In Defence Of Posters



From top: Posters in the hallway; Anne Marie McNally

You may love them, hate them or want to tear them down.

But for every General Election candidate they are vital.

Anne Marie McNally writes:

‘Tis the season. It’s upon us and there’s no escaping it. Wherever you look for the next three or so weeks you are going to see election posters.

Big ones, sparkly ones, boring ones, horrific ones and eye-catching ones and they’ll have one objective…to cement the name and face of the person into your brain so that it may leap out at you from the ballot paper come polling day.

Those who hate them will tell you that they represent nothing more than litter, that they are unnecessary and wasteful and that they do not influence voters in any way. Those who love them will point to the academic research which shows they are a vitally important visual communications tool deployed worldwide during election season because they works. There is no escaping that fact.

Do you honestly think US Presidential election strategists would bother with them for example if there wasn’t substantial evidence to prove their worth to a campaign?

As far back as the 16th Century Protestant Reformation posters were being used to communicate messages in a visual way in order to influence decisions. Many people may argue that in this modern era of social media the purpose of posters is obsolete. They’d be wrong.

By and large the people who you will find giving out about election posters are doing so on social media – so they have their access to information already locked down and therefore posters may well be unnecessary for them.

For the vast majority of other potential voters though, the posters may be the only visual representation of exactly who is running in their area and what choices they have available to them.

I recently postered for the first time. I was having a public meeting as a first time candidate and I wanted to spread the word in as an effective and cost efficient way as possible. Posters allowed me to do that. Within two days of them going up my canvasses changed substantially.

Every second interaction involved some variation of ‘oh yes, I saw your posters, you’re the anti-corruption person’. My little old posters had done their job spectacularly and even I, who was fully aware of the academic research on this issue, was taken aback at the impact those few posters had on my recognition factor and also on how people approached interactions with me. There was almost a familiarity – ‘I’ve seen your face loads so I feel like I know you’.

As a candidate I wish it were not so. For this General Election campaign I will have near bankrupted myself to fund the quantity of posters needed to reach across my constituency which houses a population of just over 110,000 people.

My house currently resembles a print works and you have to squeeze past bundles of the things in order to get a drink of water or climb into bed.

By the time you’re reading this there’ll likely be groups of my friends driving around, balancing precariously on ladders and hanging from lampposts in a knot of cable-ties. They’ll all have taken the day of work to poster for me and my gratitude will never be enough to repay them.

So do I wish posters were not important and that I didn’t have to undertake the postering campaign? Yes, I absolutely do! But I also realise that wishing for the easier option might be tempting but it’s unlikely to bring success.

While lots of Labour candidates chose to poster illegally on Monday night by going ahead and erecting them long before the election was called and it was illegal to do so, others among us sat at home and looked around at the piles of posters cluttering the rooms and knew that there they would stay until it was legal and sporting to hang them.

We can’t all be so cavalier about paying €150 fine per poster after having to sweat blood to buy the things in the first place! I wonder about the candidates who can, I really do.

Anne-Marie McNally is a political and media strategist working with Catherine Murphy TD and is a General Election candidate for the Social Democrats in the Dublin Mid-West constituency . Follow Anne-Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

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72 thoughts on “In Defence Of Posters

      1. ollie

        No I’m asking for me. Potential business opportunity if I can get the posters foc. It’s the material they are made from, not the photos.

  1. barney

    how about just one big poster where people meet (like a shopping centre), rather than hundreds of posters annoying the f*** out of every one?

  2. Mayor Quimby

    This is hilarious coming from someone usually so patronishing and shreiky

    Such a lack of will to think about alternatives or look at how other democracies go about their elections

    there’s an an diminishing return associated with posters

    For example a smarter way would be have posters in people’s gardens or front windows to show candidates are backed by real people

    Ironically the Greens and patronising lefties are always the worst offenders when it comes to plastering an area

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      “so patronishing and shreiky”

      Unlike you. Nothing patronising about saying she’s “shrieky”. I sometimes think people like you are just taking the pish cause nobody can be that stupid but alas, you’re probably not.

    1. meadowlark

      I see on the journal that she did receive her fines, and when someone tweeted her about it she got rather miffed.

  3. conski

    Really rough lighting in the actual photo. The uplighters tend to make people look evil and there’s no softening on them at all. All looking a bit sweaty too. Doesn’t give an air of confidence, truth worthiness or reliability. Add in heavy black top and hair that needs attention gives poor overall impression.
    Cant understand why politicians don’t spend a an hour trying to figure out how they want to convey themsleves to general public.
    Hopefully they have a top notch policy though….

