Behold the lowly campaign yard sign, a staple of the political advertising arsenal in election season. Small, rectangular, red-white-and-blue -- after a while it hardly merits a glance.
Enter Steve Grubbs of Davenport, Iowa. As a former state legislator himself, he feels the pain. So Grubbs decided it's time to shake up the political landscape with a new kind of sign meant to grab attention, especially in the final days before voting.
Grubbs's VictoryStore.com gives candidates not only the option of the traditional yard sign, but shaped signs as well, in eye-popping colors: There's the green apple-shaped sign for school board candidates or any candidate hot on education issues, the gavel for judicial candidates, the penny for penny pinchers, the broom for those who want to clean up government -- there's even a 6-foot Uncle Sam with his pockets turned inside out.
"They cost a bit more," Grubbs said of his attention-getters, but he says they allow the political neophyte to "level the playing field" against an incumbent.
"It gets the message out," said Roby Smith, who used a sign shaped like his head on top of a traditional yard sign in his successful campaign against incumbent state Sen. David Hartsuck in the Davenport area. Toward the end of the Republican primary campaign, Smith said he realized his yard signs had become just part of the landscape.
"People tend to forget about them," he said. So, he said, he added his head.
"I got a lot of compliments -- 'I love your yard signs. I've never seen those before,'" Smith said. "When someone sees something they've never seen before, they pay attention."
Grubbs's company sells more than 3 million yard signs a year, with the shaped signs, introduced two years ago, making up just a fraction of that number. The signs are designed digitally, printed in full color and then cut by computer. Regular signs costs $2.25 per sign for 250 2-foot-by-2-foot signs. Adding an apple pushes the cost to $3.75.
"It's an affordable way to level the playing field," said Grubbs, who noted candidates challenging incumbents often are heavily outspent. He equates a sign placed on a fairly busy street to 30,000 views per day, the equivalent of about 1 million a month, which is equivalent to a television spot.
Grubbs said the signs have more applications than just politics. A bank in Wisconsin is using them to promote a text message campaign for its checking accounts, and a county fair in Idaho ordered a dinosaur -- "or maybe it was an alligator," he said.