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Election posters February 17, 2011

Posted by Tomboktu in Other Stuff.

Brace yourselves, CLRers: this post about the general election has no policy (or opinion poll) content.

Some bloggers have been scrutinising how the parties and their candidates have been using the new media in this election campaign. You could forget that a lot of the electioneering is still being done with posters appearing on lamp-posts, railings, and so on. From what I have seen, the hip-to-the-groove bloggers are mainly interested in election posters as sources of amusement when they are defaced.

Old technology they may be, but the parties put a lot of effort into them, and they are still key ways of communicating with voters. If this election were to be won or lost only on the posters, then Labour soundly deserves to be trounced by Fine Gael. Yes, the bigger party made peculiar choice with the ghastly “Join the team Ireland 2.0” yoke, but that seems to have been relegated to the world of electronics and is not being used on lamp-posts.

But after that initial whoops, FG has been winning hands down.

First, the “national” set.

At the start of the campaign, Fine Gael had two and Labour had one. One of FG’s first offerings was a reasonably standard showing of the party leader, with the slogan ‘Let’s get Ireland working’, and the second showed a simple text message ‘Let’s Get Ireland Working’. Labour’s first offering was simply a photograph of Eamon Gilmore and the word “Labour”.

(I’m not considering rare 48-sheet posters that are “unveiled” for a press photo-call but not then pasted up around the country on the (rather expensive) billboards they are designed for.)

The second round, at different stages in the campaign for the two parties, consisted of the red with “Gilmore for Taoiseach” printed three times and with two corners rounded off to give it a distinctive shape, and a very plain black-and-white, text-only poster from Fine Gael promoting their five-point plan. Labour’s ‘Taoiseach’ poster went up very quickly after the first ones were placed, whereas FG’s third poster was a week or ten days after the kick-off.

Those five posters tell us a lot about what the two party’s campaign objectives are. The message — the only message from Labour’s two lamp-post posters is Eamon Gilmore: no slogans, no values, no key messages other than the man himself. Fine Gael has conveyed three messages: (a) the personal face of their leader, matching Labour on that point, but pulling ahead of them with (b) a core message about getting Ireland working — telling us that the the election is not just about Enda Kenny’s career path (we cynics on CLR may not be fooled by that, but that is the message). The coup, though, is the third poster in the campaign: moving from a slogan to convey to us that they have substance behind it with a five-point plan, and a web address where you can get more information about it. (As threatened, this post is policy-free, so I ignore the dreadful content of that five-point plan.) Now, Labour could have said they have a three-point plan (to reflect the sub-title of their manifesto), but apparently that is not worth letting the voter know about (unless they are nerdy enough to go onto the party’s website and download the tome — and certainly not in a poster).

The FG deftness and Labour ineptness with the low-tech device that is is the election poster is reflected in my own constituency.

In my part of the capital’s suburbs, both FG and Labour have two candidates. FG was first out of the starting blocks with the standard, single-candidate portrait style poster appearing around the constituency immediately the election was called, with more posters going up later. My local Labour candidate took a week to get them up near where I live, and seems to have densely postered one area before moving on to the next one. Local score, then: FG, 1; Lab, 0.

Second point: Along the main routes, FG has managed to place their candidates posters opposite the exits to many estates. My local Labour candidate’s posters are on the ‘intervening’ lamp-posts. I wonder if his poster putter-uppers gave any thought to how election posters work, especially on primary traffic routes. Somebody should tell them: those primary traffic routes are used mainly by people in vehicles. Yes, there are some parents walking younger children to school, but most voters on those roads are driving. And when you’re driving, you don’t (well, shouldn’t) be watching the election posters. The chance you get to look at an election poster is when your car is stopped — at a traffic light or coming out of a housing estate. Latest score: FG, 2; Lab, 0.

Third point: the range of posters. FG have four local posters: two single-candidate posters, with the a “Vote 2” for the running mate, and a pair of double-size posters, again naming both candidates. I’ve seen four different Labour local posters, but presume there is a fifth not used in my areas: the two standard portrait single-candidate posters, a double-size one showing the local candidate and party leader (I presume there is a matching one for his running mate in the other part of the constituency), and reused red diamonds from the last local elections. None of the Labour posters ask for a second preference for the running mate. Now, that might be useful if you are planning to re-use the posters in the next local elections. But if you’re planning to run in the next local elections, what on earth are you doing running for the Dáil. And why has your party HQ not imposed some co-ordination and required both of your posters to get maximum transfers? You’re losing pints here, Lab.

For Fine Gael, you could give them a score of 1 or 0 for their double-size posters because the colour scheme is not the same as the standard portrait posters. Maybe that is a device to encourage people to look at it thinking it’s not part of the set they have already seen in the campaign. Let’s go for a zero for FG.
Latest score: FG, 2; Lab -1.

In fairness to the local Labour candidate, the red diamond does stand out (it’s the only one of that shape in the area). But I do wonder if his team know how to use them. The critters put those ones up at the same time as they put up his main portrait posters. Stupid mistake. If you have two distinctive psoters, the most effective way of using them is to get the name up across the territory immediately at the start of the campaign, filling in gaps as quickly as possible. If your second poster contrasts with the first one, it should go up some time later, serving as a fresh message when the voters have become used to the first round of posters. That waste of a valuable resource brings the local score (so far, with eight days to go) to: FG, 2; Lab, -2.


1. dfallon - February 17, 2011

“hip to the groove”

Cheers, you’ve made my day and it’s only 00:16!

Of the national posters the Gilmore for Taoiseach effort really does stand out. The Fine Gael ‘Time For Change’ poster is more or less the same as their ‘Yes For Jobs’ Lisbon effort. You’d think they wouldn’t want to remind people of that lark….

