Along with good weather and the Leaving Cert, they were the traditional harbingers of a general election. We were all used to seeing election posters against the backdrop of blue skies and trees in full leaf. 

The backdrop has been very different for general elections since 2011; February campaigns have meant bare, skeletal trees and leaden skies – but might it also be the case that the posters on the poles are also on the way out? 

A growing trend over recent elections and referendums is tidy towns committees asking candidates not to hang posters in the town, on the main street, or within certain boundaries. It's not something that can be enforced, but nobody seems to want to be the only one to bring the ire of the tidy towns down upon their head. So here and there along the campaign trail, we hit a poster-free oasis. 

Dalkey in south county Dublin is one such town. We took a spin out to see if the people there might miss the posters, might miss this essential element of the election buzz. Reader, they do not.

Of all the people we spoke to in the town, not one of them would bring back the posters. They’re bad for the environment, they said. They’re an eyesore. We know who the candidates are already. And the accusation most frequently levelled – the candidates themselves bear little resemblance to the slick, immaculate visages beaming down from the posters. 

Meanwhile, in nearby Dun Laoghaire, the town’s lampposts are groaning under the weight of posters. And the residents are groaning under the imposition of having to look at them. 

So, if people would prefer not to see them, why do the candidates bother? Posters cost around €5 each, so couldn’t that money be better spent? We spoke to behavioural economist Pete Lunn about the role that posters play in our elections. A name and a face on a lamp-post might seem like quite a blunt instrument, a primitive tool in the era of targeted ads and focus groups, but they play a huge part for candidates who ultimately want to be recognised and remembered when voters hit those ballot booths.

For those who see them as pointless, and even for those who harbour an intense dislike for them, posters might be having a greater subconscious effect on them than they would dare to imagine.

On The Trail is Prime Time's online-only election 2020 campaign series. It's available on RTE.ie/PrimeTime, RTE Player, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.