Print Politics

Print Politics: Huge Ad Spend in California Gubernatorial Race

The flyers are flying! The mailers are mailing! The posters are posting!

After two glorious, rock 'em sock 'em terms with the Terminator, California is looking for a new governor. And at a time when the state is as hard-hit by the recession as anywhere in the world, candidates vying for a spot in November's gubernatorial elections aren't sparing a dime on campaign spending.

Under particular scrutiny, Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO turned politico. She's running for a chance at the Republican candidacy, and so far, her campaign has spent almost $60 million ($49 mil of it Whitman's own) blanketing the airwaves in commercials and the streets in political printing. She's pulled ahead of Democrat Jerry Brown and Republican rival Steve Poizner in the polls, but at a cost that makes this the most expensive nonpresidential campaign in U.S. history.

The Whitman campaign has been distributing a series of direct mail pieces slamming Steve Poizner, accompanied by a URL to a clever matching website – a good example (from a former web CEO) of how to combine political print and web advertising to create a powerful cross-media campaign.

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Whitman has also been printing glossy 48-page policy magazines, which the campaign went so far as to mail out to all of California's 1400 libraries. Unfortunately, the campaign didn't take time to consider the likelihood that a library would display politically partisan literature. I hope all those glossy mags don't go to waste!

The signage that makes up the core design of the Whitman campaign is, if anything, even more starkly modern that what we saw during 2008's memorable Obama – McCain Presidential contest. The friendly text: MEG 2010: A New California, surrounded by a border featuring a unique green/black color scheme, brings to mind corporate collateral. The design could serve as the basis of a brand identity or a website design.

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Billionaire Whitman's business-oriented approach to her campaign, and to her print advertising, is something that could help or hurt the campaign depending on whether or not voters feel that California should be run like a corporation. The state's financial woes, and the fact that Whitman's campaign spending is creating jobs (and political printing jobs!) might just ensure that Californians are ready to do business.


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