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Images are Changing the Way We Picture Politics

By Ashley Denuzzo

“Politics will eventually be replaced by imagery.” It was predicted in 1964 by Dr. Marshall McLuhan and now, more than 50 years later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is proving that theory right.

Prime Minister Trudeau poses with his wife, Sophie, in January’s issue of Vogue. (Norman Jean Roy/ Vogue).

On Wednesday Dec. 9, Canada’s newest Prime Minister made his mark on the international media scene. Fashion magazine Vogue featured the 43-year-old and his wife, Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, in a lavish photo spread. The article profiled the youthful politician and discussed some of his new-age methods of communication – including selfies, transparency and public display of affection with his wife.

Despite criticisms and controversy behind the merit of the photo spread, Trudeau is proving that powerful images can make more of an impact than words alone.

It’s called visual communication and it’s becoming increasingly more prominent in today’s culture.

In essence, visual communication is the transmission of information and ideas through forms that are either read or looked upon.

It’s extremely effective.

Studies show that 80 per cent of people remember something that they see or do, whereas only 20 per cent and 10 per cent remember what’s read and heard. In fact, a study by market research company Hubspot estimated that people who received information visually processed it about 60,000 times faster than reading text.

Today, 93 per cent of communication is non-verbal.

“McLuhan alerted us on the switch to imagery over 30 years ago,” said Roger HB Davies, the CEO of McLuhan & Davies Communications, Inc. “This realization profoundly affected what we’ve tried to do.”

“From marketing to sales, course delivery, course materials, everything has to look good,” he added. “In fact, today ‘looking good’ provides an extraordinary and powerful combination to everything.”

And that includes politics.

Let’s go back further to Trudeau’s wildly successful campaign where he used new aged forms of technology, communication and imagery. Earning himself the nickname “Prime Minister Selfie,” Trudeau has done an excellent job engaging with young Canadian voters – who tend to leap towards visual communication. He has an Instagram account, frequently Tweets and has immersed himself in the technological age.

Therefore, an image of our Prime Minister lovingly holding his young wife in a multinational fashion magazine conveys a larger message than the actual article itself.

The public took to Twitter to comment on Trudeau’s latest media appearance, with some applauding his modern representation of Canada, while others condemned his priorities and called the cover “inherently sexist.”

John Powers, who wrote the Vogue article, also incorporated visual imagery into his writing. Using detailed descriptors like “strikingly young and wave-haired,” “blue suit and jaunty brown shoes,” and “looks like an advertisement for the Future,” Powers writes his article for the modern reader.

This plays into the fact that people want to visualize their Prime Minister conducting an interview, not just simply read the interview.

Interesting approach isn’t it? Impactful words paired with an eye-catching photo; it’s something that was predicted by McLuhan over 50 years ago.

And now we’re really starting to see the impact.

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