Also, some great posters in the city centre from the Sinn Féin Dublin South East candidate. Firstly, he’s got a sketch-drawing poster of himself. Secondly, his other poster (the normal SF election 2011 style poster) comes with a sticker that says: “A Lot Done, More To Undo.”

Here in Dublin Mid West, we’ve heaps of Gilmore For Taoiseach’s and a few ULA posters with Joe Higgins next to the candidate, like a Dad and son.


Mark P - February 17, 2011

Joe used to represent parts of what is now Dublin Mid West.


Mark P - February 17, 2011

Actually, come to think of it, he still does but you know what I mean.


Tomboktu - February 17, 2011

“hip to the groove”

Cheers, you’ve made my day

Do you know the Dublin reference that is my source for that phrase?


2. irishelectionliterature - February 17, 2011

Saw a new Labour one this morning, a picture of Gilmore (without the blue sky backdrop) with just the words “Le Chéile” on it.


3. irishelectionliterature - February 17, 2011

On Dublin Mid West, I got Socialist Party/ULA candidate Rob Connollys Leaflet, it doesn’t ask for a number 2 for other ULA candidate People Before Profits Gino Kenny.
Thought it strange.


Mark P - February 17, 2011

There are a number of leaflets from each Socialist Party candidate, AK. Gino should be mentioned on all of Rob’s leaflets though.


4. LeftAtTheCross - February 17, 2011

Good post.

My reaction was positive on seeing the FG plain text poster with their 5 point plan on it. Not positive regarding the plan, but that policies were actually being promoted rather than smiling faces. Call me old fashioned but I’d like to see the Left using posters with clearly identifiable party symbols and propaganda messages rather than faces. No doubt there is sound psychological evidence which says that faces are more convincing or memorable. And of course local campaigners will be recognisable to some extent. I’d just like to see the Left fight its lamp-post battles on policy and move away from the cult of personality.

I know it’s a trivial observation but Richard Boyd Barretts slightly scruffy and condescending appearance on RTE’s Primetime last night was a good example of refusing to engage with the game that is played out as politics in the mainstream public sphere. We need a bit more irreverence and refusal to copycat the approach of the establishment. Including on the posters.


5. Terry McDermott - February 17, 2011

‘it’s a trivial observation but Richard Boyd Barretts slightly scruffy and condescending appearance on RTE’s Primetime last night was a good example of refusing to engage with the game that is played out as politics in the mainstream public sphere.’
Didn’t see it- what did he say/do?


LeftAtTheCross - February 17, 2011

Nothing extraordinary other than giving a strong impression (on top of contributing decent points to the debate) that really there should be more to politics than that type of shallow sound bite commentary and analysis. It was the attitude more than anything else. The way he holds his head gives an impression of condescension, sort of chin up and looking down his nose. All in a good way I thought. he’s a better media operator than Joe Higgins in my opinion, JH does angry very well but RBB just does attitude down to a tee and gives the impression of “hidden depths”. He could do with a media handler of course to pull him up on his instinctive recourse to standard Left rhetoric, too much emphasis on “massive” this and “huge” that. But all in all, yes, a convincing TV performance at the personality level.


Alastair - February 17, 2011

I thought he was awful – seemed to be winging it and unprepared. His gaff of ‘60,000 portacabins’ summed up his ability to focus on the specifics under discussion. And if you reckon that condescension is a vote-winner I don’t know what to say (I don’t think he comes across as such btw – but then I’m not picking up on the ‘hidden depths’ either).


LeftAtTheCross - February 17, 2011

I admit that a less generous appraisal of his performance would line up with your view. Yes he was short on specifics. But the discussion needs to move away from specifics, from point solutions, and look at broad strokes of policy and the bigger picture, so I don’t hold his lack of detail against him. By looking for detail, within the constraints of the discussion as framed by Miriam O’Callaghan and the rest of the panel, you’re sort of insisting that he buys into the narrowness of the political parameters. He’s right to use the opportunity to try to broaden out the scope. How successfully or otherwise he did that is another question, there was certainly an element of straddling the fence and partially engaging.

On condescension being a vote-winner, no I don’t expect it is. But until politics moves beyond populism and engages with the deeper issues I think it’s ok to give two fingers to those who play the game as is.


6. Terry McDermott - February 17, 2011

Agree on the need to shake the media/tv types out of their complacency. On Vicent Browne last night Fioneen Sheehan was visibly agitated and resorted to hectoring and interupting Sarah Burke just because she thought Pearse Doherty had done a good press conference. The Alison O’Connor joined in, which given her analysis on budget night consisted of saying how well Brian Cowan’s suit and hair looked, was a bit rich. The media are in a bubble. They are all pals and drinking buddies of FF/FG and they believe that just because they think SF or the ULA’s policies are unrealistic that makes it so.
(agree on RBB’s resorting to rhetoric, but remember he has been in the SWP for 20 years!)


7. Jackson Way - February 17, 2011

Sheahan has a dog in the fight for the last seat in Dublin north east against SF and Labour.


8. Terry McDermott - February 17, 2011

Sheehan’s other half was on the 11 o’clock show while he was on Browne. But I don’t care that she’s an FF hack, each to their own (she ain’t gonna get a seat anyway). His role, as a chief pol corr and opinion former and therefore a political agent in himself is more interesting. He consistently derides the left, oppostion and protest: he went eppo over yer man driving the cement mixer up to the Dail gates.
(I did see that on his wife’s website she tells us her two dogs names, but not her husbands!)


Mark P - February 17, 2011

In fairness, if I was married to Sheehan I wouldn’t necessarily be in a hurry to publicise that fact either.


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