Electoral advertizing, a very brief history: from Election Campaign Signs to Cyber Parties

Soon the country shall be awash in electoral fever. Election campaign signs will dot the landscape and news reporters will seriously announce and analyze changes in polls within the margin of error. The hair and breakfast choices of each candidate will be discussed by people with PhDs trying to make you think it matters and we will eventually be so over saturated with the presidential election many will avoid TV for the last week. Though in reality all the talk and hot wind is actually good, it speaks of the strength of American democracy, and the passion we have for our elections. Yes we can be over saturated with things like TV ads and election campaign signs but it’s better to have those and to know who is running. So let’s take a moment to examine (very briefly) the history of electoral advertizing.

The two oldest forms of campaign advertizing still exist today, the printed election campaign sign and the meet and great/speech. Both approaches still have a strong reason to be in use, they are somewhat cheap and have the value of personalizing a candidate with people. Speeches help to rally the faithful and signs help to inform people of a candidate option. Print advertizing was also common early but required a greater degree of literacy than was widely available. It wasn’t until radio that candidates had the ability to reach out and communicate with the entire populace all at once. The real revolution to advertizing came with Eisenhower’s short TV ads; they managed to make the war hero look approachable at the same time as knowledgeable. In the previous election Truman had attributed his success to shaking hands and meeting people and in four short years the balance tipped to favor television.


Things keep changing, and new media mastery has risen in prominence. Obama for example was widely acclaimed for his mastery of the internet as a campaign tool. Now more candidates are trying to tie cyber politics into their campaign, but that which is old is new again. Candidates still rely on shaking hands and quite often for positions lower than president an election campaign sign is the first thing a voter sees of the candidate. While we may think the advertizing gets to be too much that’s really only one of the many elections on the ballot, and we need the signs, stickers, speeches, rallies, and TV ads to make sure we know what our options are. Only when we know who we can vote for can we find out who we want to vote for.

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