Wednesday, October 01, 2014
Would you buy a used election poster from this candidate?
A rather prominent applicant for the position of Lord Mayor of Hobart has had an election poster attached over the top of a high profile real estate firm’s For Sale/Lease poster on a prominent building in Hobart. So we have a confluence of two quite separate messages, a readily recognisable For Sale/Lease from KnightFrank Real Estate and a Vote 1 (insert candidate’s name here) posted tacked over the top but leaving sufficient of the real estate sign visible. And we know how hard real estate agents work on their branding – you often only have to see the colours and you know who the firm is (LJ Hooker, Knight Frank, Petrusma, Peterswald, Homelands, TPR etc etc). Presumably no one had thought through the message that was really being sent? That the candidate was available for lease or for sale, much like the site has been for some time?
And please, before you call the lawyer, kind candidate, the opening paragraph is in no way making any negative inferences, intentional or otherwise, but seriously, I’d be inclined to have a chat with whoever is putting up your posters. I can’t be the only person making a all sorts of connections from some of the comments I’ve heard around the election trail.
But here’s the thing, it does make me ask: do election posters in this day and age of social media with its ready-made promotion really influence how people vote?
Travelling around the State for various reasons in the last few weeks, it’s difficult to not notice the crop of election posters of local government hopefuls littering the sides of roads and tacked onto buildings. Not being a car driver, I get to see the various signs better than the drivers who are concentrating on the road. The worst so far has been fluro pink sign that could only be clearly read the half second before it was passed, and on asking the car driver what they had seen, the response was, some kind of hotel? Actually, it said Vote 1, followed by the candidate’s first name scrunched over his last, and because of the electoral rules, I can only say it rhymes with Zeehan Male. The words have since been outlined with a black marker pen. The driver, being told the name, then made some not complimentary comments linking the non-communication of the sign’s contents with the candidate’s intelligence.
Do the signs influence how you vote, I’ve asked various of the folks who’ve kindly driven me around on a range of errands.
What signs, was one driver response. They just confuse me, said a second. I’m usually driving too fast to notice, said another. You mean those posters that have appeared where all the Liberal ones were in the last election, asked another, followed by comments along the line of I’m not going to vote for that person then, they must be Liberals as well, and a quiet exchange then ensued on whether the farmer in question was simply using his paddock for a short term but possibly a very good return on some green folding stuff of the non-lettuce variety, perhaps much like the perennial site coming off the Southern Outlet into Macquarie Street that has featured signage on causes and political candidates from across the spectrum (Last State election it was a large blue Hodgman sign. This time it’s a Greens candidate.)
Do the photos on signs influence how you vote, I asked, after one driver commented on how dorky the candidate’s photo looked? In that case, if the candidate was so stupid as to choose that photo or let someone choose it for them, yes, was the response. So are they trying to look like leadership material? Well, given the crop of leers and slightly embarrassed smiles on some of them, it’s really off putting, was another response. Mind you, the stiffer the pose, it seems they’re more likely running for one of the top jobs. And some have quietly admitted that the posters with the prettiest, friendliest smiles often influence them to check out the candidate, compared to the collection of grey-haired, wrinkled contenders the eyes just slide over.
And the messages on the signs? They’re a filter, one less candidate I have to worry about, was one response. At least they tell me one thing about the candidate, said another. Mind you, choosing the right phrase is an art form, and you have to be careful about graffiti wags. The oft told tail of a set of Hobart Chamber of Commerce sponsored candidates in the 1990s carrying the by-line “Hobart’s Leading Lights” was quickly modified on a number of posters to read “Hobart’s Leading Blights”. And then there’s the ex-military candidate who carries the by-line “Securing Your Future”. Is the candidate still in military mode (in which case the organic nature of meetings at the elected local level will cause some conniptions) or simply using a phrase that is feeding off the current Federal Liberal anti-terror campaign? You could say the same for the “Hobart Home Team”, was another response, given the “Team Australia” tag Abbot is using, was a response over a latte.
Does the number of signs for a candidate influence how you vote, I asked. Not really, I’d rather phone the person up and ask them some questions, was another response. Really? Why not, Tassie’s very small, I know that you can do that here, said the recently registered ex-mainlander, who was relishing the luxury of actually talking to the candidate and not some party flunky.
Does having signs in particular places make any difference? If you’re in the know, having a sign from a different candidate compared to previous years can mean a lot. It tells you all sorts of things about changes in candidate support, was the response. But then, so many people don’t know the “who, what, where and when” of politics, so it doesn’t really make a difference. Although, one person commented, a row of candidate signs on a derelict site due for development is a bit of a giveaway about what they might be voting for. In which case, it tends to either put them off or, given the whereabouts of the derelict site, might influence them to give some support if only there lies a promise about tidying it up. And then there’s the continual recycling of signs, with bits pasted over, now looking a bit battered and frayed from being posted up election after election.
Given local government can only have 50 signs per candidate, getting them up and kept up in the Spring gales is a lot of work. The most noticeable signs are those that get graffitied, and perhaps that's a measure of just how effective (and reachable) that sign is: they evoke an immediate response from a spotty youth with a wide nib black marker. I wonder if he votes?
With thanks to the sources of images (go google “election cartoons Australia), perhaps we can leave the last word to those marvellous people, (VOTE 1) cartoonists.
Authorised by Eva Ruzicka, 10 Congress Street, South Hobart.