Do political billboards work?

Posted September 2, 2016

With the local government elections coming up, you will have seen a mass of political billboards spring up all over the place. They usually consist of a picture of the candidate and a statement or two about them. In my opinion, they are a waste of valuable funding that would be far better used elsewhere.


Firstly, the only thing they offer is name recognition and that’s not enough to convince anyone to vote for the candidate. Obviously there is little room to say anything on the billboards, but a one-line message to distinguish the candidate from others would be far better than the abstract statements most of them have. Messages like ‘for strong leadership’ or ‘working for you’ mean nothing to anyone.

All candidates need a brief message outlining why they should be voted for. The billboard can’t do this, but what can is direct mail and even social media. This still needs to be brief, but it does need to say what the candidate is offering in concrete terms.

Another problem with billboards is that they can’t be targeted. Very few people who see them will even be eligible, or bothered voting for the candidate. They might be passing through, under age, apathetic or already clear on their preferred candidate.

Direct mail, traditional and social media on the other hand can be targeted. You can communicate specifically with those in your patch, for different age groups, and a whole range of other variables to reach the people who are likely to get you over the line.

Lastly, the best way to get people to vote for you is to meet them in person. Door knocking may be old-fashioned and time-consuming, but its still the most successful option. People want to see the person, not a photo of them. Other important tactics here are speaking opportunities and even social media videos.

Abstract statements on billboards might make the candidate feel good, but it will do little for their election chances. In a nutshell, the harder the campaigning task, the more effective it is.

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