About this blog
A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters
Tagged as “propaganda”
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
About a week ago, the Chris Christie campaign issued a negative bumper sticker—directed at Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, who is running for her party's presidential nomination. Christie is running for the Republican Party's presidential nomination.
It proclaims "No Way in Hill" in red, white, and blue, and incorporates both the Clinton 2016 and Obama 2008 logos.
It is quite uncommon for national campaigns to issue such negative bumper stickers and posters these days.
Can anyone recall the last time this happened?
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Design for Obama—a Web site started in 2008 to promote Barack Obama's campaign for the U.S. presidency—is up again.
The site was created "as a dorm-room experiment to create a space for artists to function as artists in the political process and help elect Barack Obama," according to the creators.
Many of the 2008 posters are included in a book, Design for Obama: Posters for Change: A Grassroots Anthology," written by Steven Heller, and edited by Aaron Perry-Zucker and Spike Lee.
Dozens of high-resolution posters (one of which can be seen to the right) have been contributed, to be printed and displayed at rallies and anywhere that people want to show support for Obama. Gallery shows will follow.
Friday, August 31, 2012
So far, it seems that neither major party candidate for the U.S. presidency has inspired many artists to include their images in posters promoting President Barack Obama or former Governor Mitt Romney (There are a number of posters that show the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, however). For Obama, this is a remarkable departure from 2008, when a multitude of graphic designers and painters created posters that depicted the then-Senator from Illinois in a very positive manner. Among the dozens of pro-Obama posters produced four years ago, the most popular were Shepard Fairey's "Hope" and "Change" creations, which were inspiring, patriotic, and conveyed, as Fairey stated, "noble confidence,... a suggestion of looking into the future."
One poster, designed by Andrew Redford Young in 2011, does show Romney in an inspirational and patriotic way. Like Fairey's posters, it bathes Romney in red-white-and-blue, idealizes his features, and has him gazing into the beyond with confidence. Additionally, Young gives Romney a hint of a smile, accompanied by the simple slogan, "Jobs."
Now that the Republican National Convention is over (soon to be followed by the Democratic convention), it will be interesting to see what, if any, imagery includes the candidates in poster designs.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
In 2004, the George W. Bush campaign produced one of the most devastating attack ads ever run. The "Windsurfing" ad was a 30-second spot that depicted Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry as a "flip-flopping, windsurfing elitist," who changed his positions to try to increase his support from voters. Kerry was shown windsurfing to the left and right, to symbolize his supposedly changing stances on the war in Iraq, and funding for troops, educational reform, and medicare premiums. These and other ads might have made the difference in President Bush's narrow margin of victory, which was 3 percent in the popular vote and 6 percent in the Electoral College. Click on this link to view the "Windsurfing" ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbdzMLk9wHQ
Now, in 2011, the Democratic National Committee has already run a similar 30-second spot ad, directed against a candidate who has not even been nominated yet (and may not be): Republican Mitt Romney. The "Trapped" ad pits "Mitt vs. Mitt" on abortion and health reform, stating that Romney (like Kerry) is "willing to say anything" to get elected. Click on this link to view the "Trapped" ad: http://www.youtube.com/user/DemocraticVideo#p/u/0/CUOM9QvhG5I
Such attacks can be effective, since they can get voters to question the "character" of candidates.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Next year's election campaign in the United States promises to be a wild one, with an incumbent president fighting increasingly longer odds on his reelection, given the terrible state of the economy. The campaign promises to be one in which both issues and personalities are prominent.
One hundred years earlier, another incumbent U.S. president, William Howard Taft, fought to retain power. And although issues (conservation, tariffs, rights of workers, and governmental reform) were important, the dynamic personality of former president Theodore Roosevelt loomed large (compared to the dull Taft). Taft's campaign was crippled by a split in his Republican Party, with Roosevelt leading the progressive wing of the party (and running under the banner of the Progressive or "Bull Moose" Party) against the conservatives, who supported Taft for the nomination. Robert La Follette, who had defeated Taft in two of the first four primaries, did not support either Taft or Roosevelt. Woodrow Wilson led a united Democratic Party to victory. Although Roosevelt’s popular and electoral vote totals surpassed those of Taft, Wilson’s margin over the former president in the popular vote was a substantial 14.5 percent.
In 1912, political campaigns did not use any of the media that emerged later in the twentieth century. Political campaigning did not change fundamentally until the medium of radio altered strategies in the mid-1920s, although campaign speeches had surpassed parades and rallies in importance around the turn of the century. Posters, banners, and billboards, however, continued to be a significant vehicle for political operatives. In 1912, the New Jersey Roosevelt Republican League issued a report on its primary campaign to defeat President Taft for the party’s nomination, stating, “Banners are swung across the streets in every city and town of importance, extolling the candidates. Billboards are plastered with huge posters eulogizing President Taft. Campaign pictures of ‘Teddy’ [Roosevelt] and Taft look out from windows everywhere.” Moreover, many lithographic posters were produced, and these were quite colorful, with backgrounds in bright hues for greater impact.
The election of 1912 was a watershed of sorts for U.S. campaign posters. Gone were the cornucopias and most of the patriotic symbols (such as eagles and flags) that had been used since the 1840s. Instead, Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party seized upon the symbol of the Bull Moose—which prompted the party’s nickname—to symbolize the strength of the candidate and his third-party movement. Its symbol was included on some of the posters, cloth banners, buttons, pennants, handkerchiefs, postcards, and other campaign promotions. Since three candidates were essentially “progressive,” personality qualities and symbols were really more important than issues. Slogans were also an essential ingredient: Roosevelt stumped the country calling for a “New Nationalism”; Wilson delivered campaign speeches for a “New Freedom”; and Taft generally stayed in the White House, with his banners proclaiming “Better be safe than sorry.”
A series of photographic portraits of all the major candidates were issued with neither their names nor the names of their parties—another change for printed election propaganda. Other posters did contain some of this information, but one for the Progressive ticket of Roosevelt and Senator Hiram Johnson of California included only the last names of the two candidates, their full-length photographic portraits, and the final lines of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Ballad of the East and West” (See the figure to the right). Roosevelt’s image had come a long way since the last time he ran: in 1904, stuffed “teddy bears” were distributed, which related Roosevelt to both a huggable toy and “family values”; in 1912, he was associated more with the bull moose, with verses from Kipling fortifying the impression of strength. The Taft campaign used the party’s symbol of the elephant—which had been around for several decades, along with the Democratic donkey—on many campaign items, including a poster that displayed portraits of Taft and his running mate, Vice President James Sherman, on the animal’s blanket. Undoubtedly, with Roosevelt’s breakaway movement so powerful, it was important for the Taft strategists to emphasize party symbolism and loyalty.
For more on the election of 1912, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
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.
Saturday, April 30, 2011
The 1864 U.S. presidential election campaign—which was held the year after Robert E. Lee's defeat at Gettysburg—was an important one. As was the case in 1860, the North was divided. Judging by the dominant themes in campaign broadsides, this time the conflict was about the emancipation of the slaves, the prosecution of the Civil War, and the way to deal with the Confederate states. Abraham Lincoln was up for reelection, but doubted that he could win again, due to high casualties and military defeats. His opponent was the man whom he had removed as the general-in-chief during the war, George McClellan.
Lincoln was the candidate of the National Union Party, formed by pro-Lincoln Republicans and War Democrats, with the very effective slogan, "Don't change horses in the middle of a stream." McClellan positioned himself as a moderate who could end the war, with Lincoln depicted as too "extreme," since the president was for emancipation of the slaves in the South. The Currier & Ives print on the right shows McClellan calling for the preservation of the Union, while grabbing both Lincoln (saying "No peace without Abolition!") and Confederate President Jefferson Davis, with frayed pants (saying "No peace without Separation!").
One huge problem for McClellan, however, was that he had to run against his party's platform, which called for a "cessation of hostilities, with a view of an ultimate convention of the States" to restore the Union. McClellan wanted to continue the war, but Lincoln's campaign focussed on the danger of the Confederate States of America becoming an independent country, if the Democrats won.
Many states allowed Union soldiers to vote, and it was estimated that Lincoln won almost 80% of that segment. Three new states (West Virginia, Nevada, and Kansas) voted for the first time, and Lincoln won all three. Although McClellan won 45% of the popular vote, he was crushed in the Electoral College, winning only Kentucky, Delaware, and New Jersey. He almost won New York though—losing by less than 7,000 votes—when many immigrants were naturalized before the election and with fraud occurring in New York City. More than 70,000 soldiers from the state cast absentee ballots, which put Lincoln over the top.
McClellan’s cause was somewhat damaged by his party’s platform and his battlefield record, but his defeat has been attributed mainly to the Union capture of Atlanta two months before the election. The importance of the election of 1864 was obvious to Lincoln—he believed that the Democratic Party platform would lead to a McClellan administration negotiating an armistice, followed by the permanent breakup of the United States of America. Instead, Lincoln won reelection on a platform demanding that an amendment to the Constitution to abolish slavery be passed, and that the war would be pursued until the South was defeated and the Union preserved.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
The most famous political TV ad of all time—the so-called "Daisy Spot"—was only run once. But it made quite an impression.
The 1964 presidential election campaign—pitting President Lyndon B. Johnson (or LBJ, as he was commonly called), the Democratic nominee, against Barry Goldwater, the Republican nominee—was marked by increased media expenditures for TV spots, and audience attentiveness to them. According to Larry Sabato, ten thousand TV spots were aired in the largest seventy-five media markets during the campaign.
Advertising firm Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) developed the memorable spot for Johnson, calling it “Peace, Little Girl.” A DDB media specialist, Tony Schwartz, conceived the spot, after doing commercials that included children for Ivory Snow®, Johnson’s® Baby Powder, Polaroid cameras, and other corporate products. Schwartz believed that by combining the right images, words, music, and sound effects, an ad could strike an emotional “responsive chord” in a consumer. The “Daisy Spot” opened with a young girl picking a daisy, and a narrator counting down from “ten.” The girl plucks off the petals as the countdown continues, the camera simultaneously zooming in to an extreme close-up of the girl’s eye. An atomic explosion erupts, and Lyndon Johnson is heard saying, “These are the stakes—to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die.”
