Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sign wars

Barack Obama for President Yard SignPolitical signs around here are free; campaigns just give them away. Locally, these are usually the first advertising expense of the campaign (after design).

In the US, signs are sold to raise money for the campaign. They are not an expense, they are a profit center. The handsome sign on the right can be yours for a measly US$8 ($3 for 500 or more) plus appropriate taxes and shipping.

These cost the campaign less than $1 each in volume. And I can guarantee you that the sign company who hooked the Obama contract will retire after this on the volume they will order before the campaign is done.

There are many fronts on which campaign wars are fought. The air wars are the media advertising and talk radio appearances. The ground war is the volunteer house-to-house canvassing organization. Then there are the sign wars: who gets them out the firstest to the best spots and the mostest by election day. They are erected by the campaign corp of engineers. who can pop up vertical 4x8's across the city like mushrooms after a summer rain.
One of Kevin Breen's campaign signs was altered to showcase the words 'a record of lying.'
That's the overt part of the sign war. The dark side this war's covert exercises are the signs that evaporate in the night, destroyed, marked up (a la Ray O'Neill) or otherwise defaced. In the Federal St. John's West By-election held in May 2000, I remember that all the campaigns (except the Reform, oddly) saw massive damage to signage.*

Now that we've come out of a nasty federal election in which sign wars played a part again, I think it's worthwhile to keep in perspective that sign wars happen in other places too.

But when you are making $7 per sign and people are willing to replace them, the crime is a whole lot less financially traumatic to the campaign.

* I always looked on sign damage as the unimpressive work of political campaign amateurs. Clearly others disagree.


Thomas said...

A lot of companies even let you customize and design your poly bag signs online before you order them. It ends up taking a lot of time out of the process. And of course, buying your signs in bulk is super beneficial from a cost savings standpoint...if you want several thousand :)

Simon said...

Good point. . . depending on where you are. Around here, those poly signs are used much because the wind rips through the plastic and the rocks in the ground makes the wire stands impossible to insert. So I never thought to mention those!

In 1996 we had a February provincial election. One campaign I know mounted their signs on sharpened pieces of reinforcing bar (rebar) just to nail them into the frozen earth!