This study examined Owerri electorate’s perception of Governor Rochas Okorocha’s political messages on the billboards in Imo State, in terms of the headlines, photographs, slogans and the communicativeness of the messages on the billboard. The visual perception theory and reinforcement theories were used to underpin the study and explain the findings. The study adopted the survey design. A total of 384 persons were sampled in a population of 937042. The questionnaire was used as the instrument for collecting data from the respondents. It was found, among others, that: (i) there is sufficient exposure to Okorocha’s political messages on billboards among Owerri residents; (ii) Owerri residents have mixed perceptions about the slogans used headlines, USP and the communicativeness of Okorocha’s political messages on billboards; and (iii) it is generally believed that the slogans, headlines, USP and, especially, the communicativeness of Okorocha’s political messages on billboards are capable of shaping the perception of Rochas Okorocha among Owerri residents. It is recommended that the aptness of the slogans, headlines and USP should form the basis of most outdoor political advertisements, instead of the emphasis on the size of the outdoor advertisements and the photographs in them.
The use of billboard as a medium of political advertising is a popular campaign strategy. Reece (2004) explains that the term ‘billboard advertising’ relates to the usage of signs along the waysides for the purpose of advertising and promoting a range of products and services. Billboard advertisements are designed to catch a person’s attention and create a memorable impression very quickly, leaving the reader thinking about the advertisements after they have driven or walked past it. Billboard advertising is a seemingly effective method of reaching out to the consumers. Since these advertisements can be viewed by the consumers at any point of time, the principal aspects of its effectiveness are cost saving and greater market coverage. Billboards are arguably efficient methods to publicize products and services anywhere and anytime.
Billboard has been used as a popular medium for political advertising in Nigeria, especially since the re-introduction of democracy in Nigeria in 1999. Nigeria witnessed an unprecedented increase in the number and style of political advertising in the national and state elections held in 2011. Most of the political parties in the land mounted one form of political advertising or the other, to bring to the attention of the voting public the party’s political philosophy (manifesto) as well as the party’s contestants for the various elective offices in the country. Many political office seekers also used political advertising to market themselves to the prospective voters. Several media of political advertising were employed during the electioneering campaigns. Most notable of these media include the radio, television, Internet, newspapers, magazines, billboards, posters and others. Madueke (2013) says that political parties and their flag bearers used various conventional and non-conventional media, particularly the billboards, to their advantage in a bid to out-wit one another in the 2011 elections battle.
In 2015, the story is fairly the same, especially in Imo State. Various aspirants for different political positions, representing various political parties, display their photographs and political messages on billboard and these billboards are glaring on all the major streets of the state. One of the persons that have used the billboard to great effect across the length and breadth of the state is the APC governorship candidate in the Imo State in the immediate past gubernatorial election, Mr. Rochas Okorocha.
Rochas Okorocha’s billboard messages come in various sizes, colours and contents and bear a variety of messages from a variety of sponsors. All his billboard messages are characterized by unique slogans (such as: “IT IS TRUE!”, “APC, Change”, “Rochas 2015” “Rochas We Know”, etc), headline and USP, which often present them as very communicative. They are all intended to persuade people to vote for Mr. Rochas Okorocha. This study, therefore, attempts to critically investigate the Owerri residents’ perception of them, as political messages.
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