Although the Republicans tried to counter the tactics manifested in this commercial with their own spots—the theme of which was “we are the party of peace through strength” and which were highly critical of the Democratic administration’s “failures at the ‘wall of shame in Berlin,’ the Bay of Pigs in Cuba and in Vietnam”—Goldwater’s already hawkish image had become so negative for so many people that the deleterious consequences of the Democratic propaganda could not be undone. Even though the “Daisy Spot” ran only once, an estimated fifty million viewers saw it, and after the Republicans protested its airing, many more read and heard about it. While it is likely that, without the efforts of the advertising firm, Johnson would have won the U.S. presidency in 1964, his margin were probably increased substantially by the advertising campaign.
DDB’s propaganda campaign (which included the "Daisy Spot") did two significant things: (1) it created a convincing image of Goldwater as an “extremist” “product” and (2) it softened the image of Johnson as a “crass wheeler-dealer,” making him seem almost avuncular—virtually a “peace and love” advocate of the 1960s—in comparison to his “bellicose” opponent.
To see the "Daisy Spot" ad, click on: http://www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1964/peace-little-girl-daisy
Monday, January 24, 2011
Political banners have been used for a couple of centuries in the United States. At first, they were printed on cloth, and much later on vinyl for outdoor use. Many of these banners were (and still are) locally made, simple, and featured block lettering. Banners have been commonplace at rallies and parades.
The Whigs introduced two unique ideas to election campaigns: one was to use a potent symbol—the log cabin (often combined with soldiers and a jug of hard cider)—for their aristocratic candidate William Henry Harrison, the party's candidate for president in 1840, depicted as a rough-and-ready, common farmer; the other was the creation of silk flag banners, which added a portrait of Harrison and the phrases “Old Tip” and “The Hero of Tippecanoe” to the American flag. Some of the Whig rallies, with banners unfurled, drew an estimated one hundred thousand people, perhaps attracted by the seemingly endless supplies of hard cider. A variety of banners were produced, some with an eagle holding a scroll with the Whig candidates’ designations “Tip” and “Ty” (for Harrison's vice-presidential candidate, John Tyler) in its beak and the slogan “Our Country is safe, in such Hands.” One observer counted one thousand banners in a Baltimore parade for Harrison. Most cloth banners continued to be relatively simple in design: one for the Republican national ticket in 1884 imparted only the last names of the candidates on a cloth with three stripes (one red, one white, and one blue), and a row of stars.
Banners with candidate portraits soon were widely deployed. A print (shown on the right) of a parade in Chicago for the 1892 Democratic Party national ticket shows a large cloth banner overhead, portraying candidates Grover Cleveland and Adlai Stevenson, as well as the Illinois governor, John Peter Algeld. About this time, flag banners were dying out, and flag desecration laws (passed at the beginning of the twentieth century) ended the practice of printing candidates’ names, symbols, and slogans on flag backgrounds.
By 1912, banners seemed to be omnipresent at election time. In that year, the New Jersey Republican League issued a report on its primary campaign to defeat President William Howard Taft for the party’s nomination, stating, “Banners are swung across the streets in every city and town of importance, extolling the candidates." Several companies printed campaign banners (for which only a few standard designs were available) on cloth, and some of the candidates’ portraits were painted by hand. At the end of the nineteenth century, one could order a thirty-by-forty-foot banner with portraits at a cost of between $112 and $140; without portraits, they could be purchased for $80. Taft generally stayed in the White House, with his banners proclaiming “Better be safe than sorry.” By 1928, banners were draped on automobiles for Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith.
Small cloth banners (typically colored in red, white, and blue) were popular campaign items in the 1930s and 1940s, displaying mottos and slogans, such as “God Bless America,” as well as drawn portraits of the candidates. One of these (shown on the right) exemplifies a patriotic banner from this period (from the 1932 campaign), depicting FDR, with flags and an eagle, "blessed by God."
In later elections, plastic banners were evident. One, in 1968, for example, proclaimed “Nixon’s the One!” Another, seen at the Republican convention in 2004, included most of the defining words from George W. Bush's acceptance speech, “We will build a safer world and a more hopeful America.”
Monday, January 17, 2011
Warren G. Harding, the presidential candidate of the Republican Party in the United States in 1920, is portrayed by actor Malachi Cleary in the HBO television series, "Boardwalk Empire." In fact, the title of the finale of the show's first season, "A Return to Normalcy," was one of Harding's campaign slogans. And a large Harding poster can be seen in the background during the Republican National Convention scene (as David Ettlin—a reader of this blog—points out). Harding, a silver-haired, adulterous, corrupt minor senator from Ohio, secured his party's nomination at the convention, with the help of several party bosses in a "smoke-filled room." On the TV show, Harding's campaign manager, Harry Daugherty is helped by “Nucky” Thompson (played by Steve Buscemi), who calls the candidate an "imbecile" while dealmaking to benefit both Harding and himself. "Nucky" also agrees to hide Harding's mistress, Nan Britton, in New Jersey during the presidential campaign.
During the 1920 campaign, the Republicans spent an incredible amount of money to elect Harding (who won by the huge margin of 26 percentage points). It was reported in The New York Times that five million posters that included portraits of Harding and his vice-presidential candidate, Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge, were printed, along with fifteen million buttons of Harding alone.
Although Daugherty was quite influential in the campaign, another figure, advertising executive Albert Lasker, loomed large. Lasker coordinated public relations and advertising, and posters and billboards were a fundamental part of the campaign. Lasker’s style of advertising, which often advocated the purchase of one product over another, worked very well in politics, with newspaper and billboard ads promoting politicians rather than products. It was a small leap for him to come up with another slogan for Harding, “Let’s be done with wiggle and wobble” (a reference to a Democratic policy that seemed first to have been isolationist, then interventionist), after concocting such slogans as “Keep that Schoolgirl Complexion” and “A Cow in Every Pantry” for products. Lasker’s slogan was seen on billboards across the country at a cost of four hundred thousand dollars (while the Democrats spent little on this medium)—and that was only 7.5 percent of the Republican National Committee’s total expenditures. The “wiggle and wobble” slogan strategy contrasted Lasker’s candidate with the outgoing president: Harding was depicted as a solid, steady leader with small-town values, who would return the country to “normalcy”; the outgoing Democratic president, Woodrow Wilson, on the other hand, had promised to keep the country out of the Great War, and then had led it into the conflict.
The visual images that were sometimes fashioned for the posters and billboards in the Harding campaing were imposing: a good example is Howard Chandler Christy’s idealized rendition of Harding with the candidate dramatically raising one hand and appearing to hold an American flag with the other. There were only two words accompanying the image: “America First!” (yet another slogan). This was the same slogan that was used in the Wilson poster in the previous election campaign, and, amazingly, the slogan that was included in some Democratic posters in 1920.
To learn much more about the Harding campaign, see the book Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
Saturday, January 1, 2011
Mauritius—a volcanic island republic located off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean—is ranked as the most democratic country in Africa by World Audit, based on the criteria of political rights, freedom of the press, corruption, and civil liberties. Candidates are required, however, to state their ethnicity, or they are not listed on the ballot. In 2010, over 100 candidates were rejected for that reason, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
Mauritius has a fairly good economy, and invests more in India's economy than any other country, according to Pranay Gupte, writing in The Hindu. However, unemployment is presently almost eight percent. Mauritius has a melting-pot population of one and one-quarter million people of African, South Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and French origin. English is the semi-official language, but Creole, French, and several other languages are evident.
In May of last year, Mauritius held parliamentary elections, and 78% of eligible voters turned out. The National Assembly elects the president and vice-president.
The Mauritius Labour Party (MLP) dominated the elections in the years before and after independence in 1968, but in 1982, the Mauritius Militant Movement (MMM) rose to power, in an alliance with the Mauritian Socialist Party (PSM). Since then, defections from parties, realignments, and shifting coalitions have occurred. An MLP-coalition, the Alliance Sociale, won the 2005 elections. In the election last year, the MLP joined with the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM), the Greens, and two other parties to form the Alliance for the Future, and emerged victorious over an MMM-led alliance, winning by a six percentage-point margin.
Most of the political parties have Web sites and some even have Facebook groups, including the MLP. Campaigns are pretty tame in Mauritius, with lots of banners and flags waved, but in 2010, for the first time, the Ministry of Tourism outlawed the display of posters in order to "protect the environment," according to Touria Prayag, writing on the allAfrica.com Web site. Lots of food and beverages are dispensed though, with charges that votes are being bought with them.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
The moose was the symbol of the Progressive Party in the United States, which was organized by supporters of former President Theodore Roosevelt (TR) when he was denied the Republican Party's nomination in 1912. The party's popular name was the "Bull Moose Party," after Roosevelt was shot in an attempted assassination, but continued to make a campaign speech, declaring "I'm fit as a bull moose." The moose not only symbolized strength, but also the great outdoors, which was appropriate, since TR was a great conservationist and hunter. Today's Vermont Progressive Party and Progressive or Bullmoose Party of Washington State also employ the moose as their symbol.
The moose was also used by former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who had a male moose on the material that promoted her Going Rogue Book Tour in late 2009. Palin is known for her hunting of moose, with the animal winding up in her stew pot. Palin is a hunter like TR, but does not quite have his reputation as a protector of the environment. In fact, in 2008, she was awarded the Rubber Dodo Award by the Center for Biological Diversity for her “valiant efforts to protect her state’s oil industry — sacrificing the well-being of our earth, our climate, the polar bear, and numerous other warming-threatened species in the process.”
Recently, No Labels—a new organization formed by Democrats, Republicans, and Independents in the U.S. who believe that people need to work "together to develop practical solutions to common problems"—selected the moose as one of its several animal symbols.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Carl Paladino, the Buffalo real estate and development millionaire, who won the New York State Republican gubernatorial primary in September by a landslide and lost by twenty-seven percentage points to his Democratic opponent, Andrew Cuomo, in November ran an unusually negative campaign. Typical were the flyer/posters, which one could download from Paladino's Web site. All told, there were twenty-four designs from his primary and general election campaigns, which included the following (most attacking Cuomo):
- "Cuomoween 2"
- "The Usual Suspects"
- "The Business Council endorsing Cuomo is like asking the Boston Strangle to massage your neck."
- "Clean up Albany? Start with Cuomo."
