Election signs are an important part of a campaign, right up there with door-knocking and newspaper advertising. Unlike door-knocking, which is a necessary slog, signs do the work for you.
But even so, there are strategies to their use and placement beyond what you may think.
Consider: The usual practice is to flood all available space with your signs as soon as the writ is dropped. Voters wake up the morning after the election is called, and as they head out into town they’re met with signs blanketing the landscape, like mushrooms after the rain, or fireweed after the fire (only faster).
It is as if to say to the world you could not wait for your campaign to begin — Boom! Signs everywhere. Trouble is, so much signage may lead to voters’ eyes glazing over.
There is a better strategy to do with your signs, and though it may seem counter-intuitive, that is to start slowly.
While everyone gets all their signs out as fast as possible, you start by placing only a few here and there. For one thing, the less frequent appearance of your signs will actually cause them to stand out in the crowd, rather than getting lost in a sea of signage.
But more importantly, as the campaign winds on, you incrementally up your sign placement. As more and more of your signs begin to appear, voters notice this too. It gives the appearance of your campaign building momentum — and that means your campaign is actually building momentum.
As the campaign reaches its final days, suddenly it’s your signs that seem to be everywhere, and voters are thinking that you are the candidate to beat — even if it’s only subliminal.
So it is with Rick Astley.
Remember Rick Astley? He hit the charts with some pop hits in the 1980s, crooning away with a pleasing, melodious baritone on songs like “Together Forever,” “She Wants to Dance With Me,” and “Never Going To Give You Up.” *
This last song, in particular, with its excellent chorus:
“Never gonna give you up
Never gonna let you down
Never gonna run around and desert you
Never gonna make you cry
Never gonna say goodbye
Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you …”
When you think about it, those lines are a perfect slogan for an election campaign, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Because over the past few days, a “Vote Rick Astley for Prime Minister” sign has been appearing amongst the plethora of signs along the boulevards of the Cranbrook Strip.
“Vote Rick Astley for Prime Minister,” the sign says. “ He will never give you up, let you down, run around, desert you, make you cry, say goodbye, tell a lie, hurt you.”
How could you not vote for those sentiments?
There is only the one Rick Astley sign on the Strip so far, but that just goes to prove that the above strategy works. Driving down the Strip, that single sign caught my eye — jumped out at me, practically — amidst all the other signs.
Certainly, Robin Goldsbury’s signs, and Rob Morrison’s and Wayne Stetski’s, are colourful and well-printed. But I actually had to backtrack so I could see the Rick Astley sign again! How’s that for effectiveness?
Now imagine: Over the coming days, more “Rick Astley signs for Prime Minister” start appearing around town. Voters notice them one by one, and that tune starts going through their heads. Suddenly there are more of them, and it occurs to voters that the Rick Astley for Prime Minister campaign is really building momentum. And in the final days of the campaign, they get to thinking that Rick Astley really is the candidate to beat.
And then, on election day, voters are standing in the booth, in front of the ballot with a list of names, and even if they’re not sure who to vote for, that tune starts going through their heads, and the name “Rick Astley” somehow finds its way from the deep recesses of their brains to the very front of the cerebral cortex — the decision-making part of the brain — and from there to the fingers holding the pencil, while the eyes look for Rick Astley’s name on the ballot — but of course it’s not there!
But they can’t help thinking that. They can’t help doing that. It’s subliminal. That’s the understated power of the election sign at work!
So candidates, take your cue from Rick Astley!
* Written and produced by Stock Aitken Waterman.