greeted President Zelaya."
Porfirio Lobo Sosa (candidate of the conservative National Party) has stated that there is no "constitutional crisis," but rather a regular scheduled election to be held. Lobo is ahead in the polls. He has condemned the suspension of civil liberties.
Honduras is a tiny nation, which has a population of only about 7.5 million people. It has held fairly democratic elections since the late 1980s, after two decades of military repression and political intervention. The history of Honduras—a country with an unemployment rate of almost 30%—is filled with civil wars (which took the lives of an estimated thirteen thousand citizens between 1892 and 1924) and elections often marked by fraud and military force, frequently followed by presidential dictatorship and domination of Congress. The derogatory name “The Banana Republic” was given to Honduras in the early twentieth century, after the United Fruit Company bought the country’s banana company, and began to exercise undue influence. Honduras became the world’s sole country whose primary export was bananas. To learn more about the political history of Honduras, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
Sources:BBCNews, "Q&A: Crisis in Honduras"; Jose de Cordoba, "Honduras Lurches Toward Crisis Over Election," Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2009; The Economist, "Zelaya Swaps Exile for Embassy," September 26, 2009, pp. 47-48; Rui Ferreira, "Profile: Honduras' Presidential Candidate Porfirio Lobo Sosa," PODER360o, September 29, 2009; Blake Schmidt, "Honduras Candidate Says Crackdown May Undermine Vote (Update1)," Bloomberg.com, September 30, 2009; Mark Stevenson, "Honduran interim leader: No meeting with Zelaya," Associated Press, September 25, 2009.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
German voters will elect a new parliament today, and German involvement in the war in Afghanistan is a key issue, along with the economy.
Germany, which has 4,200 troops in Afghanistan, recently bombed fuel tankers that had been stolen by the Taliban there, and civilians were killed in the attack. On Friday, an al-Qaida group, calling itself "The German," released a video with vague threats issued in retaliation for Germany's military presence in Afghanistan.
The Social Democratic Party (SPD) has called for an exit strategy from the conflict. German involvement in Afghanistan has been a contentious issue for years now. In fact, in 2005, Rolf Schwanitz, an SPD minister, issued a controversial poster, titled "She [Merkel] Would Have Sent Soldiers" (shown on the right), which featured a row of flag-draped coffins of American war dead.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to remain in office, with her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) garnering the most votes. The CDU (with the Bavarian Christian Social Union) is supported by about 35% in the latest polls, with its coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrat Party (FDP), attracting 13% support. If these two parties fail to gain a majority of the votes, they will have to find a third partner or the CDU will try to continue the present coalition with the center-left SPD, which is polling around 25%. For pre-election poll results, click here. The rest of the vote will be divided mainly between the Green Party and socialistic Left Party (each with about 12%).
Posters for Merkel and her party are more sedate, showing her smiling along with her main slogan, "We have the strength." Perhaps the most controversial CDU poster, titled "We have more to offer," was issued by Vera Lengsfeld, with her own and Chancellor Merkel's cleavage prominent (also shown on the right). Several women's groups criticized the poster. However, the most important controversy—besides the war in Afghanistan—is whether or not to cut taxes and increase the budget deficits (favored by the CDU and FDP, and opposed by the SPD and others).
The Green Party also issued an attention-getting poster, titled “The only reason to vote black,” which showed a white woman's hands on a black woman's bottom. Some criticized this poster as racist, although the Greens stated that the color black was meant to symbolize the CDU and that the poster was intended to show support for same-sex partnerships.
To read about the the political history of Germany and its posters, including past provocative ones by the Green Party, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Between 10 and 5 is a blog that showcases South African graphic design work from agencies, freelancers, illustrators, and artists.
Check out the political posters, and their slogans ("hope" and "change" were prominent), displayed recently by clicking here.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Steven Heller, writing in his Daily Heller blog, has an interesting piece on posters to promote the Tea Party movement, as well as on anti-Obama designs (many of which are from The People's Cube Web site), which include Pelosi, Reid, and Obama as "The Three Stooges"; the "Tree of Liberty" symbol and the message "don't give me DEBT"; and Obama as "El Presidente of the Banana Republic of the United States."
Just as propaganda of the left can smear the opposition and distort positions, so, too, can propaganda of the right. As Heller states:
The transposition of Obama as a Soviet/Red...and the smearing of the Democratic party as Marxist...shows a decided lack of imagination and historical knowledge. First, socialism as a practice (i.e. Sweden) and Soviet Communism (remember the breakup of the Soviet Union) are quite different political beasts. Representing the Obama administration with the hammer and sickle is as stupid as smearing it with a swastika...Just as George W. Bush was not a Nazi for starting the Iraqi War, President Barack Obama is not a "commie-fascist" for advocating a government-subsidized health care plan.
Check out the poster designs on The People's Cube, and comment on the designs and messages.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Les Otten, a Republican running for governor of Maine (election to be held in 2010) has a logo that is similar to the very successful logo devised for Barack Obama last year.