- "No Cojones"
Most flyer/posters of this kind have been positive in the past. More extensive flyers—such as one linking furloughed convict Willie Horton to Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988—have been negative in the other elections and had a visual or two, with lots of supporting text. But Paladino's designs are really posters, with little text. They are meant to be downloaded and displayed, or sent as email attachments. "The Usual Suspects" is a faux-film poster that shows Cuomo in a yellow zoot suit and accuses him of taking bribes; "Lying Again" illustrates Cuomo as the long-nosed Pinocchio; one "Clean up Albany? Start with Cuomo" has the Democrat soaping up in the shower, and another has him as "Super Mario, Junior," who "has been playing the Albany game for 30 years"; and "Will You Stand with Carl...." has (Albany Democratic) tanks aimed at "One Man."
Backed by tea-party groups, Paladino declared that he was "mad as hell," and promised to “clean up Albany with a baseball bat.” High unemployment, a record budget deficit, and missed budget deadlines in the state legislature all could have worked in his favor. But his campaign was so inept, that he turned a possible victory into a crushing defeat by threatening a reporter, focusing on secondary issues, and showing up totally unprepared for the one debate. He kept saying that he would reduce spending and taxes, but did not present many details on how he would accomplish these things. In the end, the vast majority of voters felt—as Cuomo's ads stated—that Paladino was "unfit for the office."
Saturday, October 2, 2010
California voters next month could approve a proposition to permit anyone 21 years or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. Right now, the polls show voters in favor of the proposition by six points. Proposition 19 would also allow local governments to regulate and tax the commercial production and sale of marijuana, but prohibit possession on school grounds and other public places, as well as smoking it in the presence of minors or providing it to anyone under 21 years old. Laws against the use of marijuana while driving would continue to be in force.
There are lots of posters for and against the initiative. Two of them are presented here. The use of the Sun in posters is common in political propaganda, with the goal to stimulate positive feelings about an issue or candidate. It is also present on a Web site put up by Prop 19 supporters: http://yeson19.com/. Here is a Web site in opposition: http://www.noonproposition19.com.
Monday, May 10, 2010
The Whig Party's campaign in the United States in 1840 for William Henry Harrison can be called the first great political marketing campaign that mythologized a candidate. The campaign, called "The Log Cabin Campaign," targeted the so-called "common man"—previously a main source of support for Andrew Jackson (and his successor, Martin Van Buren) and the Democrats.
The Whigs in 1840 introduced three ideas to election campaigns: one was to use a potent symbol—the log cabin (often combined with soldiers and a jug of hard cider)—for candidate Harrison, typically depicted as a rough-and-ready farmer and military hero; another was the creation of silk flag banners, which frequently added a portrait of Harrison and the phrases “Old Tip” and “The Hero of Tippecanoe” (a battle during the War of 1812) to the American flag; the party also introduced effective slogans into politics, with "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too," which referred to the Whig's ticket, headed by Harrison, with John Tyler as his running mate.
Some of the Whig rallies, with banners unfurled, drew an estimated 100,000 people, perhaps attracted by the seemingly endless supplies of hard cider. It mattered little to most partisans that the “common man” image concocted for Harrison was false. The log cabin was used to represent Harrison’s “poor” and “humble” background. His background was neither; rather, he was born in a mansion on a Virginia plantation and lived in a fancy house in Indiana when nominated for the presidency. Regardless of the truth, the imagery and the hard cider that was distributed at the gigantic rallies undoubtedly excited voters and boosted the Harrison campaign. This is evident in the voter turnout that increased from 54 percent in 1836 to 77 percent in 1840; the Harrison-Tyler ticket won by a 6 percent margin in the popular vote and claimed 80 percent of the electoral votes. The Democrats were thrown out of power—after holding it for a dozen years—and the Whigs gained their first president.
The log-cabin imagery, along with emphasis on Harrison’s military leadership, was accompanied by pageantry. The Whigs borrowed most of the Democratic Party’s past publicity ideas and took them to new heights. They published their own newspapers (one of which became the New York Herald Tribune); wrote campaign songs; organized rallies and parades; printed broadsides and banners; and produced goods such as hairbrushes adorned with portraits of Harrison, ceramic dishes with his “modest” farm on them, “Tippecanoe Shaving Soap or Log-Cabin Emollient,” and, above all, miniature log cabins. One observer counted one thousand banners in a Baltimore parade for Harrison.
At present, Heritage Auctions, Inc. has a rare silk campaign flag banner from the 1840 campaign up for auction. Most of these flags, as Heritage's Web site points out, "feature merely a campaign slogan or a central portrait of the candidate," but this banner shows the candidate in front of a log cabin, with a barrel of hard cider being tapped alongside it. Heritage estimates that this campaign banner will sell for between $20,000 and $25,000.
Sources: Paul F. Boller, Jr., Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush, 2nd rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Robert Gray Gunderson, The Log-Cabin Campaign (Lexington, Ky: University of Kentucky Press, 1957); Keith Melder, Hail to the Candidate: Presidential Campaigns from Banners to Broadcasts (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1992); Peter F. Nardulli, Jon K. Dalager, and Donald E. Greco, “Voter Turnout in U.S. Presidential Elections: An Historical View and Some Speculation,” PS: Political Science and Politics 29 (1996): 480-490.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Jonathan Gabay of brand forensics talks to the BBC about the British Conservative Party's poster campaign for this year's elections that directly attacks Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
It echoes Saatchi & Saatchi's famous 1979 campaign for Margaret Thatcher's Conservatives, best seen in the classic poster, titled "Labour Isn't Working."
Friday, April 2, 2010
How important are good looks and smiles on political posters, billboards, direct-mail pieces, Web sites, and television to political consultants and designers?
Well, it depends. Does a candidate or party want to convey seriousness, which the times demand, or a confident, friendly image to which voters can better relate? And how much airbrushing and other image manipulation should be done, before the candidate is ridiculed (as British Conservative Party leader David Cameron has been, especially on the mydavidcameron.com Web site)?
Some commentators, such as Michael Deacon, think that Cameron (especially after his portrait was airbrushed for a billboard recently) just doesn't look like a "statesmen," and that the result is a lack of support of his party in the polls.
British Labour Party leader and Prime Minister Gordon Brown was never shown smiling a decade ago, but now is shown with a very pleasant smile on his party's Web site, and with an idiotic grin on opposition Conservative posters. Since times are hard now, perhaps Labour should can the smiles though.
Cameron, of course, was not the first politician whose image was "improved" by designers. Stanley Baldwin, the Conservative Prime Minister of Great Britain in the 1920s and 1930s, was transformed from "homely" to "attractive," according to Ernest Marshall, who wrote in 1929 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” (Ernest Marshall, “The News of Europe in Week-End Cables,” New York Times, May 5, 1929, http://proquest.com).
Baldwin was not the first “homely” candidate to be idealized in campaign portraits, since this process had transformed, earlier, plain-looking or unattractive politicians, most notably Abraham Lincoln in the United States.
And after the memorable first debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy during the 1960 U.S. election campaign, the importance of “image” was mentioned right away in newspaper articles. For example, two days after the event, a piece in the New York Times stated that viewers had made “frequent mention of how drawn and weary the Vice President had looked” and how his “grimness was shocking,” but many thought that Senator Kennedy had projected a “mature image” (New York Times, “Both Candidates Retain Backers,” September 28, 1960, http://proquest.com).
Until the 1952 election, candidates never really smiled in U.S. political propaganda; they were expected to present themselves as “serious.” Smiling also has varied by party: in Japan, only 36% of candidates of the Clean Government Party smiled in campaign posters studied in 2000 and 2001, in contrast to the 80% of Communist candidates who did [See Jonathan Lewis and Brian J. Masshardt, “Election Posters in Japan,” Japan Forum 14 (2002)].
Monday, March 15, 2010
Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National (FN) Party of France has once again issued an anti-immigration poster, titled “No to Islamism,” which borrows greatly from a recent poster distributed by another right-wing European political organization, the Swiss People's Party.
The FN poster attacks "Islamism" and shows a map of France with the Algerian flag imprinted on it, along with seven minarets. The other side of the poster has a woman wearing a veil.
According to France 24, the poster was the key piece in the campaign waged by the FN in the PACA (Provence Alpes Cote d’Azur) region, in which regional elections took place yesterday, and the plan was to plaster it all over France. However, a French court banned the poster—a decision that was appealed and protested on the FN Paca Web site.
The poster might have had an impact, as the FN did best in the Paca region, garnering 21% of the vote there in the first round of the elections, although it gained about 12% nationally. The Socialist Party did best, gaining over 29% nationally, President Nicolas Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) Party was next with 26%, and the Green party also was supported by 12% of the voters. The second round is this Sunday. (See Connexion for first-round results.)
The regional elections have candidates contesting seats in France’s 26 regional councils.
Support for Le Pen and the FN, due in large part to its anti-immigration stance, has increased since he founded the party in 1972, but he and the FN typically are supported by under 15% of French voters.
To read more about anti-immigrant propaganda in election campaigns, click here.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
James Blaine (Republican candidate for U.S. president in 1884) was shown covered with tattoos in cartoons that ran during the election campaign that year (even though he didn't have any tattoos, according to Skin&Ink magazine, supplied by Joe Philips).
Bernhard Gillam attacked Blaine in a series of cartoons that were published in Puck, a weekly magazine. Each tattoo represented a scandal in which Blaine was allegedly involved. These cartoons might well have been the difference in a very close contest between Blaine and the Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland, who won despite exposure, during the campaign, of his premarital affair that had resulted in the birth of a child, and paying a substitute to serve in his place when conscripted for military service in the Civil War.
The election results: Cleveland 48.85%; Blaine 48.28%; John St. John (Prohibition Party) 1.5%; Benjamin Butler (Greenback Party) 1.33%. The difference in New York State, in which these cartoons were widely disseminated, was only one-tenth of 1%, or about 1,100 votes out of over one million cast, according to the excellent Atlas of U.S Presidential Elections (which also supplied the national percentages).
Which politicians actually did have tattoos? Apparently, Barry Goldwater had a crescent-shaped, snake-bite pattern tattoo on his wrist, and Sarah Palin may have a Big Dipper on her ankle and a lipstick liner tattooed on her, as well, according to Celebrity Tattos.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Mark Jones, on a Reuters blog that focuses on Britain, speculates that social media could mean the death of election posters and billboards.
