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Signs vs. Stickers, or Mainstream vs. Grassroots Politics

Politics. Power. Propaganda. Why can't we all just get along? (And if we did, what would happen to the print industry?)

A funny little story came down the pipe this weekend from Glendora, California. To the untrained eye, it might seem like this tale is about grassroots politics, but for those of us in the industry, it's all about printing.

The story goes that Glendora City Councilman, Gary Clifford, was campaigning for reelection using, as many politicians do, yard signs. Two teen activists, Keleigh Marshall and Christina Giammalva, took exception to the Councilman's signs, as Glendora law, passed by Clifford himself, doesn't allow political campaign signs on public property.

In response to Clifford's sign campaign, the girls started a campaign of their own, having stickers printed reading “This sign violates Glendora city ordinance.” The girls went around and slapped their stickers on Clifford's signs, until he eventually had them arrested.

Likelihood of prosecution will probably be based on whether or not Clifford's yard signs were, in fact, in violation of the law. Were they cluttering roadsides, or were they innocently displayed on private property? And Clifford's question: was it personal? The heart of the issue for the councilman is that his signs were targeted rather than those of other candidates because, he believes, the girls are opposed to his reelection.

From a printer's perspective, this is all very interesting. Yard signs are an incredibly effective form of campaign advertising, but it seems like the more popular they become, the more backlash they receive from special interest groups.

As a candidate, you want to get along with the special interest groups, but you also want to get your name on the lips of as many people as possible. So how are you supposed to cover all the bases?

First of all, be sure to carefully follow all the local laws and restrictions on where you can place your signs. After all, yard signs aren't cheap, and you can't afford to have your signs trashed, financially or image-wise.

Second, consider using esthetically appealing, evocative designs on your election campaign signs. If you can offer voters a visually pleasing addition to their environment, they'll be far less likely to take exception.

Third, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Expand the range of your community presence by campaigning through posters, banners, palm cards, and vehicle wrapping. As urban centers get more and more serious about the value of their outdoor spaces, yard signs may continue to decrease in popularity.

A Happy Sticker

On the other side of this fence, we've got the girls with stickers. Although I would never recommend defacing other people's property in order to make a point, this is, admittedly, a good example of ways in which average citizens can get involved in the electoral process.

However, rather than printing stickers that criticize the candidates you don't support, I would recommend having stickers and other campaign materials printed in support of the candidates that you are enthusiastic about. We are, after all, deep into a political climate that is sick of negativity and mudslinging. What we need is a little positivity, optimism, and all around good vibes. Traditionally, stickers have been used by good people to spread the love, so let's keep this up. Instead of running a smear campaign, run a sticky campaign!

The only thing I'm left wondering is if the same local printing house worked on Clifford's signs and the teens' stickers. If it did, there are probably some pressmen out there having a little chuckle to themselves, right now.

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