It has the red-white-and-blue color scheme of the Obama logo, with green mountains and a leaf added. This makes a lot of sense in Maine, with its great natural resources. Check out Otten's Web site (also similar to Obama's), on which he advocates for the government to subsidize alternative energy options: http://lesotten.com/
[Thanks to Steven Heller, who discussed Otten's Web site on his blog, The Daily Heller, and to Laura Larrimore, who alerted me to Heller's blog entry]
Monday, June 15, 2009
Several Irish commentators are opining that an election poster in support of one Mannix Flynn is an interesting one—at least in Dublin. Ann Marie Hourihane, writing in the Irish Times, wrote that the Flynn poster stands out in a sea of mediocre designs:
"Mannix Flynn is standing for the local elections, and his poster was recommended to me by a visually literate friend as a work of art. Its background is an acid yellow-green. It has a little lettering in shocking pink. The background to the candidate’s name is a dirty turquoise and the words Mannix Flynn are rendered in a dark burgundy. It looks sharp. It is retro, but it looks new. I know of one young woman who is going to vote for Mannix Flynn on the basis that his poster is cool. In the land of the disembodied and grinning heads something new, and very good, can be done with a format which is staggering with weariness."
Flynn is a writer and actor, who ran for the Dublin City Council in the June 5th elections, and won as an independent.
You can check out Flynn's Web site, which has a music video supporting him, among other things.
Flynn should make sure that his posters are taken down though, since even independent candidates can be fined heavily for leaving them up under a 1997 law.
Monday, June 8, 2009
There are anti-immigrant parties in many European countries, including Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, and Switzerland (see previous blog entries from March 7, 2009 and December 14, 2008).
The elections to determine members of the European Union (EU) Parliament were just held in 27 nations, with the center-right European People's Party coalition emerging with the most seats.
One party that did particularly well was the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV). The PVV's platform calls for an end to immigration from non-European countries and opposes the admission of Turkey to the EU. In the 2006 elections for the Dutch House of Representatives, the PVV garnered only about 6% of the vote, but in this year's EU elections, it gained 17% (second only to the ruling Christian Democratic Alliance), giving the party its first four seats. In his "victory" speech, PVV leader, Geert Wilders stated: "The Netherlands is waking up from a long leftist nightmare. A nightmare of crazy high taxes, crime, lousy care, headscarves and burkas, of pauperizing, of mass immigration and Islamization...."
Other anti-immigrant parties also did well: the Italian Northern League won 10% of the vote (an increase from it's 8% in the 2008 general elections); the British National Party won its first two seats, with about 8% of the vote; Austria's Freedom Party won 13% of the vote (more than doubling its share); Hungary's Jobbik (For a Better Hungary) Party won 3 of 22 seats, with 15%—doing better than the Socialists; the Danish People's Party also won about 15%. British National Party Chairman Nick Griffin (who was elected to the EU Parliament over a Labourite) said: "We do say this country is full up. The key thing is to shut the door."
The biggest winners, according to the Financial Times of London, were the center-right parties, led by Angela Merkel of Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Donald Tusk of Poland, and Viktor Orban of Hungary, all of whose forces did much better than their Socialist (and other) opponents at the polls.
The EU Parliament is elected every five years. The body has power of legislation that affects environmental, consumer, and transportation matters, as well as joint control (with the countries' legislatures) over the $182 billion EU budget. The turnout in the elections, however, has also been going down, from a high of 62% in 1979 to 43% in this year's elections.
Other sources: Coming Vote on Assembly Elicits Shrugs in Europe/NY Times; Dutch Anti-Immigrant Party Emerges as Big Winner in EU Elections/TimesOnLine; Election Results Across Europe/BBC News; Results of the 2009 European Elections; View from the Right
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Political Web sites all over the world have copied Barack Obama's very successful site—in their designs, color schemes, features, and more! Regardless of their position on the political spectrum, parties and candidates have found that Obama-like sites are effective ones.
Shane D'Aprile, in an article for Politics magazine (April 2009, pp. 26-32; 34; 36-37), mentions some examples of such sites:
- Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel): Obamaesque red buttons on a blue background; "Likud-TV" instead of "Obama TV"; and social-networking ("Netanyahu Everywhere" rather than "Obama Everywhere"). (http://en.netanyahu.org.il/)
- Fianna Fáil (Ireland): Lots of green, but also Obama-type interactive buttons for volunteers, with the site designed by Blue State Digital (which also designed the Obama site). (http://www.fiannafail.ie/content/index/)
- Democratic Alliance (South Africa): A logo that has a sun and stripes on a home page with a slogan "change"; buttons to donate, volunteer, etc. (http://www.da.org.za/)
- Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (El Salvador): More stripes and buttons to donate and view videos. (http://www.fmln.org.sv/)
Other groups—in India, Great Britain, and Germany—also have borrowed Web ideas from the Obama campaign. According to Ron Dermer, an adviser to Netanyahu, "imitation is the greatest form of flattery. We're all in the same business, so we took a close look at a guy who has been successful and tried to learn from him." (quoted in http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/15/world/middleeast/15bibi.html)
Thursday, April 16, 2009
In 1872, Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to run for the presidency of the United States. A one-time actress, spiritualist, prostitute, and free-love advocate, she was a member of the Marxist International Workingmen's Association. She was also 76-year-old Cornelius Vanderbilt's lover, and (with his advice) did quite well in investing. She and her sister soon became the first women to establish a banking and brokerage company on Wall Street. By 1870, the two sisters had the means to publish Woodhull and Claflin's Weekly, which covered such topics as women's suffrage and labor-management issues.