The use of new social media technologies was expanded by the Obama campaign in the U.S. in 2008. Many marketing people thought that these would be more effective than older media—even TV—in influencing voters, particularly younger ones. The Obama campaign had desktop wallpaper, blogs, posters and signs, logos, flyers, badges, widgets, IM buddy icons, and mobile ring tones available on its Web site, and people who signed up could receive campaign updates and notices about events on their cell phones (accompanied by an image of the candidate and his logo) or they could find them on Twitter. In addition, one of the first iPhone applications was developed for the Obama campaign, with which users could obtain news about the candidate, video spots, and photos. Additionally, the Obama Web site sold lots of posters via its online store, and there were dozens of Web sites that put up poster designs.
But social media were important. Chris Hughes (a founder of Facebook) developed the Obama Web site as a social network, and there were also Facebook and MySpace groups. Almost 60 percent of under-30 registered voters visited candidate Web sites, social-networking sites, or blogs in 2008, according to the Pew Research Center, and this age group was much more likely to turn out for Obama.
Political posters and billboards get a lot of media attention in Britain, but even there they may be used less in the future. However, nowadays, poster designs are often meant to be downloaded from Web sites, and electronic billboards are becoming more commonplace. In the past year in the U.S., for example, Coca-Cola put up ads on these digital outdoor displays in 27 markets, according to Natalie Zmuda in Advertising Age.
In close elections, posters have made a difference. Some interesting research, conducted before the 1996 parliamentary elections in Great Britain, suggested that poster campaigns persuaded swing voters, in particular, to change their political preferences. Researchers found that a Conservative Party's “New Labour, New Danger” poster, showing two red eyes peering out from behind a red curtain, was effective with focus-group members, 25–34 years old of age, who lacked strong party allegiances.
Overall, posters and billboards may have had some influence, according to researchers. Voters surveyed in the United Kingdom during the 2001 election campaign indicated that billboard advertisements had affected one in ten persons—2 percent reported that the ads had a “great deal” of influence on them and 8 percent indicated a “fair amount.” In comparison, the percentages for televised broadcasts were 6 percent and 16 percent for the same response categories. In addition, the survey data from 1992 to 2000 in Japan revealed generally similar findings about the influence of election posters in that country: when participants were asked if the medium assisted their voting decisions, the percentages ranged from 5 to 9 percent for posters (about the same as for newspaper advertisements)
Of course, these percentages could be lower in the years to come.
For more on the use of posters in British election campaigns and on the effects of posters on voting behavior, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
Friday, February 12, 2010
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.
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.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The next general election in the United Kingdom must take place by June 3, 2010. All seats in the House of Commons will be filled. In the latest Guardian/ICM poll, the Conservatives lead with 44% support, followed by the ruling Labour Party (27%), the Liberals (18%), and Others (11%). Among the last group is the British National Party (BNP). One poll, however, had the BNP potentially gaining 22% of the vote, after BNP Leader Nick Griffin appeared on BBC Television.
The BNP is appealing to "the indigenous, white British people ... which successive governments have done far too little to protect,” according to the Telegraph. The party has campaigned to celebrate "White History Month," protested government funds given to a Moslem group, fought government immigration policies, and more (see the BNP Web site).
BNP posters, billboards, and videos have tried to link the party's image to past British leaders and glories. One poster shows Winston Churchill and British airmen during World War II; a billboard links the BNP to Jesus; a video (which includes many posters) on the party's Web site defends the party and its stands—calling for citizens to "take back" the country—as well as associating it with past achievements by the English.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The Swiss People's Party (SVP) is at it again—this time with a poster urging a ban on the building of any minarets in the country. The poster shows a woman in a burka and the minarets on top of a Swiss flag. Some have said that the minarets look like missiles. There will be a referendum on November 29 on a possible ban on the building of new minarets.
The cities of Zurich, Geneva, Lucerne, and Winterthur have allowed this poster to be displayed as a matter of freedom of speech, according to BBC News. However, Basel, Lausanne and Fribourg have banned the public display of the poster.
According to a poll, about 35% of voters favor the ban, while 51% are opposed to it.
The SVP is the top vote-getting party in parliamentary elections in Switzerland.
[Thanks to Joshua Seidman-Zager for sending the link to the BBC News article.]
Sunday, October 4, 2009
President Manuel Zelaya was ousted by the Honduran military in a June 28th coup, after he planned to have a vote on a non-binding resolution on constitutional change.
If voters had approved such change, a referendum authorizing a commission to change the country's constitution to allow presidents (including Zelaya) to serve more than one term, could have been held this November. However, Zelaya denied that he intended to stand for re-election. In any case, the Supreme Court and the Congress voted that the change was illegal, and that Zelaya could not fire the head of the armed forces, Romeo Vásquez (who had opposed his plan). When Zelaya did not accept the rulings by the Supreme Court and Congress (as well as the county's human-rights ombudsman), they voted to remove him from office.
It was feared by many that Zelaya (allied with Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Cuba's Fidel Castro) was working to seize power. Protests and sanctions by other governments have wracked Honduras since his ouster. The United States and many other countries (as well as the Organization of American States) have said that the crisis concerning Zelaya must be resolved or the upcoming November 28 election will be considered to be illegitimate. Polls indicate that Zelaya has the support of about one-fourth of Hondurans.
Zelaya is now being protected by Brazil, in its embassy in Honduras. Interim President Roberto Micheletti (a member of Zelaya's Liberal Party) has stated that Zelaya can leave the embassy "either through political asylum or by obeying the courts." And last week, Micheletti suspended civil liberties and banned protests.
Meanwhile, six candidates for the Honduran presidency are now campaigning, but without the typical rallies. The campaign posters that are put up are almost immediately destroyed and/or taken down, but TV spots have continued to be aired.
Elvin Santos (the Liberal Party candidate) is trying to be get elected by being friendly with both Zelaya and Micheletti. "We may have profound political differences," Santos declared. "But that doesn't mean I can't hug any Honduran I want, as I did when I greeted President Micheletti, when I greeted President Zelaya."
Porfirio Lobo Sosa (candidate of the conservative National Party) has stated that there is no "constitutional crisis," but rather a regular scheduled election to be held. Lobo is ahead in the polls. He has condemned the suspension of civil liberties.
Honduras is a tiny nation, which has a population of only about 7.5 million people. It has held fairly democratic elections since the late 1980s, after two decades of military repression and political intervention. The history of Honduras—a country with an unemployment rate of almost 30%—is filled with civil wars (which took the lives of an estimated thirteen thousand citizens between 1892 and 1924) and elections often marked by fraud and military force, frequently followed by presidential dictatorship and domination of Congress. The derogatory name “The Banana Republic” was given to Honduras in the early twentieth century, after the United Fruit Company bought the country’s banana company, and began to exercise undue influence. Honduras became the world’s sole country whose primary export was bananas. To learn more about the political history of Honduras, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
Sources:BBCNews, "Q&A: Crisis in Honduras"; Jose de Cordoba, "Honduras Lurches Toward Crisis Over Election," Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2009; The Economist, "Zelaya Swaps Exile for Embassy," September 26, 2009, pp. 47-48; Rui Ferreira, "Profile: Honduras' Presidential Candidate Porfirio Lobo Sosa," PODER360o, September 29, 2009; Blake Schmidt, "Honduras Candidate Says Crackdown May Undermine Vote (Update1)," Bloomberg.com, September 30, 2009; Mark Stevenson, "Honduran interim leader: No meeting with Zelaya," Associated Press, September 25, 2009.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
German voters will elect a new parliament today, and German involvement in the war in Afghanistan is a key issue, along with the economy.
Germany, which has 4,200 troops in Afghanistan, recently bombed fuel tankers that had been stolen by the Taliban there, and civilians were killed in the attack. On Friday, an al-Qaida group, calling itself "The German," released a video with vague threats issued in retaliation for Germany's military presence in Afghanistan.
The Social Democratic Party (SPD) has called for an exit strategy from the conflict. German involvement in Afghanistan has been a contentious issue for years now. In fact, in 2005, Rolf Schwanitz, an SPD minister, issued a controversial poster, titled "She [Merkel] Would Have Sent Soldiers" (shown on the right), which featured a row of flag-draped coffins of American war dead.
Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to remain in office, with her center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) garnering the most votes. The CDU (with the Bavarian Christian Social Union) is supported by about 35% in the latest polls, with its coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrat Party (FDP), attracting 13% support. If these two parties fail to gain a majority of the votes, they will have to find a third partner or the CDU will try to continue the present coalition with the center-left SPD, which is polling around 25%. For pre-election poll results, click here. The rest of the vote will be divided mainly between the Green Party and socialistic Left Party (each with about 12%).
Posters for Merkel and her party are more sedate, showing her smiling along with her main slogan, "We have the strength." Perhaps the most controversial CDU poster, titled "We have more to offer," was issued by Vera Lengsfeld, with her own and Chancellor Merkel's cleavage prominent (also shown on the right). Several women's groups criticized the poster. However, the most important controversy—besides the war in Afghanistan—is whether or not to cut taxes and increase the budget deficits (favored by the CDU and FDP, and opposed by the SPD and others).
The Green Party also issued an attention-getting poster, titled “The only reason to vote black,” which showed a white woman's hands on a black woman's bottom. Some criticized this poster as racist, although the Greens stated that the color black was meant to symbolize the CDU and that the poster was intended to show support for same-sex partnerships.
To read about the the political history of Germany and its posters, including past provocative ones by the Green Party, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Steven Heller, writing in his Daily Heller blog, has an interesting piece on posters to promote the Tea Party movement, as well as on anti-Obama designs (many of which are from The People's Cube Web site), which include Pelosi, Reid, and Obama as "The Three Stooges"; the "Tree of Liberty" symbol and the message "don't give me DEBT"; and Obama as "El Presidente of the Banana Republic of the United States."
Just as propaganda of the left can smear the opposition and distort positions, so, too, can propaganda of the right. As Heller states:
The transposition of Obama as a Soviet/Red...and the smearing of the Democratic party as Marxist...shows a decided lack of imagination and historical knowledge. First, socialism as a practice (i.e. Sweden) and Soviet Communism (remember the breakup of the Soviet Union) are quite different political beasts. Representing the Obama administration with the hammer and sickle is as stupid as smearing it with a swastika...Just as George W. Bush was not a Nazi for starting the Iraqi War, President Barack Obama is not a "commie-fascist" for advocating a government-subsidized health care plan.
Check out the poster designs on The People's Cube, and comment on the designs and messages.
