Print Politics

A Caucus-Race and a Direct Mail Tale

For better or worse, friends, it begins today.

The much-hyped Iowa caucus has a debatably significant impact, but there is no doubt that it is our first step towards nominating our Presidential candidates.

Clearly, the frontrunners, particularly for the Dem nomination, are feeling the power of Iowa's caucus-goers. The New York Post reports that approximately 50 million dollars have been shelled out for advertising by campaigns in Iowa. That averages out to just about $200 per caucus voter. Whew!

While the majority of campaign coinage goes to TV advertising, print campaigning is also in heavy use, with $10 million being spent on direct mail campaigning alone.

Iowans have spent the last month drowning under postcards, brochures, booklets, and other mailers (even some including stickers!), with many receiving fifteen pieces of mail from one campaign alone, vs. some 50, 000 televised campaign ads.

This certainly begs the question: is there such a thing as too many points of voter contact? If we expect too much voters pre-election day, will they burn out before they get a chance to vote?

Republican candidates like Rudi Giuliani and Fred Thompson have foregone TV ads altogether in favor of glossy, full color political printing that moves between scathing critiques of rival candidates, and promises of CONSISTENCY like the public has never seen before.

Unfortunately, the trick to successful political printing in such an enormous capacity is to keep content fresh and inspiring. Like a TV commercial viewed 100 times, a series of direct mailers saying the exact same thing, and employing the same design techniques, will be easy to tune out.

Conversely, by presenting voters with new information at every point of contact, campaigns can keep us interested and engaged. o maintain brand recognition throughout, visually repetitive elements like tone and color scheme can be employed.

Because of the versatile and inexpensive nature of political printing, keeping it fresh is easy, whereas the cost of production a TV spot is so expensive that the ad has to be aired over and over again the 'earn its keep.'

Booklets, postcards, and other forms of political direct mail are only going to intensify until the National Conventions in August and September. But as the field narrows, we will be seeing more advertising from fewer candidates. As this happens, the pressure to dazzle with the new will grow. This is not a time for advertising strategies to crumble under pressure, but rise to the challenge.

Here's a New Year's resolution for campaigning in 2008: To get voters out on Election day, be anything but boring!


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