About this blog
A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters
Tagged as “Americanization”
Saturday, January 9, 2010
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.
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."