Also in 1870, Woodhull announced her intention to run for president—even though women did not have the right to vote (and would not gain it until 1920). In early 1871, she testified before the House Judiciary Committee on behalf of women suffrage. Her speech impressed several leaders of the suffrage movement, including Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Woodhull soon rose to a leadership position.
In January 1872, the National Women Suffrage Association nominated Woodhull to run for president. Her campaign platform supported a woman's right to vote, free love, nationalization of land, fair wages, and much more. Woodhull ran under the banner of the new Equal Rights Party, but her name was not printed on ballots and write-in votes for her were not counted, as Ulysses S. Grant won a second term.
The next women to run for president was Belva Lockwood in 1884. A lawyer, as well as a leader in the women's suffrage movement, Lockwood also ran as a candidate of the Equal Rights Party. Her platform not only called for women to be given the right to vote, but also advocated for civil service reform, Native Americans, African Americans, immigrants, protection of public lands, and temperance. She ran an energetic campaign, but the mainstream candidates—Grover Cleveland and James Blaine—refused to debate her. Lockwood garnered 4,149 votes (in the six states that allowed her name on ballots), as Cleveland won. Anthony and Stanton supported Blaine. Lockwood also ran four years later, with her vote total unknown.
After the results were announced in 1884, Lockwood declared that most men hang on to "old ideas, developed in the days of chivalry," but that "equality of rights and privileges is but simple justice."
The campaign itself witnessed much Lockwood paraphernalia, including stickpins, mechanical paper cards, ribbons, tickets, tobacco cards, and magazine cartoons.
Sources: Women in History: Victoria Woodhull— http://www.lkwdpl.org/wihohio/wood-vic.htm; Ballot Access News: http://www.ballotaccess.org/2007/01/22/women-running-for-president-in-the-general-election/; Jill Norgren, Belva Lockwood Blazing the Trail for Women in Law: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/spring/belva-lockwood-1.html; Jack Wilson (2008, Summer/Fall/Winter), "Belva Lockwood for President," The Keynoter.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Last month, the Swiss electorate voted for a referendum allowing the free movement of workers in 27 European Union (EU) countries. Almost 60% favored the referendum.
The opposition to the referendum was led by the Swiss People's Party (SVP), the top vote-getting party in parliamentary elections in Switzerland, and producer of the infamous "black sheep" poster of 2007 (see previous blog entry).
This time around, the SVP disseminated a poster that showed several black crows pecking at a map of Switzerland. The crows probably symbolize Romania and Bulgaria (the newest, but poorer countries in the EU), which the SVP believes will flood wealthier Switzerland with workers, taking jobs away from Swiss citizens and increasing costs for
Friday, February 20, 2009
Elections are scheduled this year in five countries in Latin America, namely Chile, Panama, Uruguay, El Salvador, and Honduras. World Audit rates the first three countries as "fully democratic," and the other two as "qualified democracies," meaning that there are some flaws.
In much of Latin America, “street poster art” is an influential political medium, and during election campaigns, posters are omnipresent. This is true even as the influences of television and the Internet have become greater. The standard practice is to maximize the impact of a poster’s message by pasting many copies of the same poster in rows or columns. This repetition attracts attention. During the 2005 Chilean presidential election, “one [could not] seem to leave the house without being subject to posters lined up on every street,” according to one report. That posters are essential in Latin America is not surprising, considering a recent survey found that almost 80 percent of the region’s campaign managers believed the image of a candidate was the most important factor in a political campaign. Furthermore, 24 percent of these political professionals indicated that street posters were of “exceptional importance” in campaign advertising strategy, a percentage almost as high as for daily newspapers (29 percent) and private television (30 percent).
In 1970, Chile witnessed a momentous election campaign, which culminated in the election of Salvador Allende Gossens, a Socialist, as president. Supporters of Allende were excited and hopeful for change, with other voters fearful of what would happen in the country if he won. Some in Allende’s Socialist Party called for seizing power, if he was not elected. Three years later, Allende was found dead, after a military takeover, the presidential palace bombed beyond repair, and General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte was declared the dictatorial leader. It was apparent that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States, under President Richard Nixon, had worked to prevent Allende’s election, and—after he had won—helped to destabilize the regime. The details are supplied in my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History, along with sections on other nations in the region.
Free elections occurred again in Chile only in 1990. In 2005, Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria, the candidate of Allende's Socialist Party (which is part of a coalition, Concert of Parties for Democracy or CPD), was elected president of Chile—the first woman to hold the office—winning a runoff election with 53.5% of the vote.
At the right is the logo of the Social Democratic Radical Party of Chile (another member of the CPD), with the rose as its symbol—like many Socialist Parties around the world, including those in Brazil, Romania, Switzerland, Spain, Serbia, Ukraine, France, and the British Labour Party.