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      They certainly do. They’ll be providing all emasculated shut ins with free fedoras and razors for their neck beards…and wrists.

  4. fluffybiscuits

    That is the name of the game here Ann Marie, you spend money to try win an election and if you bankrupted yourself nearly that is your own risk that you took. Your party is still a part of a capitalist system. Im not going to agree with some of your economic policies but let me wish you the best of luck in the election.

  5. Vote Rep #1

    I love the continuous digs at Labour. Since your party has said that you are more than willing to go into government as a coalition party, if you do get in will you be on here attempting to defend you party from the same sort of sneering, smug barbs that are being directed at Labour from a newer, idealistic party similar to your own.

        1. Fergus the magic postman

          Well then, to answer your question from my point of view.

          If any party, regardless of who they are, gets into government as a coalition party, and then does any/ all of the following:

          (i)Completely turns their back on the people who put them there.
          (ii)Entirely shifts their position on the political spectrum to fit in with their senior coalition partner.
          (iii)Knowingly & calculatingly turns a blind eye to the mischief that senior party gets up to.
          (iv)Blatantly lies to cover the arses of said senior party.
          (v) Puts their partnership with the senior coalition party ahead of the people they are duty-bound to represent in their priorities.

          Then they deserve all the sneering, smug barbs that are being directed at them.

          Exactly as Labour have done and as a result have deservedly been on the receiving end of.
          Incidentally, Labour leaders are well capable of dishing out sneering, smug barbs at the electorate, as has been evident throughout Joan’s reign.

          1. Vote Rep #1

            So that will be the Social Democrats in the next election then, if the get elected, seeing as that is exactly what happens to every minority partner in a coalition.

            If the minority partner does not act like they are fully in control and demand that all their aims are the only ones allowed be put through with no possibility of negotiation, then they deserve all the sneering, smug barbs that are being directed at them.

            Nobody should go into government in a coalition unless they hold the exact same views as the majority partner. FG & FF and/or Renua it would seem is the only possible coalition of all parties were to hold that simplistic view.

          2. Fergus the magic postman

            @Vote Rep #1
            “So that will be the Social Democrats in the next election then, if the get elected, seeing as that is exactly what happens to every minority partner in a coalition.”

            Not the case. The government collapsed in 1982 after some independents pulled out of a rainbow coalition with FG & Labour, after FG tried to tax shoes (including childrens shoes).
            In a what seems distant past, due to a more honourable version of the Labour party, Dick Spring stood his ground when in government in coalition with Albert Reynolds Fianna Fáil, in 94 I think, leading to the collapse of that government (Reynolds had tried to fill the High Court president’s position with an Attorney General who had treated the Brendan Smyth affair with no urgency or priority whatsoever).

            So there you go.

  6. The Old Boy

    The proliferation of individual candidates’ election posters on every lamppost and telegraph pole is hardly a universal phenomenon.

      1. Bill

        Yeah because when people in Ireland say ‘up north’ it really means Scotland or Scandinavia :-/. The majority of parties get their posters printer up north (Northern Ireland) because it’s cheaper.

  7. ahjayzis

    There were no posters in the UK election last year – I don’t think anyone missed them.

    It’s the sheer quantity and wastefulness I object to. A poster or bilboard here and there is fine, having your mug hanging from every single lamppost on a long stretch of road is competitive spamming with the other candidates. It’s unsightly, cluttered and the cable ties are left there in perpetuity.

    If facial recognition for the completely-dim and incurious voter is the target, this is using an hydrogen bomb to crack a nut.

  8. Jerry

    Anne Marie’s argument doesn’t make much sense. Clearly posters work for politicians, but the general public dislikes them because they are an eyesore, not because they think they don’t work. A blanket ban would level the playing field and force parties to be a bit more creative. Also awareness doesn’t equal a vote.

    1. MoyestWithExcitement

      A blanket ban would be nice but your counter doesn’t make any sense. You say they work for politicians? What does that actually mean? It means they influence voters. It doesn’t matter that voters also find the posters an eye sore. That is an unrelated point to the main one which is about how effective they are.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          I don’t disagree. But apparently they work. They’re like Frilly’s columns here. Actually hard to read but gets loads of responses. That’s what matters. Plus not everyone uses Facebook and reads the newspapers.