Monday, June 8, 2009
There are anti-immigrant parties in many European countries, including Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, and Switzerland (see previous blog entries from March 7, 2009 and December 14, 2008).
The elections to determine members of the European Union (EU) Parliament were just held in 27 nations, with the center-right European People's Party coalition emerging with the most seats.
One party that did particularly well was the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV). The PVV's platform calls for an end to immigration from non-European countries and opposes the admission of Turkey to the EU. In the 2006 elections for the Dutch House of Representatives, the PVV garnered only about 6% of the vote, but in this year's EU elections, it gained 17% (second only to the ruling Christian Democratic Alliance), giving the party its first four seats. In his "victory" speech, PVV leader, Geert Wilders stated: "The Netherlands is waking up from a long leftist nightmare. A nightmare of crazy high taxes, crime, lousy care, headscarves and burkas, of pauperizing, of mass immigration and Islamization...."
Other anti-immigrant parties also did well: the Italian Northern League won 10% of the vote (an increase from it's 8% in the 2008 general elections); the British National Party won its first two seats, with about 8% of the vote; Austria's Freedom Party won 13% of the vote (more than doubling its share); Hungary's Jobbik (For a Better Hungary) Party won 3 of 22 seats, with 15%—doing better than the Socialists; the Danish People's Party also won about 15%. British National Party Chairman Nick Griffin (who was elected to the EU Parliament over a Labourite) said: "We do say this country is full up. The key thing is to shut the door."
The biggest winners, according to the Financial Times of London, were the center-right parties, led by Angela Merkel of Germany, Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Donald Tusk of Poland, and Viktor Orban of Hungary, all of whose forces did much better than their Socialist (and other) opponents at the polls.
The EU Parliament is elected every five years. The body has power of legislation that affects environmental, consumer, and transportation matters, as well as joint control (with the countries' legislatures) over the $182 billion EU budget. The turnout in the elections, however, has also been going down, from a high of 62% in 1979 to 43% in this year's elections.
Other sources: Coming Vote on Assembly Elicits Shrugs in Europe/NY Times; Dutch Anti-Immigrant Party Emerges as Big Winner in EU Elections/TimesOnLine; Election Results Across Europe/BBC News; Results of the 2009 European Elections; View from the Right
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Last month, the Swiss electorate voted for a referendum allowing the free movement of workers in 27 European Union (EU) countries. Almost 60% favored the referendum.
The opposition to the referendum was led by the Swiss People's Party (SVP), the top vote-getting party in parliamentary elections in Switzerland, and producer of the infamous "black sheep" poster of 2007 (see previous blog entry).
This time around, the SVP disseminated a poster that showed several black crows pecking at a map of Switzerland. The crows probably symbolize Romania and Bulgaria (the newest, but poorer countries in the EU), which the SVP believes will flood wealthier Switzerland with workers, taking jobs away from Swiss citizens and increasing costs for
Friday, February 20, 2009
Elections are scheduled this year in five countries in Latin America, namely Chile, Panama, Uruguay, El Salvador, and Honduras. World Audit rates the first three countries as "fully democratic," and the other two as "qualified democracies," meaning that there are some flaws.
In much of Latin America, “street poster art” is an influential political medium, and during election campaigns, posters are omnipresent. This is true even as the influences of television and the Internet have become greater. The standard practice is to maximize the impact of a poster’s message by pasting many copies of the same poster in rows or columns. This repetition attracts attention. During the 2005 Chilean presidential election, “one [could not] seem to leave the house without being subject to posters lined up on every street,” according to one report. That posters are essential in Latin America is not surprising, considering a recent survey found that almost 80 percent of the region’s campaign managers believed the image of a candidate was the most important factor in a political campaign. Furthermore, 24 percent of these political professionals indicated that street posters were of “exceptional importance” in campaign advertising strategy, a percentage almost as high as for daily newspapers (29 percent) and private television (30 percent).
In 1970, Chile witnessed a momentous election campaign, which culminated in the election of Salvador Allende Gossens, a Socialist, as president. Supporters of Allende were excited and hopeful for change, with other voters fearful of what would happen in the country if he won. Some in Allende’s Socialist Party called for seizing power, if he was not elected. Three years later, Allende was found dead, after a military takeover, the presidential palace bombed beyond repair, and General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte was declared the dictatorial leader. It was apparent that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States, under President Richard Nixon, had worked to prevent Allende’s election, and—after he had won—helped to destabilize the regime. The details are supplied in my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History, along with sections on other nations in the region.
Free elections occurred again in Chile only in 1990. In 2005, Verónica Michelle Bachelet Jeria, the candidate of Allende's Socialist Party (which is part of a coalition, Concert of Parties for Democracy or CPD), was elected president of Chile—the first woman to hold the office—winning a runoff election with 53.5% of the vote.
At the right is the logo of the Social Democratic Radical Party of Chile (another member of the CPD), with the rose as its symbol—like many Socialist Parties around the world, including those in Brazil, Romania, Switzerland, Spain, Serbia, Ukraine, France, and the British Labour Party.
Also at the right is a poster, which targeted feminists, from the 1970 Allende campaign.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Israel's parliamentary election is this Tuesday, with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud Party slightly favored to regain power. Since the Israeli incursion into Gaza last month, polls indicate an increase in popularity for the conservatives of Likud, whose main opposition is the ruling Kadima Party, led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is perceived as more moderate than Netanyahu. To the right of Netanyahu and his party is Soviet-born Avigdor Lieberman, whose Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is Our Home) Party is also doing well in the polls. It appears as though the hardliners toward the Palestinians may gain power. One consequence is that Netanyahu, if elected, will not stop building settlements in "occupied" territories. [See article in Reuters for more information on the campaign and U.S.-Israeli relations]
However, there has been a late shift back to the Kadima Party in the polls. Right now, according to the latest data, Likud will gain 27 seats and Kadima 25—out of 120 seats in the Knesset (the Israeli parliament). Yisrael Beiteinu will win 14 seats. The Labour Party, led by Ehud Barak (another former prime minister), trails badly. The leader of the party with a plurality will then attempt to put together a coalition government. According to Jason Koutsoukis of Fairfax Digital Network, even if Livni's party wins the most seats, it will be difficult for her to form a coalition, since Lieberman's party has similar stands to those of Likud.
As for the campaign, many Israelis are uncharacteristically lacking in enthusiasm for the candidates and their positions, according to David Blair of Britain's Weekly Telegraph. Of course, campaign posters continue to be seen on the streets, but fewer rallies have been held.
One group—suspected to be Orthodox extremists—defaced posters of Livni in Jerusalem. It probably had less to do with her centrist positions, and more to do with opposition to images of women being seen in public, wrote Shelly Paz of The Jerusalem Post.
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."
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Hillary Clinton’s “3 a.m." advertisement (released in March) was named the “Best TV Spot” of the 2008 election, chosen by a large margin in a poll of Campaigns & Elections’ Politics magazine subscribers (many of whom are political professionals). Here are the complete results for the question in the poll:
Which of the following political advertisements would you say was the “Best TV spot” of the 2008 election?
Hillary Clinton – “3 A.M.” 31%
Barack Obama – “The Moment” 24%
John McCain – “Celebrity” 11%
Mike Huckabee – “Chuck Norris Approved” 9%
Bill Richardson – “Job Interviews” 7%
Mitt Romney – “Experience Matters” 3%
Republican National Committee – “Storm” 3%
Mike Gravel – “Throws a Rock in a Lake” 1%
Don’t Know 6%
Clinton's ad did get a lot of attention, and may have helped her win many primaries after it was released—as well as spawning a multitude of parodies on YouTube. Here is the original ad:
Monday, January 19, 2009
Shepard Fairey's "Hope" poster, which became the most famous icon of Barack Obama's presidential campaign, was unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery, in Washington, DC, on January 17. Fairey is a guerrilla artist, who previously was best known for his "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" street-art posters and stickers, which promoted the huge wrestler in the late 1980s.
The National Portrait Gallery's blog stated: "Early in 2008, Fairey produced his first Obama portrait, with a stenciled face, visionary upward glance, and the caption 'Progress.' In this second version, Fairey repeated the heroic pose and patriotic color scheme, substituting the slogan 'Hope' .... The campaign sold 50,000 official posters; a San Francisco streetwear company produced T-shirts; grassroots organizations disseminated hundreds of thousands of stickers; and a free downloadable version generated countless repetitions."
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Iraq's provincial election will take place at the end of January. Campaign posters are ubiquitous, especially in Baghdad, but they are often defaced or ripped down soon after they go up (as occurs in many countries)!
Accordingly, political parties and individual candidates have been admonished by the head of the country's Independent High Electoral Commission about defacing posters, as well as placing them on government buildings and security checkpoints. The penalties assessed can range from $90 to $44,500 (U.S.)
A party's election slate number is usually displayed prominently on the poster. One poster, for example, states:
"Madaniyoon list number 460: Our objective is to make sterilized water reach every house," according to the Los Angeles Times.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The 2008 U.S. Republican Party Platform supported border security and English as the official national language, and opposed any amnesty for illegal immigrants. These stands—emphasized by most GOP presidential candidates during the primary campaign and continuing into the general election, particularly by state and local candidates, hurt many Republicans who ran: For example, in 2004, an estimated 39 percent of Latinos voted for George W. Bush; in 2008, only 31 percent voted for John McCain. But at least the U.S. does not have a party whose main purpose is to oppose immigration and immigrants. In other parts of the world, such parties abound.
In France, the increase in the number of immigrants and Arabs with French citizenship helped resurrect Jean-Marie Le Pen’s party, the Front National (FN), which had received little support since Le Pen helped found it in 1972. By 1988, however, Le Pen garnered 14 percent of the vote in the presidential election. The message of protecting white French citizens against the waves of immigrants was summed up on a Le Pen poster with the slogan “Defend our colors.” In 1995, he achieved 15 percent, with a blatant anti-immigrant campaign, marked by an FN poster that stated, “Three million unemployed, that is three million immigrants too many!” Another FN poster included a silhouette of an airplane in front of the setting sun, with the slogan “When we come in … They go out!” And in 2002, Le Pen (with his slogan of “France and the French First”) received almost 17 percent, getting him into a runoff against Jacques Chirac (who defeated him soundly 82 percent to 18 percent). But in the latest French presidential election, last year, Le Pen's share of the vote was down to 10 percent.
