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