Has the political poster virtually had its day?

Alastair Campbell, 22nd February 2010. The Times

“…while the Labour Party struggles to raise money, we saw the launch last week of another expensive Tory poster campaign. The theme was first-time Conservative voters, with the slogan “I’ve never voted Tory before” followed by reasons to take the plunge.

Posters have played an important role in elections, whether the “Labour isn’t working” unemployment snake of Margaret Thatcher’s campaign in 1979, the “double whammy” boxing gloves, which helped to keep her in power, or the brightly coloured “Britain deserves better” posters that contributed towards cementing Tony Blair’s deal with the British people in 1997, or the picture of William Hague with Mrs Thatcher’s hair, which helped Mr Blair to undermine his opponent to win his second term.

But, for all the financial muscle enjoyed by the Tories, in a new era of more individualised political communications it is an open question whether spending on traditional advertising will punch its full weight…”

With £400,000 spent on the first poster blitz:  “It was, for someone who prides himself on being modern, and a communications expert, a very old-fashioned piece of advertising, killed almost instantly on Twitter, Facebook and political blogs. The airbrushing, common in poster production, screamed “inauthentic” at a public yearning for authenticity, while the impact of hundreds of digital spoof versions — at close to zero cost — possibly outweighed any benefits to the Tories of their large spend. By the time real people were climbing real ladders to deface real posters by turning Mr Cameron into Elvis Presley beneath a daubed slogan “We can’t go on like this … with suspicious minds”, the admen must have realised that money was flying away on the wind.”

Student Feedback: Another of my ‘Dreams and Nightmares (Britain/Europe, 20th Century)’ students has started blogging, and has mentioned these poster campaigns in only his second post.

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