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A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters
Friday, June 24, 2011
Mitt Romney's campaign has now borrowed from the British Conservative Party's very successful campaign that brought Margaret Thatcher and her party to power in 1979. Romney's Website features an "Obama Isn't Working" banner that is almost identical to a British poster used more than thirty years ago.
The 1979 campaign in Great Britain was marked by the aggressive and innovative advertising campaign for the Conservatives devised by Saatchi & Saatchi, and its “Labour Isn’t Working” poster was the key element. The firm’s Tim Bell (whom Thatcher later knighted for his efforts) was given the account and he decided to emphasize emotions, not issues, which would appeal to voters—an approach that was hardly new.
In 1979, high inflation, strikes, unemployment, declining market shares in many industries, monetary devaluation, and skyrocketing oil prices plagued the Labour government. In fact, many of the same problems beset U.S. President Jimmy Carter at the end of the decade. As a result (and with effective political marketing specialists aiding the conservatives in the two countries), both Carter and Labour lost power to Reagan and Thatcher. The faltering British economy and the Tories’ advertising strategy clearly convinced many voters to side with Thatcher’s party, which increased its share of the vote from 36 percent in the previous election to almost 44 percent (while Labour’s share declined from 39 percent to 37 percent).
As Maurice Saatchi said years later, "in great advertising, as in great art, simplicity is all … [with] simple themes, simple messages, simple visual images."
As both U.S. parties have acknowledged, jobs and the economy are the dominant issues in the 2012 campaign. And imagery—even if borrowed—may play a role in determining the election outcome.
For more on the 1978-1979 election campaign in Great Britain, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
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