Also at the right is a poster, which targeted feminists, from the 1970 Allende campaign.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Israel's parliamentary election is this Tuesday, with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party slightly favored to regain power. Since the Israeli incursion into Gaza last month, polls indicate an increase in popularity for the conservatives of Likud, whose main opposition is the ruling Kadima Party, led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is perceived as more moderate than Netanyahu. To the right of Netanyahu and his party is Soviet-born Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) Party is also doing well in the polls. It appears as though the hardliners toward the Palestinians may gain power. One consequence is that Netanyahu, if elected, will not stop building settlements in "occupied" territories. [See article in Reuters for more information on the campaign and U.S.-Israeli relations]
However, there has been a late shift back to the Kadima Party in the polls. Right now, according to the latest data, Likud will gain 27 seats and Kadima 25—out of 120 seats in the Knesset (the Israeli parliament). Yisrael Beiteinu will win 14 seats. The Labour Party, led by Ehud Barak (another former prime minister), trails badly. The leader of the party with a plurality will then attempt to put together a coalition government. According to Jason Koutsoukis of Fairfax Digital Network, even if Livni's party wins the most seats, it will be difficult for her to form a coalition, since Lieberman's party has similar stands to those of Likud.
As for the campaign, many Israelis are uncharacteristically lacking in enthusiasm for the candidates and their positions, according to David Blair of Britain's Weekly Telegraph. Of course, campaign posters continue to be seen on the streets, but fewer rallies have been held.
One group—suspected to be Orthodox extremists—defaced posters of Livni in Jerusalem. It probably had less to do with her centrist positions, and more to do with opposition to images of women being seen in public, wrote Shelly Paz of The Jerusalem Post.
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Iraqi politicians have embraced American political methods, as evidenced by their behavior in the campaign leading up to the provincial elections on January 31, according to the Washington Post (click on the link for the full article).
Candidates for Baghdad's provincial council emulated John McCain at a three-hour town hall meeting, fielding questions from all quarters. With the violence diminished, politicians are now getting out in public. Some examples of questions from Iraqi citizens and journalists:
- "Should the militarizing of Iraq continue?"
- "How are you going to deal with run-down buildings?"
- "How much have you spent on your campaigns?"
There is no shortage of candidates vying for the 440 seats on provincial councils in 14 of the 18 provinces—14,431 (almost 30% female), to be exact, with over 400 blocs participating!
Posters are everywhere, and newspaper ads and glossy brochures are numerous. The evidence of the Americanization of Iraq's politics is also heard on the radio and television, with jingles and spots playing repeatedly, and candidate images and slogans on T-shirts (similar to those for Barack Obama a few months ago). A photograph of Sabir al-Isawi (the head of the Baghdad provincial council) for example, was printed on a campaign poster; he is depicted looking upward (like Obama in several U.S. posters), with an image of a child drinking polluted water from a broken pipe behind him.
Many women are running for office, but some have criticized them for illustrating their posters and other printed material with photographs of themselves. "We don't have a problem with women who want to be elected," Jaber Hussein Alwani (a tribal leader in Fallujah) said. "But they don't have to publicize their photo. It's unacceptable. They can just publish their names," he stated.
Some Iraqis complain about their politicians and political marketing—just like citizens in other countries. One stated: "When they put up posters, they each make themselves out to look like the best. When they're in office, they do nothing." Another declared: "I will not vote for anyone. I don't trust any of them. They're all thieves."
Monday, January 19, 2009
Shepard Fairey's "Hope" poster, which became the most famous icon of Barack Obama's presidential campaign, was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery, in Washington, DC, on January 17. Fairey is a guerrilla artist, who previously was best known for his "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" street-art posters and stickers, which promoted the huge wrestler in the late 1980s.
The National Portrait Gallery's blog stated: "Early in 2008, Fairey produced his first Obama portrait, with a stenciled face, visionary upward glance, and the caption 'Progress.' In this second version, Fairey repeated the heroic pose and patriotic color scheme, substituting the slogan 'Hope' .... The campaign sold 50,000 official posters; a San Francisco streetwear company produced T-shirts; grassroots organizations disseminated hundreds of thousands of stickers; and a free downloadable version generated countless repetitions."
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Iraq's provincial election will take place at the end of January. Campaign posters are ubiquitous, especially in Baghdad, but they are often defaced or ripped down soon after they go up (as occurs in many countries)!
Accordingly, political parties and individual candidates have been admonished by the head of the country's Independent High Electoral Commission about defacing posters, as well as placing them on government buildings and security checkpoints. The penalties assessed can range from $90 to $44,500 (U.S.)
A party's election slate number is usually displayed prominently on the poster. One poster, for example, states:
"Madaniyoon list number 460: Our objective is to make sterilized water reach every house," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
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.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The presidential campaign in Ghana just ended, with the voting on Sunday resulting in a virtual tie between the two candidates. According to Reuters, Nana Akufo-Addo (a former minister of foreign affairs) of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) is slightly ahead in the count with about 49 percent of the vote so far, but almost 4 of 10 constituencies have not been tallied as yet. John Atta Mills (who has run for president, and lost, twice previously) of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has garnered almost 48 percent. If neither candidate's total hits 50 percent, there will be a run-off on December 28. Both men are moderates, and favor investment in healthcare, education, and infrastructure.