Unfortunately, anti-immigrant appeals have been evident in other countries, too. A poster distributed by the Danish People’s Party during the 2001 election showed a young blond girl with the statement, “When she retires, Denmark will be a majority-Muslim nation.” In the same campaign, Venstre (the Liberal Party) erected a billboard that showed three Asian men, who had been tried for group rape, leaving the court after having been acquitted, with the caption “this will not be tolerated once Venstre gets in.” In that election, Venstre won the most seats in the parliament (a gain of 34 percent) and the People’s Party came in third in seats (a 70-percent increase). The Swiss People’s Party (SVP) achieved even more than its Danish counterpart, winning the most votes in the parliamentary elections of 1999, 2003, and 2007, possibly helped by posters that depicted foreigners as criminals shredding the nation’s flag. In the last elections, the SVP achieved its best result (29 percent), despite (or because of) issuing a subsequently banned poster that depicted three white cartoon sheep kicking a black one off the Swiss flag, as well as the slogan “Creating security” (see the illustration to the right). Anti-immigrant poster campaigns by political parties have also been conducted recently in other European countries, including Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, and The Netherlands, as well as in New Zealand.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The presidential campaign in Ghana just ended, with the voting on Sunday resulting in a virtual tie between the two candidates. According to Reuters, Nana Akufo-Addo (a former minister of foreign affairs) of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) is slightly ahead in the count with about 49 percent of the vote so far, but almost 4 of 10 constituencies have not been tallied as yet. John Atta Mills (who has run for president, and lost, twice previously) of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has garnered almost 48 percent. If neither candidate's total hits 50 percent, there will be a run-off on December 28. Both men are moderates, and favor investment in healthcare, education, and infrastructure.
Ghana is a stable democracy of more than 20 million people—rated #35 in the world, by World Audit (one of only two "fully democratic" countries in Africa, the other being Mauritius). Ghana has a fairly healthy economy, which grew almost 7 percent in 2007. It is a major producer of cocoa and gold, and is developing offshore oil discoveries. Poverty still exists, however, and literacy (in 2000) was under 60 percent.
The campaign had the usual "mud slinging," but "there was a carnival atmosphere and friendly exchanges among rival supporters," said Will Ross, a BBC correspondent. Posters, billboards, and t-shirts for Akufo-Addo called him “The Best Man for Ghana.” Those for Mills termed him a man “you can trust” and “a better man for Ghana”.
Here is a music video, performed by Daddy Lumba, for Nana:
Friday, December 5, 2008
Finland—according to World Audit—is ranked #1 of the world's countries for "democracy" (after a review of figures on public corruption, human and political rights, free speech, and the rule of law in every country of at least one million people).
The nation conducts presidential elections every six years, selects a parliament every four years, has European Parliament elections every five years, and municipal elections every four years.
There are 13 registered political parties, and 7 other ones that were removed after the 2007 parliamentary elections for failing to win a seat in two consecutive votes. Although the three main parties (Centre, National Coalition, and Social Democratic) gained 2/3 of the seats in the parliament in 2007, the support for them was about the same (23%, 22%, and 21%, respectively), and a coalition government was formed, with the first two parties joining with the Green League and Swedish People's Party (representing the Swedish speakers in Finland).
In Finland, where legal restrictions are placed on political advertising on television and radio, posters are widely used. Many candidates also have their own Web pages. Nowadays, the posters often show portraits of the candidates, but issues and logos are also represented. For a good sampling of election posters throughout history from the Finnish Social Democratic Party, click on this link.
At the right are two Finnish campaign posters:
- Swedish People's Party (1960)—advocating for the rights of Swedish speakers (top)
- Urho Kekkonen for president (1956)—promoting the politician who held office from 1956 until 1982. He was elected the first time by two votes in the electoral college, which was done away with after he left office (bottom)
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Eric Portis is an artist who created an interesting poster to promote Barack Obama, with copies intended to be sold on the streets of Denver, the site of the Democratic National Convention this year. His printing technique was old fashioned, seen mainly in the nineteenth century: it involved using four carved wood blocks, each one for a different color on the cardboard poster.
Obama smiles out at us, with rays of light behind him (similar to Ray Noland's "The Dream"—seen earlier in this blog), and the Denver skyline. Under the candidate's name are a number of symbols, including an "environmental" leaf, a "health reform" bandage, and a "economic" cent. There's also a heart, brain, and star—perhaps to symbolize compassion, astuteness, and charisma, as well as a "happy" smile and a pair of ears! The center of the "O" in Obama's name is Illinois—his home state.
Porter is 24 years old and lives in Denver. According to Hake's Americana Auctions, the artist printed 150 of these posters, which were all sold. He then "voided" the wood blocks to prevent any more of this design to be printed.
Friday, November 14, 2008
As far as I can tell, the Obama campaign was the first ever to sell t-shirts with the candidate's portrait on it. And there were a lot of different designs that featured his image, often sold independently.
Presidential campaign t-shirts have been around since 1960, when John F. Kennedy's image as a war hero was promoted by a t-shirt design with a PT-boat on it to celebrate the Democratic candidate's valor during World War II, when a Japanese destroyer sank his vessel. But Kennedy's portrait was not displayed.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
In 1853, New Zealand held its first parliamentary elections. The country conducted its most recent elections on Saturday, November 8. Voting always occurs on a Saturday, so that most people can vote on a day off from work (a very good idea!). The National Party, a center-right party under the leadership of John Key, won the most votes (and therefore seats), and will form a coalition government. It gained 45% of the vote, compared to the ruling Labour Party's 34% and the Green Party's 6%.
New Zealand is in a recession, and the center-left Labourites in power (since 1999, with Helen Clark the prime minister) were blamed for it—similar to the situation in the U.S., except that the conservatives were voted in.
New Zealand claims to be the first self-governing country to have all women vote in parliamentary elections. This occurred in 1893. It was not until 1920 that women in the United States gained this right in national elections.
The New Zealand First Party, which was represented in the country's House of Representatives for over fifteen years, did not win enough votes to be awarded any seats this time (it gained under 5%, which is the threshold). Its leader, Winston Peters, who is part Maori, heads a party that is opposed to immigration, in general (see the billboard to the right).
The history and posters of New Zealand are quite interesting. For more information, see New Zealand History online.
Monday, November 10, 2008
MoveOn.org just announced that it is selling a "Yes We Did" poster. It features the now-famous Shepard Fairey image of Barack Obama and the Obama-for President-logo, with flowing red-and-white stripes added, as well as a crowd of supporters in the background. It also added the phrases "United We Progress Toward a More Perfect Union," "Together We Made History," and "People Powered."
The posters are 24" x 36" and cost $20 for one copy. The money will fund the organization's future campaigns.
MoveOn.org has 4.2 million members.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
This year has seen yet another record for campaign expenditures in the U.S. The projected total amount for the presidential and congressional campaigns is $5.3 billion, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. This money has been spent mainly on political marketing—including TV, radio, and Internet spot ads, and direct mail—but also for the conventions, canvassing, polling, and telephone calls.
Almost one-half of the above amount—a record $2.4 billion—has been spent on the presidential race. But, as USA Today's Fredreka Schouten noted, this "is less than the $2.6 billion Coca-Cola spent on advertising in 2006." Of course, it is also 50% more than the $1.6 billion expended on the presidential race four years ago.
It also should be mentioned that the Democrats raised almost 60% of the total this year, whereas fundraising by the two major U.S. political parties was approximately the same in 2004. Over 90% of Barack Obama's $639 billion has come from individual contributors, according to the Center, whereas only a bit more than 50% of John McCain's $360 billion has been given by individuals (23% are federal funds; 22% are "Other").
The minor parties? Well, independent Ralph Nader obtained only $4 million (of which 22% were from federal funds); Libertarian Bob Barr had about $1.25 million (with no federal funds); Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin raised $239,000 (with no federal funds); Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney had a mere $188,000 (with only about $5,000 from the federal government).
Interesting, independent "527 groups" devoted to federal races have raised less money this year: $424 million (a decrease of 12% from 2004), reports Ms. Schouten.
How much does all this spending help candidates? There is some research to indicate that it does help somewhat. For instance, money spent on campaign advertising in British elections has been found to be generally effective, particularly for out-of-power parties against incumbent ones. This may prove to be the case in this year's U.S. presidential election.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
The final "surge" is on in the last four days of the election campaign!
Labor unions almost always work to elect Democratic presidential candidates in the U.S., and this year is no exception. The AFL-CIO, for example put together a huge campaign for the final four days—the largest in its political history—with more than 100,000 workers in 21 "battleground" states calling on almost 4 million union households, dialing 5.5 million telephone numbers, and disseminating over 2 million leaflets at workplaces in support of Barack Obama, wrote Jonathan Martin (http://www.politico.com).
This summer, the AFL-CIO sent cards (see the illustration on the right) to 600,000 union members in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, with their purpose to counter "myths and rumors about Sen. Obama," according to union spokesperson Steve Smith. The questions included the following about Obama (with all of the answers "Yes"):
- Does he wear a flag pin on his lapel?
- Is he a Christian?
- Was he born in America?
- Does he place his hand over his heart when he says the pledge?
- Was he sworn in on a bible?
Another printed piece focused on health care and the economy. (see Marc Ambinder, The Atlantic)
As for the Republicans, the Politico's Martin reported that John McCain's campaign and the Republican National Committee are sending out robocalls and radio spot ads, featuring retiring Senator John Warner, to Virginians in that key battleground state. The messages emphasize defense. In the radio ad aimed at the voters in the Tidewater area (with its gigantic naval base), Warner says: "Barack Obama's liberal colleagues in Congress announced they will cut defense spending by 25%. Fellow Virginians, cuts in the defense budget will weaken Virginia's economy, weaken national defense."
Friday, October 24, 2008
Presidential campaign billboards have been placed in video games for the first time by Barack Obama's team. The inserted ads appear in the game Burnout Paradise, and "racers" speed by billboards that say "Early Voting Has Begun" and "Vote for Change.com."
The billboard also can be seen in a number of other video games, including Need for Speed, Skate, NASCAR 09, and NBA Live 08, as well as online versions.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Graphic designer Seymour Chwast has just displayed a pro-Obama poster design on the interesting Website known as 30 Reasons, which is putting up a different poster for each of the thirty days leading up to the election.