      1. ahjayzis

        Tattooing your granny with their campaign slogan would probably be effective – irrelevant to the annoyance and wastefulness (of prime granny advertising space?) though.

        No one is saying they’re not effective from the politicians standpoint, but that isn’t analogous to a public good or a societal benefit.

        If people argue for their removal, their effectiveness in a campaign is not a valid rebuttal – it’s not about that.

        1. MoyestWithExcitement

          “No one is saying they’re not effective from the politicians standpoint, but that isn’t analogous to a public good or a societal benefit.”

          We’re talking about advertising here. What public good does any advertising actually do?

          “If people argue for their removal, their effectiveness in a campaign is not a valid rebuttal – it’s not about that.”

          ‘Anne Marie, your election posters are an eyesore’
          ‘But they’ll help me get elected’

          That’s a perfectly apt rebuttal.

          1. ahjayzis

            “Moyest your new conservatory blocks the sun from my garden and is an eyesore”

            “But I can host semi-al fresco sex parties!”

            What it does for you isn’t a counter-argument to my finding it an eyesore.

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            Yeah, it is. The posters are designed to serve a purpose. If they serve that purpose, that you find them an eyesore is just your own personal annoyance and has nothing to do with the purpose of the posters.

          3. ahjayzis

            “Yeah, it is. The posters are designed to serve a purpose. If they serve that purpose, that you find them an eyesore is just your own personal annoyance and has nothing to do with the purpose of the posters.”

            I’m not talkng about their effectiveness or purpose, I’m aruging for getting rid of them for the sake of everyone else who finds them eyesores and an annoyance.

            If the posters were all for a Mattress Mick sale he hasn’t a leg to stand on by saying ‘But they benefit ME‘ – why can Mattress Mick not advance his interests by festooning every lampost in the country with self-promotion, but non-elected (everyone is now just a candidate, a Joe citizen) can plaster their faces everywhere?

          4. MoyestWithExcitement

            I know you are not talking about their effectiveness or purpose. I don’t see how you can’t ignore that though. The posters are ads. What benefit does advertising bring? Influence for the advertiser over people.

            ‘Mr Politician, your advert annoys me and my friends’
            ‘Ok, but enough of you are still voting for me because of them so, I’m sorry you’re annoyed, but why would I change something that works?’

            That you find them annoying is not a good argument.

  9. Conor

    Anne Marie you’re doing a great job but on this occasion I must object. The use of tacky election posters in Ireland has to be halted. A handful here and there maybe, as another mentioned, a large one at the entrance to a shopping centre or train station. Not on every second lamppost. I’ve lived in 3 different countries at election time and none have plastic boards hanging off every lamppost. Spain and France use paper posters glued to building hoardings, public boards etc. In England billboards are used.
    Ireland ends up with election posters flying in front of cars, in ditches, canals and rivers. And don’t get me started on the cable ties that lay strewn on lampposts for years. Perfect timing the Easter Rising, the city centre will live up to it’s dirty aul town reputation with election posters bloody everywhere. Baffling that there’s no banning of the posters in the city centre at least.

  10. ollie

    Do political parties have to declare their election spending? If so, does it include the use of state cars and the wages paid to sitting TDs who canvass instead of going to work?

  11. Nice Jung Man

    Anne Marie I am a big fan of your campaigning style and as a new candidate it is imperative you get face and name recognition in your area. I wouldn’t be apologising for this to anyone.

  12. JayH

    Election posters are an eyesore – politicians talk about putting the country first and then go and litter the place with this crap

    1. ahjayzis

      She’s missing for six days every week, being a weekly contributor.

      Sunday Mass hasn’t been posted on the RTE Player since Sunday – wonder where those missing episodes are.

  13. bisted

    …well Anne Marie…your postering masquerading ‘public meeting’ shows you have mastered cute hoorism. If it doesn’t work out with the Soc Dems, I’m sure there will be a place for you with the FFers…”The lady doth protest too much, methinks”

  14. The e man

    Well good luck putting up the posters, just remember that you’re running in Dublin Mid-West and Not Dublin West as stated the end of your essay…

  15. Anne

    Best of luck Anne-Marie!

    I’m gonna try and get myself on the what’s it called – Supplementary register? And give ye my vote.

  16. SB

    And what about the eyesore of all the unattributable cable ties that will remain on the poles long after the election?

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