Ghana is a stable democracy of more than 20 million people—rated #35 in the world, by World Audit (one of only two "fully democratic" countries in Africa, the other being Mauritius). Ghana has a fairly healthy economy, which grew almost 7 percent in 2007. It is a major producer of cocoa and gold, and is developing offshore oil discoveries. Poverty still exists, however, and literacy (in 2000) was under 60 percent.
The campaign had the usual "mud slinging," but "there was a carnival atmosphere and friendly exchanges among rival supporters," said Will Ross, a BBC correspondent. Posters, billboards, and t-shirts for Akufo-Addo called him “The Best Man for Ghana.” Those for Mills termed him a man “you can trust” and “a better man for Ghana”.
Here is a music video, performed by Daddy Lumba, for Nana:
Friday, December 5, 2008
Finland—according to World Audit—is ranked #1 of the world's countries for "democracy" (after a review of figures on public corruption, human and political rights, free speech, and the rule of law in every country of at least one million people).
The nation conducts presidential elections every six years, selects a parliament every four years, has European Parliament elections every five years, and municipal elections every four years.
There are 13 registered political parties, and 7 other ones that were removed after the 2007 parliamentary elections for failing to win a seat in two consecutive votes. Although the three main parties (Centre, National Coalition, and Social Democratic) gained 2/3 of the seats in the parliament in 2007, the support for them was about the same (23%, 22%, and 21%, respectively), and a coalition government was formed, with the first two parties joining with the Green League and Swedish People's Party (representing the Swedish speakers in Finland).
In Finland, where legal restrictions are placed on political advertising on television and radio, posters are widely used. Many candidates also have their own Web pages. Nowadays, the posters often show portraits of the candidates, but issues and logos are also represented. For a good sampling of election posters throughout history from the Finnish Social Democratic Party, click on this link.
At the right are two Finnish campaign posters:
- Swedish People's Party (1960)—advocating for the rights of Swedish speakers (top)
- Urho Kekkonen for president (1956)—promoting the politician who held office from 1956 until 1982. He was elected the first time by two votes in the electoral college, which was done away with after he left office (bottom)
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Eric Portis is an artist who created an interesting poster to promote Barack Obama, with copies intended to be sold on the streets of Denver, the site of the Democratic National Convention this year. His printing technique was old fashioned, seen mainly in the nineteenth century: it involved using four carved wood blocks, each one for a different color on the cardboard poster.
Obama smiles out at us, with rays of light behind him (similar to Ray Noland's "The Dream"—seen earlier in this blog), and the Denver skyline. Under the candidate's name are a number of symbols, including an "environmental" leaf, a "health reform" bandage, and a "economic" cent. There's also a heart, brain, and star—perhaps to symbolize compassion, astuteness, and charisma, as well as a "happy" smile and a pair of ears! The center of the "O" in Obama's name is Illinois—his home state.
Porter is 24 years old and lives in Denver. According to Hake's Americana Auctions, the artist printed 150 of these posters, which were all sold. He then "voided" the wood blocks to prevent any more of this design to be printed.
Friday, November 14, 2008
As far as I can tell, the Obama campaign was the first ever to sell t-shirts with the candidate's portrait on it. And there were a lot of different designs that featured his image, often sold independently.
Presidential campaign t-shirts have been around since 1960, when John F. Kennedy's image as a war hero was promoted by a t-shirt design with a PT-boat on it to celebrate the Democratic candidate's valor during World War II, when a Japanese destroyer sank his vessel. But Kennedy's portrait was not displayed.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
In 1853, New Zealand held its first parliamentary elections. The country conducted its most recent elections on Saturday, November 8. Voting always occurs on a Saturday, so that most people can vote on a day off from work (a very good idea!). The National Party, a center-right party under the leadership of John Key, won the most votes (and therefore seats), and will form a coalition government. It gained 45% of the vote, compared to the ruling Labour Party's 34% and the Green Party's 6%.
New Zealand is in a recession, and the center-left Labourites in power (since 1999, with Helen Clark the prime minister) were blamed for it—similar to the situation in the U.S., except that the conservatives were voted in.
New Zealand claims to be the first self-governing country to have all women vote in parliamentary elections. This occurred in 1893. It was not until 1920 that women in the United States gained this right in national elections.
The New Zealand First Party, which was represented in the country's House of Representatives for over fifteen years, did not win enough votes to be awarded any seats this time (it gained under 5%, which is the threshold). Its leader, Winston Peters, who is part Maori, heads a party that is opposed to immigration, in general (see the billboard to the right).
The history and posters of New Zealand are quite interesting. For more information, see New Zealand History online.
Monday, November 10, 2008
MoveOn.org just announced that it is selling a "Yes We Did" poster. It features the now-famous Shepard Fairey image of Barack Obama and the Obama-for President-logo, with flowing red-and-white stripes added, as well as a crowd of supporters in the background. It also added the phrases "United We Progress Toward a More Perfect Union," "Together We Made History," and "People Powered."