Chwast is a commercial artist, who has designed everything from food packages to posters. He was active during the Vietnam War creating protest posters, including one that showed Uncle Sam with warplanes dropping bombs inside his mouth.
Chwast has written many books, including Graphic Style: From Victorian to Digital (which he co-authored with Steven Heller).
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Before "Country First" (one of John McCain's slogans in this year's campaign), there was "America First."
Interestingly, this slogan was used in two different years, by two different political parties, in the early twentieth century, and again in 1992 (in a primary campaign).
In 1916, Democrat Woodrow Wilson's campaign employed it in the U.S. presidential campaign. In that election, the slogan was a reference to the Wilson administration having kept the country out of the war in Europe; and the slogan “Wilson, That’s All!” had been employed previously in advertisements for a brand of whiskey (according to Michael Beschloss in his American Heritage Illustrated History of The Presidents). Wilson's opponent, Republican Charles Evans Hughes, blamed the concerted “He Kept Us Out of War”/“America First” propaganda effort that so heavily used vivid pictorial posters and billboards for his defeat.
In 1920, it was the Republican campaign for Warren G. Harding that used this slogan, exploiting the public's disillusionment with World War I and its aftermath. One can see the "America First" slogan in Howard Chandler Christy’s idealized rendition of Harding with the candidate dramatically making the "V" sign with one hand and holding an American flag with the other.
Patrick Buchanan, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1992, also used the theme "America First." According to Ron Faucheux, "Buchanan's enemies drew unflattering comparisons between his slogan and the same one that had been used a half-century earlier by the 'America First' committee, an isolationist group that opposed U.S. entry into World War II." The "America First" committee's goal had been to prevent the U.S. from entering World War II.
McCain's "Country First" slogan does not imply any isolationism. In the present campaign, McCain is trying to say that the Republican candidate puts the "country" before any political considerations. For example, McCain called for the "surge" in Iraq when this was an unpopular strategy, even among members of his own party.
Friday, October 10, 2008
I've already discussed the guerrilla artists for Obama (Ron English and Shepard Fairey), but what about other artists' work? We've seen Ray Noland's "The Dream," but he has produced many other posters supporting Obama, such as "Coast to Coast" (Obama with a basketball) and "Next" (similar to "The Dream). I've created a gallery of Obama posters. Here are several pro-Obama ones:
- "Obama Bomaye" by Emek
- "Yes We Can" by Antar Dayal
- "We Want Change" by Mear One
- "Hope" by Mac
- "Barack Obama" by Burlesque Design
- "Nuestra Voz" by Rafael Lopez
- "McSame" by Andrew Lewis
- "The Republicans Present McSame" by Zoltron
Click Here for the Gallery.
There are not many artists supporting McCain. The only one to be found is Baxter Orr, who created the "Dope" poster (seen bottom right).
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
According to The Spot (a blog about political ads by the Campaign Media Analysis Group, a division of TNS Media Intelligence), special interest groups are girding up to release TV spots in targeted states. These 527 and PAC groups may "prove to be a significant force, largely because they are more willing than candidates to include incendiary information and images in their ads," states the blog.
In the last week, these groups distributed ads that focused on abortion, rape, Obama's association with Tony Rezko, Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers, McCain's bouts with cancer, and more.
Planned Parenthood, the Committee for Truth in Politics, the California Nurses Association, and the Judicial Confirmation Network sponsored ads that ran over 1,000 times during the week—costing almost $375,000.
Here are two of the ads:
Monday, September 29, 2008
Some of the posters promoting Democratic candidate Barack Obama are vaguely familiar in their "revolutionary" design. Most are unauthorized by his campaign, in that they have been produced and disseminated by artists who support Obama, but are posting and/or selling these posters independently.
Some have termed the imagery devised for Obama as indicative of a "personality cult," similar to what artists developed for Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Che, and other authoritarian leaders. Peggy Shapiro, for instance, referring to Shepard Fairey's idealized portraits of Obama (as well as those by Russian artists of Soviet dictators), wrote that they depicted "the leader, face illuminated by 'holy' light, look[ing] off to the horizon and see[ing] the truth that is not available to his mere mortal followers, who must look up to his image." The image that Fairey created of Obama (shown previously in another post in this blog) may be "revolutionary," but it is much more subtle than the Cuban posters showing raised rifles and fists. It is a simplified portrait of the candidate with light and patriotic colors enveloping him, with the blue a lot lighter and softer than on the flag.
While there are those on the right who insist that the Democratic candidate is himself a "radical"—associating with such as William Ayers and Jeremiah Wright—there is little evidence to substantiate this allegation. What does seem to be the case is that artists such as Fairey and Ray Noland have incorporated radical imagery into their designs to promote Obama's election. Noland, for example, in his poster "The Dream," shows Obama—bathed in light—gazing into the distance, with a sun and rays as a backdrop. The iconography is religious, but similar to some Mao posters.
Monday, September 22, 2008
In early nineteenth-century America, negative advertising and distortion of candidate records were all practiced in politics—in partisan newspapers, broadsides, and posters. Today, this is mainly conducted on the Internet and with TV spot ads.
Vinny Minchillo (Chief Creative Officer, Scott Howell & Company) says that presidential advertising is like auto advertising. Here are the similarities, according to him (in Advertising Age, September 19, 2008):
- "Both decisions come with a commitment of two, four or six years"
- "Potential customers are engaged for a short period of time"
- "People actually do their homework before committing"
- "People want us to believe they decide based on facts, when it's really an emotional decision"
- "There's plenty of negative advertising"
The key for shoppers—for presidents and cars—writes Minchillo, is to "make a connection to the brand that is both logical and emotional." There are a number of important questions asked by these shoppers, but perhaps the most important ones are "How will this car make me look?" and "What will my friends say when I reveal my candidate choice?" Minchillo states that Obama—"a stunning orator and tremendous narrator"— is a "Ferrari"; McCain—"with tons of experience and decent qualifications"—is a "Toyota Camry."
Then there is the "comparative advertising" between "products." Although surveys have indicated that many voters dislike negative political ads, researchers have shown that they are often effective. Two of the most successful were the Willie Horton spots in 1988 and those by the Swift Boat Veterans in 2004.
The most malicious video spots are not even shown on television; rather they are posted online. Both TV and online spots have been financed by so-called "527 groups." These groups can raise unlimited funds independent of the authorized groups supporting candidates and parties, but must disclose donors. One 527 group, calling itself the "Brave New PAC" targeted John McCain with a spot attempting to tarnish his "hero" image as a Vietnam POW. Here it is:
An anti-Obama spot, posted by "Our Country PAC," called into question the Democrat's "patriotism." Here it is:
These are just two. You can find many more out there.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Slogans, ranging from “I Like Ike” (Republicans, U.S., 1952) to “Labour Isn’t Working” (Conservatives, Britain, 1978), have summarized entire political campaigns with a few, memorable words. Repetitions of slogans and playing on emotions are key practices of advertising. Advertising is, of course, a form of propaganda. Sometimes ads for products, such as “Wilson, That’s All!”—which was employed originally in advertisements for a brand of whiskey—are used for candidates, in this instance Woodrow Wilson.
Slogans are carefully devised, with each word calculated to appeal to one or more target audiences, with focus groups used to help determine the slogan, as well as to test it out. Obama's "Yes We Can" is a good example: it is positive, inclusive, and implies "change."
Some successful U.S. campaign slogans follow:
- “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” (Whigs, 1840) celebrated William Henry Harrison, the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe and his running mate, John Tyler
- "Don't swap horses in midstream" (Republicans, 1864, for Abraham Lincoln)
- "He Kept Us Out of War" (Democrats, 1916, for Wilson, who then had the U.S. enter World War I)
- “Let’s be done with wiggle and wobble” (Republicans, 1920)—a reference to a Democratic policy that seemed first to have been isolationist, then interventionist
- "A chicken in every pot. A car in every garage. A duck in every bathtub" (Republicans, 1928, for Herbert Hoover)
- "A New Deal" (Democrats, 1932, for Franklin D. Roosevelt)
- "All the Way with LBJ" (Democrats, 1964, for Lyndon B. Johnson)
- “A Stronger America” (Democrats, 2004, for John Kerry)
One slogan that has been forgotten by most Americans was devised by the Democratic Party in the mid-nineteenth century: "We Polked you in 1844; we shall Pierce you in 1852." It honored James Polk and Franklin Pierce. And in the past, slogans were often negative. For example, in 1884, the Democrats created “Soap! Soap! Blaine’s only Hope!” to help defeat James Blaine. The slogan was an allusion to Blaine's alleged corrupt practices.
Slogans are evident in many other countries' election campaigns, as well. Here are a few:
- “Bread, Justice, Freedom” (Japan Labor-Farmer Party, 1928)
- “The Socialists will be Liberal with your money!” (Conservatives, Britain, 1929)
- "One People, One Country, One Leader" (Nazis, Germany, 1938)
- "We Shall Overcome" (Popular Unity, Chile, 1970)
- “We Need a Strong France” (Union for French Democracy, 1981)
- “A Better Life for All” (African National Congress, South Africa, 1994)
- "Enough Already!" (National Action Party, Mexico, 2000)
The "I Like Ike" slogan was used in a television commercial. It was an effective slogan, since it enhanced General Dwight D. Eisenhower's already positive image. The posters that were produced further reinforced the image of a confident, smiling presidential candidate who was ready to face all problems, and above petty party concerns. Here's the 1952 TV spot:
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Guerrilla pop-artist Ron English has produced illegal billboards ("Phatfood," "The Cancer Kid," and "Fox News. We Deceive. You Believe."), as well as posters that have been exhibited in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Paris and the Whitney Museum in New York.
English claims to have "pirated" numerous billboards over the last two decades, substituting his "subvertisements" for the existing advertisements. He is also the author of the 2004 book, Popaganda, The Art and Subversion of Ron English.
For this year's U.S. presidential campaign, he created the "Abraham Obama" poster—a fusion of the faces of Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama. He then made a nationwide tour, putting up "Abrama" murals in Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and finally in Denver, the site of the Democratic National Convention.
Some have found English's creation to be "awesome"; others have thought it to be "offensive," favoring "symbolism over substance."
What do you think?
