Opinion: Polling time, grins are out

By Mark Story

1 comment
Election signs start to appear around Tauranga. Photo/file
Election signs start to appear around Tauranga. Photo/file

The triennial billboard exhibition is upon us. Not that you needed reminding - or an invitation. We have little choice but to view the entries courtesy of the local government elections.

The offerings range from the innocence of fresh-faced newbies to the multi-termers, whose billboards see sunlight only every three years and a shade dimmer at each incarnation.

Despite politics' pensive nature the grinning faces are ubiquitous. These are happy elections.

Candidates' smiles vary in intensity and include the Cheshire cat, the smirkers and the hinters. I've yet to see a stern face. Which begs the question - isn't politics meant to be serious? What's with the collective whimsy?

But such is the free rein of democracy - and such is the psychology of the smile. A vote for me is a vote for happiness; we all seek serenity, so that's what's being sold.

Thing is, one wonders what percentage of the total vote is informed and motivated by hoardings alone.

It's a scary thought, given they tell us little other than candidates' self-promotion skills and ability to pull together a kingsize selfie.

What's also intriguing is the product placement. That is, billboard sites can often give away more than the billboard itself - not to mention betray the political colours and collusions of the hoardings' landlords.

Some erect signs on free-standing frames, some are fixed to stacks of apple bins, in residential backyards, pastoral sites and atop scrap metal dealers. Don't assume this is inconsequential. There's a subtext to their physical presence which invites a closer reading.

In terms of billboards, think not just what you read, but where you read.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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