The posters are 24" x 36" and cost $20 for one copy. The money will fund the organization's future campaigns.
MoveOn.org has 4.2 million members.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
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).
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
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.
Friday, October 10, 2008
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).
Monday, September 29, 2008
Some of the posters promoting Democratic candidate Barack Obama are vaguely familiar in their "revolutionary" design. Most are unauthorized by his campaign, in that they have been produced and disseminated by artists who support Obama, but are posting and/or selling these posters independently.
Some have termed the imagery devised for Obama as indicative of a "personality cult," similar to what artists developed for Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Che, and other authoritarian leaders. Peggy Shapiro, for instance, referring to Shepard Fairey's idealized portraits of Obama (as well as those by Russian artists of Soviet dictators), wrote that they depicted "the leader, face illuminated by 'holy' light, look[ing] off to the horizon and see[ing] the truth that is not available to his mere mortal followers, who must look up to his image." The image that Fairey created of Obama (shown previously in another post in this blog) may be "revolutionary," but it is much more subtle than the Cuban posters showing raised rifles and fists. It is a simplified portrait of the candidate with light and patriotic colors enveloping him, with the blue a lot lighter and softer than on the flag.
While there are those on the right who insist that the Democratic candidate is himself a "radical"—associating with such as William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright—there is little evidence to substantiate this allegation. What does seem to be the case is that artists such as Fairey and Ray Noland have incorporated radical imagery into their designs to promote Obama's election. Noland, for example, in his poster "The Dream," shows Obama—bathed in light—gazing into the distance, with a sun and rays as a backdrop. The iconography is religious, but similar to some Mao posters.
Friday, September 19, 2008
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.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Slogans, ranging from “I Like Ike” (Republicans, U.S., 1952) to “Labour Isn’t Working” (Conservatives, Britain, 1978), have summarized entire political campaigns with a few, memorable words. Repetitions of slogans and playing on emotions are key practices of advertising. Advertising is, of course, a form of propaganda. Sometimes ads for products, such as “Wilson, That’s All!”—which was employed originally in advertisements for a brand of whiskey—are used for candidates, in this instance Woodrow Wilson.
Slogans are carefully devised, with each word calculated to appeal to one or more target audiences, with focus groups used to help determine the slogan, as well as to test it out. Obama's "Yes We Can" is a good example: it is positive, inclusive, and implies "change."
Some successful U.S. campaign slogans follow:
- “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” (Whigs, 1840) celebrated William Henry Harrison, the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe and his running mate, John Tyler
- "Don't swap horses in midstream" (Republicans, 1864, for Abraham Lincoln)
- "He Kept Us Out of War" (Democrats, 1916, for Wilson, who then had the U.S. enter World War I)
- “Let’s be done with wiggle and wobble” (Republicans, 1920)—a reference to a Democratic policy that seemed first to have been isolationist, then interventionist
- "A chicken in every pot. A car in every garage. A duck in every bathtub" (Republicans, 1928, for Herbert Hoover)
- "A New Deal" (Democrats, 1932, for Franklin D. Roosevelt)
- "All the Way with LBJ" (Democrats, 1964, for Lyndon B. Johnson)
- “A Stronger America” (Democrats, 2004, for John Kerry)
One slogan that has been forgotten by most Americans was devised by the Democratic Party in the mid-nineteenth century: "We Polked you in 1844; we shall Pierce you in 1852." It honored James Polk and Franklin Pierce. And in the past, slogans were often negative. For example, in 1884, the Democrats created “Soap! Soap! Blaine’s only Hope!” to help defeat James Blaine. The slogan was an allusion to Blaine's alleged corrupt practices.
Slogans are evident in many other countries' election campaigns, as well. Here are a few:
- “Bread, Justice, Freedom” (Japan Labor-Farmer Party, 1928)
- “The Socialists will be Liberal with your money!” (Conservatives, Britain, 1929)
- "One People, One Country, One Leader" (Nazis, Germany, 1938)
- "We Shall Overcome" (Popular Unity, Chile, 1970)
- “We Need a Strong France” (Union for French Democracy, 1981)
- “A Better Life for All” (African National Congress, South Africa, 1994)
- "Enough Already!" (National Action Party, Mexico, 2000)
The "I Like Ike" slogan was used in a television commercial. It was an effective slogan, since it enhanced General Dwight D. Eisenhower's already positive image. The posters that were produced further reinforced the image of a confident, smiling presidential candidate who was ready to face all problems, and above petty party concerns. Here's the 1952 TV spot:
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Guerrilla pop-artist Ron English has produced illegal billboards ("Phatfood," "The Cancer Kid," and "Fox News. We Deceive. You Believe."), as well as posters that have been exhibited in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Paris and the Whitney Museum in New York.
English claims to have "pirated" numerous billboards over the last two decades, substituting his "subvertisements" for the existing advertisements. He is also the author of the 2004 book, Popaganda, The Art and Subversion of Ron English.