In any case, take a look at the video of the "Abraham Obama" billboard being pasted-up in Boston:
And there's a news report on the controversy surrounding English's guerrilla-marketing campaign. Click on the link below, which will take you to YouTube (since embedding was disabled for this clip):
English has a great Web site, on which one can find dozens of examples of his "popaganda." Check it out at:
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Posters are widely used in election campaigns in India, even though the country is rapidly modernizing, and other media are becoming more common.
Recently, a city court ordered the political parties of New Delhi not to put up posters, leaving them without a viable means of propagandizing in the city's assembly elections. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general secretary Vijay Goel stated: "Before implementing the law, an alternative should be suggested. One cannot go for advertising alternatively, because it is very expensive."
Some citizens were happy about the court's decision, since they consider posters to be an eyesore. One resident said, for instance: "It is so annoying to see these posters all over the city. They even paste the posters on houses in residential colonies. In Patel Nagar, they covered a public toilet fully in posters, so much that it was beyond recognition. This is not the way a civilised society lives."
Such advertising is evident all over India, with billboards promoting films dotting roads, and posters tacked on walls, taxis, and buses, making these media logical choices to promote candidates during election periods. One solution for the political parties is to display posters mainly in stores and homes. In fact, party headquarters distribute posters, banners, flags, handbills, and stickers to localities to give to owners of private establishments to put in wi. Posters have been prominent in marches and rallies in India, helping gain attention from onlookers, advertising meetings, and attracting media coverage.
Some posters draw attention, but damage the party and its leaders' standing with a segment of the population. Last year, the Congress Party issued a poster that showed Sonia Gandhi as a Hindu goddess. This poster was criticized because the party is secular and some perceived the imagery as insulting to Hinduism.
While candidates are usually featured on posters, sometimes issues are highlighted. The BJP, in 2004, for example, printed posters that included the image of a burning train, in which fifty-nine people died because of terrorism. Many Indian political consultants have reported that there has been a recent increase in emotionalism and negative campaign tactics in the country’s election campaigns.
The street poster is a medium to which many Indian campaign managers turn, so it will be problematic if their use is curtailed by the courts. A survey found that 25 percent of managers rated posters as “exceptionally important” as a political advertising medium, behind rallies and daily newspapers (both 50 percent), public television (45 percent), and radio (41 percent). Private television (17 percent), direct mail (3 percent), and magazines (0 percent) trailed badly.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
"Yes We Can"—Possibly derived from the United Farm Workers' slogan of 1972. The union's leader, Cesar Chavez, stated "Sí, se puede" ("Yes, it can be done"). Two years later, Philadelphia Phillies' second baseman Dave Cash came up with the "Yes We Can" slogan in support of his team, fighting for the pennant. Later, it appeared on the British children's TV show Bob the Builder, whose viewers heard the question "Can we fix it?" and the response "Yes we can!" Nevertheless, it is a very effective political slogan: positive and inclusive.
"Change We Can Believe In"—This slogan reinforces Obama's call to withdraw combat troops from Iraq, at first perhaps to differentiate his position from that of his Democratic primary opponents, particularly Hillary Clinton. Now it competes with McCain's call for "change."
"Reform, Prosperity, Peace"—Very similar to others in political history, including Wilson's “Peace With Honor” (U.S., 1916); the Bolsheviks' "Peace, Bread, and Land" (Russia, 1917); Cox's “Peace, Progress, Prosperity” (U.S., 1920); Willkie's “For Peace, Preparedness and Prosperity” (U.S., 1940); Truman’s “Secure the Peace” (U.S., 1948); Eisenhower's "Peace and Prosperity" (U.S., 1956); Koizumi's “Kaikaku” ["Reform"] (Japan, 2001). It attempts to communicate quite a lot: that McCain is for "change," "economic growth," and wants to get out of Iraq, but with "honor" (He could use Wilson's slogan, too).
"A Cause Greater Than Self"— a call to service for the country. This is a natural slogan for McCain, who has been in the U.S. Navy and Congress most of his adult life. In his memoir, McCain wrote, "Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you, but is not defined by your existence alone."
"Country First"—Partially a tactic to distance McCain from President Bush and the Republican Party; partially an attempt to stress McCain's heroism during the Vietnam War; partially a veiled effort to cast suspicion on Obama's patriotism.
"A Leader You Can Believe In"—McCain's campaign took the Obama slogan, changed it to emphasize a perceived strength for McCain, and made it, at the same time, into a negative attack on Obama.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
British election posters (unlike those in the U.S.—at least the authorized ones) are often striking in design and/or visually outrageous. Not only are they generally more negative, but also more issue-oriented. One poster, issued by the Conservative Party in 1997, titled “New Labour, New Danger,” depicted Tony Blair with demonic, red eyes; others in the campaign included “New Labour, New Taxes” (which had a purse with red eyes) and “New Labour, No Britain” (featuring a white flag). Another poster, this time distributed by the Labour Party in 2001, caricatured opposition leader William Hague sporting Margaret Thatcher’s hairdo.
Such practices go way back. In the early nineteenth century, all the British parties distributed millions of full-color posters that ridiculed their opponents and their policies. At the right is one, issued by the Conservatives in 1909, which illustrates "socialism" as a demon (i.e., the Liberals, primarily) choking Britannia, wearing the belt of "prosperity" and stomping on the nation's shield. By the 1920s, Tory posters (directed now at the Labour Party) employed “bewhiskered, blood-stained Bolsheviki of the usual caricature type,” according to The New York Times; one poster, featuring a “Red” returning to Russia with bundles of banknotes, turned out the lyrics “Bolshevik, Bolshevik, where have you been? Over to England, where the ‘Reds’ are still green?”
In Great Britain, where television time for political parties and candidates is limited, and no advertisements are allowed on either television or radio, there are no legal limitations on expenditures for posters and billboards. Consequently, posters in British election campaigns have a more significant role than in the United States.
There is some evidence to indicate that these poster campaigns have an effect on voters. One focus group study, for example, showed that posters influenced young British swing voters during the 1996 election campaign. The modern billboard and poster attacks on Blair, Hague, and other leaders—and their positions— were a continuation of a tradition in British politics, begun over one hundred years ago with the negative printed advertisements against Benjamin Disraeli, William Gladstone, and Lloyd George, and their parties.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Shepard Fairey, the artist who created the "Andre the Giant Has a Posse" street-art posters and stickers, which promoted the huge wrestler in the late 1980s, designed a poster for the Obama campaign that was both patriotic (it's red-white-and-blue, albeit more subtle than the usual election posters) and iconic.
The imagery, according to Fairey, is meant to convey "noble confidence,... a suggestion of looking into the future." The word "Obey" (in the Andre poster) has been replaced by "Change" in the Obama design (He also produced two others with "Hope" and "Progress). I would agree that Fairey's imagery helps promote the Obama brand: he appears to be fresh, cool, and progressive. The artist has the Democratic candidate gazing upwards, a technique used in many propaganda posters, including one for President Gerald Ford in 1976, for example. Fairey has stated that his Obama designs were influenced, stylistically, by Soviet posters, in fact. Of course, almost all advertising and political marketing are propagandistic.
Fairey's "Change" poster was available on Obama's Web site, and has sold out. It was featured on the front page of The New York Times, and has also been seen on bumper stickers and billboards. His Andre posters and stickers (and others he created) were often used in guerrilla-marketing campaigns, meaning they were put up illegally in a variety of places. And before his poster was distributed officially by the Obama campaign, it reportedly authorized Fairey to do so in a guerrilla campaign. Since his creation was posted online, it also spread virally.
Monday, August 25, 2008
The 2008 Democratic National Convention begins today. The party's first convention was held in 1832 in Baltimore. The Democratic-Republican Party (as the party was then called) nominated President Andrew Jackson for a second term. Jackson had run for the office in 1824 and 1828, winning in the latter election.
Elections back then (as now) were hotly contested, with the facts often slanted. Broadsides (early, crude posters) were circulated both for and against Jackson. John Binns, editor of the Philadelphia Democratic Press, printed an anti-Jackson broadside that depicted six coffins containing militiamen, who, “an eye witness” alleged, had been executed wrongfully, on General Jackson’s orders during the War of 1812. In addition, it showed another dozen coffins, representing regular soldiers and “Indians” who were put to death under Jackson’s command. There was also was a drawing of Jackson on a city street, running his sword through a man’s back.
After this "Coffin Handbill" first appeared, Jackson had his “Nashville Committee” of supporters answer the charges, stating that those executed had been guilty of mutiny, theft, arson, and desertion. Just like today, campaigns needed to have response teams in place to counter the political ads of the opposition.
Friday, August 22, 2008
The winner of the McCain Poster Contest was announced this week. The design by Byron of Mesa, Arizona won the most votes in the competition on the Republican candidate for president's Web site. Let's take a look at the design. It features a determined-looking McCain thoughtfully gazing to the side. This pose seems appropriate, considering the serious times that the senator says we are in. (Posters for Carter, Nixon, and Ford also used this approach.) Alongside the candidate is a flag, with an eagle ornament above it. Both symbols have been used repeatedly by the major parties in U.S. election campaigns. Finally the slogan, "Integrity We Can Trust," reinforces the theme that the Republican campaign has developed: "McCain is a man of honor, who will put his country first."
The McCain design is relatively conventional. Unlike some of Obama's posters, it is not very artistic or "cutting edge." It uses design techniques that have been employed dozens of times before, probably because they are thought to be effective. In 1984, for example, idealized drawings of President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H. W. Bush, against an American flag backdrop, and the façade of the White House, were seen in a poster. In 1840, Whig banners were produced, some with an eagle holding a scroll with the designations “Tip” and “Ty” (for the ticket of William Henry “Old Tippecanoe” Harrison and John Tyler) in its beak and the slogan “Our Country is safe, in such Hands." Patriotic slogans and symbols are propagandistic because they appeal to voters' emotions, and are always evident in election campaign material. This year is no different.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
In 1972, some of the posters for Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern's campaign were intended to be inspirational and appeal particularly to younger voters. N. Schneider designed a series of posters for the McGovern for President Committee, all of which were colorful, exuberant, and stylized: one was dominated by a drawing of a leafy tree, accompanied by the phrase “A time to grow in a world of permanent change.”
In 2008, artists are also working to create imagery that symbolizes the themes of Barack Obama. One, Scott Hansen, also used a stylized tree in a poster for this year's Democratic candidate for president. The tree grows out of the Obama logo, with people joining hands around it. As in McGovern's campaign, "change" is a key word, along with "hope" and "progress."