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Posters and Election Propaganda About this blog

Posters and Election Propaganda

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

Tagged as “political marketing”

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:30PM   |  Add a comment
Obama Campaign 2012 Slogan (BarackObama.com)

I've already blogged extensively about political campaign slogans, which began in 1840 in the U.S. to support the Whig ticket of William Henry Harrison (“The Hero of Tippecanoe”—during the War of 1812) and John Tyler: "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too." Other good slogans followed, both at home and abroad. In the U.S., there have been some clever ones, including the Republican Party's "We Polked you in 1844; we shall Pierce you in 1852," "Lincoln's "Vote Yourself a Farm" (1860) and "Don't swap horses in midstream" (1864), Harding's "Let’s be done with wiggle and wobble" (1920), and Coolidge's "Keep Cool With Coolidge" (1924) [for some more, see this BuzzFeed Politics blog post]; and in other countries, there were the African National Congress's "A Better Life for All" (South Africa, 1994) and the National Action Party's "Enough Already!" (Mexico, 2000).

In the 2008 U.S. presidential contest, Republican John McCain's campaign was characterized by several slogans—one of which was "Country First," which was 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; and partially a veiled effort to cast suspicion on Obama's patriotism (as I stated then). Democrat Barack Obama's main slogan, "Yes We Can," was probably more effective, as was his "Change we can believe in"—both being so positive and inclusive.

Back in February of this year, Jeff Mason speculated about the President's new slogan, saying that the Obama campaign was "roadtesting" several, including "Winning The Future" and "Greater Together."

Clearly, there still are economic problems that need to be addressed, and the new slogan would have to connote "resolve" and "leadership." Does "Forward" (which debuted in a seven-minute-plus video to promote President Obama's re-election) do that? Perhaps so, but probably no one slogan would be perfect. Here's what Obama said a few months ago: "Inspiration is wonderful, nice speeches are wonderful, pretty posters, that's great. But what's required at the end of the day to create the kind of country we want is stick-to-it-ness. It's determination. It's saying, 'We don't quit.'"

What about the past buzz words, "hope" and "change"? On those, David Axelroad, the president's key campaign adviser, stated: "This election is also about hope and about change. That doesn't necessarily mean they're going to be in the slogan."

How about Mitt Romney's slogan, "Believe in America"? To me, it appears that his campaign strategists are trying to emulate Ronald Reagan and his 1984 "Morning in America" campaign.



Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:00PM   |  Add a comment
BIllboard for Tomasz Nalecz (Social Democratic Party, Poland, 2010) (Globalpost)

Poland will elect its next president in October by direct vote to serve a five-year term, and the campaign has already begun. Although the president does not have much power, he or she can veto legislation.

Poland's election campaigns are much influenced by American political marketing practices and by its consultants. For example, Tomasz Nalecz of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SDPL), erected billboards that featured not only his portrait but also that of Barack Obama. Nalecz was placed in front of the country's presidential palace with its equestrian statue of Prince Józef Poniatowski, and Obama has the U.S. Capitol behind him. Both look out at the voters, smiling. According to Jan Cienski, the billboard is controversial because permission to use Obama's photograph was not obtained. Nalecz's campaign maintains, however, that the photo is in the public domain.

American political techniques have influenced parties of the right, as well. In 2006, for instance, the Law and Justice party, was known for the “spin-doktorzy” practices by its strategists, Adam Bielan and Michal Kaminski, who also copied ads from the Reagan campaign, according to Cienski.

Other American campaign strategies, such as using social-networking sites, have also been used. The SDPL, for example, has a Facebook group.

Posters have been used extensively in Polish political campaigns, including by Solidarity, which displayed large posters (some of which were torn down by police, according to the party), as well as banners, TV spots, radio programs, bumper stickers, buttons, leaflets, and newspapers in its campaigns. In a special Solidarity poster for the 1989 campaign, Gary Cooper (as the American sheriff in the film High Noon) was shown with a ballot in one hand, instead of a pistol, along with the message “It’s high noon, June 4, 1989.”

To read more about Polish politics and posters, going back to the thirteenth century, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.  


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 


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



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

 

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

 

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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


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