For this year's U.S. presidential campaign, he created the "Abraham Obama" poster—a fusion of the faces of Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama. He then made a nationwide tour, putting up "Abrama" murals in Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and finally in Denver, the site of the Democratic National Convention.
Some have found English's creation to be "awesome"; others have thought it to be "offensive," favoring "symbolism over substance."
What do you think?
In any case, take a look at the video of the "Abraham Obama" billboard being pasted-up in Boston:
And there's a news report on the controversy surrounding English's guerrilla-marketing campaign. Click on the link below, which will take you to YouTube (since embedding was disabled for this clip):
English has a great Web site, on which one can find dozens of examples of his "popaganda." Check it out at:
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Posters are widely used in election campaigns in India, even though the country is rapidly modernizing, and other media are becoming more common.
Recently, a city court ordered the political parties of New Delhi not to put up posters, leaving them without a viable means of propagandizing in the city's assembly elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary Vijay Goel stated: "Before implementing the law, an alternative should be suggested. One cannot go for advertising alternatively, because it is very expensive."
Some citizens were happy about the court's decision, since they consider posters to be an eyesore. One resident said, for instance: "It is so annoying to see these posters all over the city. They even paste the posters on houses in residential colonies. In Patel Nagar, they covered a public toilet fully in posters, so much that it was beyond recognition. This is not the way a civilised society lives."
Such advertising is evident all over India, with billboards promoting films dotting roads, and posters tacked on walls, taxis, and buses, making these media logical choices to promote candidates during election periods. One solution for the political parties is to display posters mainly in stores and homes. In fact, party headquarters distribute posters, banners, flags, handbills, and stickers to localities to give to owners of private establishments to put in wi. Posters have been prominent in marches and rallies in India, helping gain attention from onlookers, advertising meetings, and attracting media coverage.
Some posters draw attention, but damage the party and its leaders' standing with a segment of the population. Last year, the Congress Party issued a poster that showed Sonia Gandhi as a Hindu goddess. This poster was criticized because the party is secular and some perceived the imagery as insulting to Hinduism.
While candidates are usually featured on posters, sometimes issues are highlighted. The BJP, in 2004, for example, printed posters that included the image of a burning train, in which fifty-nine people died because of terrorism. Many Indian political consultants have reported that there has been a recent increase in emotionalism and negative campaign tactics in the country’s election campaigns.
The street poster is a medium to which many Indian campaign managers turn, so it will be problematic if their use is curtailed by the courts. A survey found that 25 percent of managers rated posters as “exceptionally important” as a political advertising medium, behind rallies and daily newspapers (both 50 percent), public television (45 percent), and radio (41 percent). Private television (17 percent), direct mail (3 percent), and magazines (0 percent) trailed badly.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
"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."
"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.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
British election posters (unlike those in the U.S.—at least the authorized ones) are often striking in design and/or visually outrageous. Not only are they generally more negative, but also more issue-oriented. One poster, issued by the Conservative Party in 1997, titled “New Labour, New Danger,” depicted Tony Blair with demonic, red eyes; others in the campaign included “New Labour, New Taxes” (which had a purse with red eyes) and “New Labour, No Britain” (featuring a white flag). Another poster, this time distributed by the Labour Party in 2001, caricatured opposition leader William Hague sporting Margaret Thatcher’s hairdo.
Such practices go way back. In the early nineteenth century, all the British parties distributed millions of full-color posters that ridiculed their opponents and their policies. At the right is one, issued by the Conservatives in 1909, which illustrates "socialism" as a demon (i.e., the Liberals, primarily) choking Britannia, wearing the belt of "prosperity" and stomping on the nation's shield. By the 1920s, Tory posters (directed now at the Labour Party) employed “bewhiskered, blood-stained Bolsheviki of the usual caricature type,” according to The New York Times; one poster, featuring a “Red” returning to Russia with bundles of banknotes, turned out the lyrics “Bolshevik, Bolshevik, where have you been? Over to England, where the ‘Reds’ are still green?”
In Great Britain, where television time for political parties and candidates is limited, and no advertisements are allowed on either television or radio, there are no legal limitations on expenditures for posters and billboards. Consequently, posters in British election campaigns have a more significant role than in the United States.
There is some evidence to indicate that these poster campaigns have an effect on voters. One focus group study, for example, showed that posters influenced young British swing voters during the 1996 election campaign. The modern billboard and poster attacks on Blair, Hague, and other leaders—and their positions— were a continuation of a tradition in British politics, begun over one hundred years ago with the negative printed advertisements against Benjamin Disraeli, William Gladstone, and Lloyd George, and their parties.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Shepard Fairey, the artist who created the "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" street-art posters and stickers, which promoted the huge wrestler in the late 1980s, designed a poster for the Obama campaign that was both patriotic (it's red-white-and-blue, albeit more subtle than the usual election posters) and iconic.
