15 May 2019

The sport and politics of the corflute

| Tim Gavel
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Suburban corflute. Photo: Tim Gavel.

A corflute sign in the suburbs. Photos: Tim Gavel.

We are awash with corflute signs! Signs made of double-sided board that is plastic rather than paper litter the streets. Real estate agencies, building sites, and many other commercial operators use these signs because they are lightweight, weatherproof, and reasonably cheap to put up.

We have seen a proliferation across Canberra with the coming election and like many people in Canberra, it’s got me thinking: does corflute advertising actually work?

It must work, given the proliferation of the signs on stakes across Canberra’s main roads and suburban streets in the lead-up to the Federal election.

It would appear though, that our politicians, in seeking to take advantage of free advertising, have plenty of competition these days with school fetes, concerts and sporting groups occupying space, which in the past, may have been taken by candidates only.

The emergence of the corflute is as close as the ACT gets to the outdoor advertising and billboard signs so noticeable once you cross the border.

Sporting groups, it would appear, are quickly realising the value of corflute advertising with junior registrations high on the agenda, closely followed by advertising for sporting fixtures and spring time fetes.

Sports corflute sign. Photo: Tim Gavel.

Did this sign entice people to the Brumbies game?

What was once deemed the domain of political parties with pictures of smiling faces – more of a distraction to drivers than anything else – is now seen by sport and the community as a legitimate form of advertising.

For sporting groups, I believe it is a cost-effective way to promote, although some have far too much information for passing motorists given the majority are on main thoroughfares.

To many, it is akin to neighbourhood pollution to have streets awash with political corflutes, while for others it is a sign of grassroots democracy. People expressing outrage at the signs on stakes appear to have the ability to differentiate between politics and everything else propped up on these sticks in the ground.

National Capital Rally sign. Photo: Tim Gavel.

National Capital Rally corflute signage.

Debate raged in the lead-up to the last election, but there seems to be little in the way of outrage this time around. This is partly understandable as there are fewer candidates seeking our votes than there are for local ACT Assembly elections, therefore less corflutes. There are also new regulations in place for next year’s local elections.

Sport and community groups would appear to have filled the corflute-void.

What do you think? Do corflutes work as an advertising strategy? Share your comments below.

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Most of the time corflutes are only around for a limited time, couple of weeks or so and then all done, no real harm or offence committed. Corflutes are used by builders to comply with the Building Act which requires details of building projects to be displayed prominently at the entrance to the site.

The National Capital Plan bans billboards ads and is written up quite well here – https://www.abc.net.au/news/specials/curious-canberra/2017-06-19/why-doesnt-canberra-have-billboard-advertising/8622186

Hence corflutes as a temporary alternative are permitted, in addition to the abundance of political material which is exempted anyway because those who make the rules…

My gripe is in the content of some of those signs, I’m sure everybody has seen the black set of Labor will tax you to death signs for example. This isn’t a smiley picture of a candidate saying vote for me, but an opinion on what the other side will do – and a quite inaccurate one at that. This has stepped away from being political advertising to political sloganeering which falls outside my perception of what the term political advertising is intended to mean.

Audrey Gilrain11:35 am 15 May 19

I’m with Smita, I actually find out about things happening in my community this way. As long as they’re used sensibly – there is no point writing a novel on these things because you can’t process that much information when driving – I think they’re useful. Much of the corflute that they are made from these days is designed to breakdown fairly quickly and easily so, while pollution is an aspect, they aren’t as bad as some plastic products. Regarding the election, while I love NZ, I would hate to reduce something as important as our democratic process to a small sign on a building with none of ceremony that goes with it. Given that voting in mandatory in Australia, as voters we need some way of knowing who we have the option of voting for even if the signs tell us nothing of their policies or views! It would also be nice to have a corflute recycling process where the fetes and sporting clubs could perhaps reuse the back side of signs that are no longer needed.

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