About this blog
A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters
Tagged as “British politics”
Saturday, June 24, 2017
British election propaganda campaigns—on billboards and posters—have increasingly emphasized party leaders, rather than issues. Some have said that this is a manifestation of British political marketing becoming more "Americanized" (see my previous post on this development). Image over substance has become more prominent.
Most attention getting is the visually outrageous merger of male and female features on posters.
The first example of this was probably issued by the British Labour Party in 2001. It caricatured Conservative Party opposition leader William Hague sporting Margaret Thatcher's hairdo and earrings. Later, Thatcher's hairstyle appeared a number of times on opposition leaders on posters and billboards.
A recent example of this image-manipulation creativity was produced by the British Liberal Democrats, which featured the face of Nigel Farage (the former leader of the UK Independence Party) wearing women's clothing, a giant pearl necklace, and with Prime Minister Theresa May's hair. The slogan made the Lib Dems's point clear: "Vote her get him." Farage was and is all for "Brexit" (the exit of Britain from the European Union), and the poster attempted to link May with the "UKIP model of Brexit," according to the Liberal Democrats.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Women voters have been targeted in British parliamentary elections since 1918, after women over the age of 30 were enfranchised, and, more actively, since 1929, after the voting age for women was lowered to 21 the previous year. In fact, the 1929 election is known as "The Flapper Election." In that year, a poster showed Labour leader James Ramsay MacDonald with a young woman dressed as a flapper. Another 1929 Labour Party poster illustrated both men and women workers lining up at a polling place, with a closed factory nearby.
Soon, however, most British posters showed women in more traditional roles. For example, a poster in the 1930s showed a woman holding a child, with the appeal “Mothers—Vote Labour” and a Conservative Party poster in that decade depicted an elderly woman, above the statement, “We must think of our savings and our home. That’s why I’m voting for the National Government” (in which the Conservatives would be dominant).
Women with their families, especially with children, were the predominant images for females in posters throughout the next few decades.
Thereafter, most election posters showed women as voters, workers, and candidates. However, in the recent national campaign, Labour appealed directly to women to "stop politics being a “men-only club,” in a "Woman-to-Woman" campaign, which features a pink minibus. The party has been criticized for the "Barbie doll" color of the bus.
For more on British election campaigns, read the book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
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.