Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Whose party poster is most likely to turn voters' heads with their propaganda and whose just has it all wrong?

NI 21 Tina McKenzie
NI 21 Tina McKenzie
Election posters on the Lisburn Road in Belfast.
Election posters on the Lisburn Road in Belfast.
Election posters on the Lisburn Road in Belfast.
Election posters on the Lisburn Road in Belfast.

The faces of Northern Ireland’s 10 candidates in the European election currently loom large from every lamp-post, but is there any chance these images would prompt voters to switch allegiance? We ask three commentators to take a long, hard look. Making up our jury are, political commentator Malachi O’Doherty, style columnist Frances Burscough and Brenda Shankey,managing director of Jason Shankey Male Grooming and Hairdressing

Malachi O'Doherty says: I doubt if election posters actually work. They do remind us all that an election is coming, but do they ever persuade us to vote for one candidate in preference to another?

In a region with few floating voters, this is hardly likely.

And given that the floating voters are more likely to be thinking voters, they are more likely to be swayed by argument than by image.

And the poster is all about image.

And is therefore a waste of effort.

I asked Archer Advertising in Belfast to assess some of these. They said of the NI21 poster that it was “a bit too busy”, keeping Tina to the side and letting the message get through. “A lot to take in.”

Archer said of the DUP poster, “Overall, the design and compositing of the image has a quality feel.”

The agency tactfully described the Green Party's bare poster as “cost-conscious”, meaning cheap.

Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson, they said, was well photographed, but looked “a little sad”.

The Alliance Party's “posterised monotone image”, the agency said, should get prizes for bravery, but perhaps dehumanised the candidate, Anna Lo.

It's as well that none of this matters or will make the slightest difference to how people vote.

There really was no need to put the candidates through this, and they all look as if they'd be happier if they didn't have to pose again.

 

Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson

Malachi says: Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson has opted not to smile and she is wearing blue with a white top and red lipstick that is just a little less brash than Diane Dodds’. If you didn't see the Sinn Fein logo above her you'd think she was exuding the stolid unflappability of a true conservative.

Frances says: I think Martina is in need of a bit of a makeover here. Although her outfit is smart and suits her colouring, she could definitely use a new haircut to soften her face, as this one is a bit too severe. Indeed, if this was my school headmistress, I'd be terrified. The grimace look isn't appealing — she just looks intimidating and unapproachable.

If only the photographer had asked her for a smile, or even the ghost of a smile, it would have made all the difference.

Brenda says: This image is quite Eighties in tone and she echoes the Joan Collins power suit look. She's not smiling and I always think a smile gives a more friendly look.

 

DUP's Diane Dodds

Malachi says: The DUP's poster for MEP Diane Dodds will certainly remind us that she exists and is in the running.

But how many of those inclined to place their vote elsewhere are going to be charmed into changing their minds by that pearly smile, those slightly squinting eyes, the lipstick that would be tarty if it didn't match so nicely the red of the Union flag fluttering behind her?

Yet, it is all so well thought out — how she looks both relaxed and businesslike, as if a day's work was no problem to her, affairs of state a breeze.

But narrow vowels would have suited her image so much better. They should have used her Christian name, Diane.

Frances says: One of the few posters that actually works well in putting across the character of the candidate and precisely what she is standing for. It's balanced and clear.

Diane Dodds looks well-groomed and businesslike without being too formidable. The suit-without-a-tie look is great on female politicians and it shows that she means business, while the slick of red lipstick and discreet jewellery softens the sharp edges.

As for the Union flag background, it certainly gets across the fact that she's a unionist.

Brenda says: Diane looks stylish, sophisticated and elegant. Her red lipstick with the black and white suit is a classic, power-dressing look.

 

Alliance's Anna Lo

Malachi says:  Anna Lo has opted for something like a wanted poster. It isn't a photograph, but a sketch, or a faux sketch worked out of a photograph. What Anna is saying here is, don't confuse me with Diane or Martina, and we won't. But we were never likely to anyway.

There is the jet black hair framing an angular face down to a chin as sharp as a stake. The expression in the eyes is whimsical, the pursed lips are almost smug. The overall impression is of impishness.

As if to make the point, the slogan, Step Forward, points to the right, and Anna is looking the other way. Is she perhaps a little individualistic for party politics? If you only knew her by the poster, that is what you would ask.

Frances says: I can see what the Alliance Party was doing here, with the minimal ‘stamp-style’ photograph. They wanted to stand out; to be different, challenging and stylish.

This has worked to a certain degree. You certainly do notice these posters above all the other more boring ones but to my mind, it isn't very flattering of Anna Lo herself, as it doesn't show her lovely warm side, which does come across in person.

Brenda says: This isn't a photo of Anna but more of a graphic. Anna is very identifiable anyway, but I think this stands out a little because it's different. The only thing is, you don't get to see the real person, just an impression of them.

 

TUV's Jim Allister

Malachi says:  Jim Allister for the TUV tilts into his poster. This is part of his business-like image. The tilt conveys the impression that he is just juking round the door to say hello, while busy with other things. The slogan tells us he is busy being experienced, principled and full of integrity.

It's interesting that his tie is in the same colours as Jim Nicholson's, though the red and white are evenly distributed and spaced here. It's a nice tie. It suggests the barber's shop or a stick of rock both of which are friendly associations. His face is big and round.

There is no contrived effect here to pretend Jim is any less fat or bald than he actually is. This is an honest man. He seems to be saying, ‘I am fat and I am bald and I get things done.’