The imagery, according to Fairey, is meant to convey "noble confidence,... a suggestion of looking into the future." The word "Obey" (in the Andre poster) has been replaced by "Change" in the Obama design (He also produced two others with "Hope" and "Progress). I would agree that Fairey's imagery helps promote the Obama brand: he appears to be fresh, cool, and progressive. The artist has the Democratic candidate gazing upwards, a technique used in many propaganda posters, including one for President Gerald Ford in 1976, for example. Fairey has stated that his Obama designs were influenced, stylistically, by Soviet posters, in fact. Of course, almost all advertising and political marketing are propagandistic.
Fairey's "Change" poster was available on Obama's Web site, and has sold out. It was featured on the front page of The New York Times, and has also been seen on bumper stickers and billboards. His Andre posters and stickers (and others he created) were often used in guerrilla-marketing campaigns, meaning they were put up illegally in a variety of places. And before his poster was distributed officially by the Obama campaign, it reportedly authorized Fairey to do so in a guerrilla campaign. Since his creation was posted online, it also spread virally.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Now that John McCain has selected Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to be on his ticket, let's look at a poster that was produced in support of the only other woman to run for vice president. In 1984, Democrat Walter Mondale picked New York Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro to be his running mate. That year, the Montana Citizens for Liberty produced a poster that featured Ferraro as Liberty (based on the Eugène Delacroix painting "Liberty at the Barricades," done after the Paris Revolution of 1830) and advocated passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (Mondale is shown holding an ERA banner). The Delacroix work depicted a bare-breasted Liberty. Of course, the later version had Ferraro covered. At least 70,000 copies of the 1984 poster were printed. The illustration gained attention and helped raise money for democratic candidates. It now sells for about $70. A Hillary Clinton pin based on the Delacroix's work sold at auction for more than $1,000.
Women gained the right to vote in the United States in 1920. In Great Britain, they obtained full voting rights in 1928; in France, females first exercised their suffrage rights in 1946 (even though Liberty or Marianne had been illustrated as a woman in that country in the eighteenth century); Switzerland did not accomplish this until 1971. Election campaign posters in many countries targeted women, particularly in the period right after their enfranchisement. For example, a British poster in the 1930s showed a woman holding a child, with the appeal “Mothers—Vote Labour.”
Suffragettes in the early nineteenth century pasted posters on walls: one large lithograph featured babies marching under the title “Give Mother The Vote: We Need It”; others showed professional women, some of whom wore caps and gowns decrying their lack of suffrage (one poster was titled “Convicts, Lunatics, and Women! Have No Vote for Parliament”).
Thursday, August 28, 2008
The first Republican National Convention that nominated candidates was held in 1856 in Philadelphia, and John Frémont was chosen to run for the U.S. presidency. Frémont, running on a platform that opposed slavery (as well as polygamy in Mormon areas), was one of the many military heroes nominated by the political parties (John Kerry and John McCain being the last two). At this convention, Abraham Lincoln lost in the balloting for the vice-presidential nomination to William Dayton, who had been a U.S. senator from New Jersey.
During the Mexican-American War, Frémont captured Santa Barbara, California, and later served as a senator of California, after it became a state. One campaign poster depicted the Republican candidate on horseback [illustrated in the upper-right box]—a common image-management technique, which had been used in previous U.S. campaigns for candidates with military backgrounds, including Andrew Jackson. Frémont looks almost Napoleonic here (second only to William Henry Harrison sixteen years earlier [shown in the lower-right box]), but his regalia are those of a frontiersman—to appeal to a large segment of the American electorate then.
Frémont lost to James Buchanan, the nominee of the Democratic Party, by a 12% margin, with ex-President Millard Fillmore, of the anti-immigrant American (or "Know-Nothing") Party, trailing by almost 24 points.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
In July, Barack Obama’s visit to Germany was promoted with a poster that highlighted his speech in Berlin.
The design is obviously similar to those produced in the 1920s and 1930s by the Bauhaus movement, which boasted strong sans-serif typefaces and used diagonal lines and lettering to increase the dynamism of the composition. After World War I, the ideas of the Bauhaus school influenced a generation of graphic designers, including those in the political domain. An example of such a poster is one by Nico Schrier (in the lower-right box) in which a man is calling his “comrades” to “vote Red” (the color of The Netherlands' Social Democratic Workers’ Party) in the 1933 election.
Typography was taught at the Bauhaus as early as 1923, and instructor László Moholy-Nagy stated that type "must be communication in its most intense form. The emphasis must be on absolute clarity." This is evident in the sans-serif lettering in the two posters shown here.
Both posters also featured one dominant image. This works to focus the viewer's attention on a key visual, limiting competing elements, which could distract.
[Thanks to Laura Larrimore for alerting me to the Obama poster.]
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
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.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
In 1972, some of the posters for Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern's campaign were intended to be inspirational and appeal particularly to younger voters. N. Schneider designed a series of posters for the McGovern for President Committee, all of which were colorful, exuberant, and stylized: one was dominated by a drawing of a leafy tree, accompanied by the phrase “A time to grow in a world of permanent change.”
In 2008, artists are also working to create imagery that symbolizes the themes of Barack Obama. One, Scott Hansen, also used a stylized tree in a poster for this year's Democratic candidate for president. The tree grows out of the Obama logo, with people joining hands around it. As in McGovern's campaign, "change" is a key word, along with "hope" and "progress."