Parties are poles apart in election face-off
While most candidates are going with traditional posters, some are taking a more novel approach, writes Joanna Kiernan
Election candidates are poles apart when it comes to postering. While former Green Party TD Paul Gogarty is recycling his old posters from elections past, others are taking out big personal loans to cover the cost of blanket billboard coverage.
Even a small poster costs candidates €6 each and some are buying hundreds in a bid to win the hearts and minds of voters.
With candidates from all the main parties getting a hard time on the doorsteps, the power of postering is being seen as vital in getting name recognition ahead of the poll later this month.
Sheepdogs, peaked caps, and the indiscriminate use of photoshop for cosmetic enhancement are all part of the mix for election 2014.
"A woman thought it was a joke I was running, because she saw a handful of posters from my previous elections and thought someone had put them up as a laugh," Gogarty told the Sunday Independent.
Following a break of three years after the loss of his Green Party seat in the last general election, Gogarty is now running as an independent in Lucan, but to save money, and with a nod to his green pedigree, he is re-using his old election posters, which caused the confusion.
"I'm not in the Green Party anymore, but I'm still green-minded so I put the bare minimum up," he explained.
Gogarty has managed to re-model his old posters by covering the Green Party logo with a QR (quick response) matrix barcodes which brings iPhone and smartphone users directly to his website.
"I'm trying to keep it low-key," Gogarty said. "This time around I'm probably going to spend about €4,000, but I've known of people before who've spent up to €40,000 before election limits came in. In an urban area now you can only spend up to €13,000, but you'd be mad to spend that money, it's not going to help you get elected if you don't already have a profile."
Many local election candidates are getting themselves into debt trying to catch the eye of voters, with posters of varying sizes and shapes plastered around the country and location is apparently key, second only to beaming, re-touched faces and Hollywood smiles. The battle for poster space is intense.
"There was a bit of fun in the wee hours alright," Labour candidate in Swords Duncan Smith said of the first day election poster hanging was permitted.
"But there's plenty of poles in the area, so it wasn't that bad," Duncan added.
Lorraine Clifford, Fianna Fail candidate for Pembroke-South Dock in Dublin, says canvassing, rather than the posters, is what gets people elected.
"I think people generally vote for people they have met themselves rather than just seeing a face on a poster."
However, independent Donegal Councillor Michael McBride has decided to snub the idea of posters altogether. He chose to run a poster-free election campaign to avoid blighting the area at the beginning of their tourist season.
"I had the money set aside for it and I already had the design for the poster board, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it," McBride explained.
"I suppose I won't really know until the ballot boxes are opened if it's been the right thing to do or not – but the reaction at the doors has been exceptional," he added. "I have had several people say that they had decided to vote for me simply because I am poster-free."
Cost was also a factor for McBride.
"It varies widely," he explained. "I've seen some of the candidates who are just using the smaller posters, which run at about €6 each and they'd have about 300 of those, so even at the low end of the scale people are spending at least €2,000. Then for the more high-end posters you would be verging on up to €7,000 or €8,000 and that's before you even get those big 8x4 boards. I wouldn't be surprised if some people are spending up on €10,000," McBride added.
Independent candidate in Kerry, Dan McCarthy, chose to defy tradition and added a little quirkiness to his campaign by including his two sheepdogs – Ruby and Toby – in his election photos, which see him standing in a field and channelling a more country-chic look, than the usual suited-up politician.
"I'm getting a good response everywhere I'm going," Mr McCarthy said. "That picture of me with the dogs has really taken the eye of so many people."
Dublin City Councillor Mannix Flynn describes the artistic black-and-white portrait used on his posters as "the visualisation of politics."
"I was very clear from the start that I wanted a black-and-white photograph and that our whole approach would be different and we have got a great response to the whole campaign, the posters, the literature and the website," he said.
According to Flynn the photograph symbolises his "contemporary, modern and conservative" approach to politics. "Some people look like they're with the Oompa Loompa party," he joked. "The colours are all wrong and they blast people with these posters. My poster is not a pollutant on the wall, it fits in well, whereas many of the rest were just flung up in a brutal manner with two or three posters on the same pole, poster dumping."
Flynn's posters have been such a hit that a number of ad agencies got in contact with him to ask who designed them.
"It's not about being a pretty face, it's about something that represents people well," he added. "That's why this poster resonates with people."
Socialist MEP Paul Murphy, however, was happy to share his poster costs, which have been funded by fundraising events.
"We can't compete with the kind of money other parties have," he explained. "So far we've spent €20,000 and by the time we're finished that might end up as €25,000 or €26,000," he said.
Some local and European hopefuls bowed to pressure to remove election posters along the route of the Giro d'Italia ahead of the prestigious cycling race, which comes to Dublin later today and which will air to a worldwide audience of 775 million.