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Posters and Election Propaganda

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

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 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 1:30PM   |  Add a comment
Obama Logo, 2008 (www.barackobama.com)

In recent American elections, all parties have usually employed stylized designs that are often little more than giant corporate-type logos, devoid of photographic portraits and issues. Successful brand management for a candidate or a political party, as manifested in posters and other media, is characterized by simple visual imagery that is both powerful and appealing along with simple slogans and logos that resonate with the voters and their emotions.

The Obama campaign's logo is distinctive and designed to strike an emotional cord with his supporters. The Blue "O" stands for the candidate, and with the red stripes symbolizes the flag and patriotism. The red-and-white stripes further represent farmland, identifying the Illinois senator with the "heartland" of America. The white center of the "O," rising over the horizon of the stripes, appears to be a sunrise, denoting “a better tomorrow.” 


The Sun has been used in many election posters in a number of countries, including France, Germany, Great Britain, Iran, Italy, Japan, Poland, and Taiwan.

For example, a 1932 Republican poster in the U.S. election contest between Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt displayed a large cartoon of an elephant pushing a truck labeled “US & Co.” toward the rising sun, while the Democratic donkey was illustrated running away. A 1972 poster for Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern showed the sun breaking through the clouds, along with the slogan “A little light in a cold world.”

British Liberal posters in the latter part of the nineteenth century depicted past prosperity, when their party was in power, as rays of sunshine, in contrast to the gloomy economic situation under the Conservatives. A 1991 Solidarity poster featured a flower with the sun in its center, along with Solidarity's famous logo, symbolizing a new beginning and oneness with everyone and everything.


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