Frances says: The designers at TUV HQ have clearly put thought into this poster, but they really should have softened  the picture of Jim's face. It would have done no harm to whiten his teeth slightly and to blur some of the lines on his face. If he was in the US, he'd have been given the full Photoshop treatment and the effect would have been to make him appear more calm — he looks stressed here. As for the slogan, is it supposed to be crooked and if so, why? It would have been much better to stick to the straight lines.

Brenda says: I would have liked to have restyled Jim's hair and cut it a little shorter. He's gone for the classic black suit with a white shirt and red tie which matches the red of the Union flag in the background.

 

SDLP's Alex Attwood

Malachi says: Alex Attwood hasn't got the smile right yet. Yes, there are two lips and they are red and there is a display of teeth between them, but the secret of a good smile is that it conveys actual feeling, and this one has just been shaped like a piece of plasticine by a photographer who understands light and colour, but doesn't get character. The eyes are similarly dead and flat. There is light in them, but they are expressionless.

He should actually have been thinking something when the picture was taken, apart from, ‘Is this the smile you want?' The red backdrop presumably says Labour and the green bar says Irish.

Perhaps it's as well this is being taken down from the Giro route, or it would have confused all those Italians by looking too much like their own national flag.

Frances says: Alex is a very smart dresser who always looks distinguished and well turned out. But this poster is as appealing as a train wreck. The colours are all wrong — the red background is far too vivid , making him look pasty. Then there are those unnaturally red lips. Is he actually wearing lipstick or is it just a printing mistake?

Meanwhile, his green tie clashes with the turquoise caption below it.

As for the text, well this is another case of too-much-information. All we really need is name, slogan and party.

Brenda says: Alex looks very happy and smiley and has a green tie to tie in with the green of the poster. I don't think I’d have chosen such a soft green though — something bolder. I’d also like to shape his eyebrows for him and his lips are very red, but I'm not sure if that's the picture or the effect of the poster.

 

Ukip's Henry Reilly

Malachi says:  Henry Reilly from Ukip has pitched himself as a unionist, with the Union flag, demonstrating a blithe unconcern about votes from non-unionists. And he looks as if he has been crying.

Frances says: There's not much positive I can think of to say about this poster. The colours and design look like they're the work of a child with a packet of Crayola. Red, white, blue, purple, yellow, black, pink ... where's the orange, that's what I want to know! The photograph of the candidate himself looks less than appealing too. Henry needs a bit of cosmetic jiggery-pokery to get rid of the dark rings under his eyes.

Brenda says: He's another person who could do with a little more colour to his complexion. The purple backdrop is draining the colour from his face and again, I would like to see a Brenda Shankey haircut on him. I could do wonders!

 

UUP's Jim Nicholson

Malachi says: Jim Nicholson looks a little unwell and uncertain. I worry about a man his age being so rosy-cheeked. His eyes aren't expressing much more than apprehension. Maybe he has never had his photo taken before. He seems to be apologising for having to ask for a vote. But he has a neat tie, red with a white stripe. He has the look of someone who has had that tie straightened for him by someone else.

Frances says: Another unionist, another faded Union flag background. It's unimaginative and very traditional, but then that is what a lot of the electorate want. Here, it works well and Jim looks like a very nice, pleasant and approachable kind of a fella and someone you could trust.

He also comes across as professional, smart and businesslike; the epitome of a distinguished gentleman.

Brenda says: Jim looks very happy and smiley in this one, so it makes a great first impression. I would like to have his hair groomed a bit more — and he's wearing the red tie too.

 

Green Party's Ross Brown

Malachi says:  Ross Brown of the Green Party is bald too. He looks very young. The message seems to be that it doesn't matter if you vote for him now because he has a long life ahead of him and you'll get another chance later.

Frances says: As much as I admire the ethos of the Green Party, I simply can’t imagine how this poster design was given the go-ahead.

It really is wrong in every possible way. Sure, he gives the impression of a very pleasant guy with a welcoming smile, but the picture quality is blurry and does him no favours.

Also, the design layout with that blue triangle cutting through half his torso makes it look like he's stepping through a cellar door. And the colour combination of black, white, grey, pink, blue, yellow and the tiniest hint of green, looks completely random.

Brenda says: I like this blue shirt and tie and he looks very relaxed and friendly.

 

NI21's Tina McKenzie

Malachi says:  At least Tina McKenzie, for NI21, looks like she is enjoying herself.

That smile is a genuine one; it is the smile of surprise and delight at finding herself in politics here.

Frances says: Congratulations to Tina and the new NI21 party for this excellent poster. Although it does give us a lot of information, possibly too much, it really does stand out as something different.

 The colour balance and composition is perfect. She looks youthful, attractive, friendly, honest, approachable and smart.

The European flag shows the party is forward-thinking and open-minded, rather than provincial and stuffy.

Brenda says: Tina is another one who looks very happy and relaxed. I really like the photograph they've used here.

She's not wearing a suit, which makes her look more relaxed and fresh, which is the image the party is trying to get across.

 

Conservative's Mark Brotherston

Malachi says: Then there is the Conservative. At last, someone we have genuinely never heard of — Mark Brotherston. Mark is thin and bald. He is wearing a blue tie and he is standing behind six spikes which might be javelins. He isn't posing. All he is saying to the camera is, ‘Look; I'm over here.’

Frances says: The layout and look of this poster is fine in an uninspired and unexciting kind of way. It tells you all you need to know, and is readable and clear.

There's just one problem. The photograph of the candidate himself looks like a selfie taken in his bathroom mirror. It certainly doesn't look like a professional head-and-shoulders portrait from a decent photographer.

A smile would have been nice too, instead of the rabbit in the headlights startled look. Shut your bake Mark, and quit gawping!

Brenda says: He looks very pale and could be smiling a little more. It's like this picture was taken on the hop and doesn't look like a proper posed one.

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