It’s that time of year again, when people decimate entire forests so that they may flood your mailbox with endless amounts of political mail. This June we’ve got all sorts of mayhem on the ballot, what with the Nation/Leno/Migden rage-a-thon in full swing, and an assortment of those ballot measures folks just love to put on the ballot, and assorted other electoral detritus and term-limited open primaries that makes San Francisco (and Bay Area) politics so much fun.
As always I don’t always get the latest and greatest political mail, or at the very least tend to only get certain pieces targeted to westside Democratic voters. So, if you get some particularly egregious piece of political mail, or if you wanna show off your mad mail skillz, or if you really would like to help me lead the charge in debunking politicos and their spin, feel free to send me either a) a pdf or JPEG of said mail or b) email me and let me know what you have and we’ll make arrangements to either have you mail it in or I’ll pick it up.
Most mainstream media outlets can debunk tv commercials rather easily, since they either end up on YouTube, the candidates’ websites, or can record them off of TV.
Mail, however, does not usually get noticed as easily, and passes “under the radar” and into the voters’ mailboxes. By publicizing what campaigns are doing, and discussing the tactics used to convince you, the voter, of what to do, we can all get a better understanding of what’s being said out there.
Check out our 2006 archive and our 2007 archive, and let the fun begin!
PS: For more information on how direct mail is created, check out this clip of my good friend (and super smart consultant) Jim Spencer, who appeared on the Daily Show a while back.
PS2: If you’re a support of Speaker Pelosi and like Our Fair City, I’ve been working on a new blog that’s in the embryonic stages in support of Our Speaker and City. I’m sick of people bashing our City like it’s some hippie dippie Disneyland, and bashing Nancy Pelosi. If you have suggestions or would like to help, please feel free to drop me a line.
Posted in Campaign Tactics & Analysis, Debunking Politicos Pundits + Spin, Political Direct Mail Archive - 2008
Tagged california, campaigns, consultants, democrats, directmail, disinforehab, fun, fundraising, jimspencer, politics, sanfrancisco, spin
Hoarding gets such a bad rap these days. I mean, sure, if you hoard every edition of the newspaper for 50 years along with your 20 cats and assorted random bottlecaps, that could be cause for alarm (or at least a fire hazard). But in politics, saving all those assorted pieces of detritus seem like a pile of junk in the present, but become oddly helpful in recollecting days of old later on.
Today’s nostalgia trip is the “DNC Annual Report,” of which I’ve scanned in two pages. The first is the cover with President Bill and Vice President Al, and everyone was aglow over the fact that Old Man Bush had been sent packing, and new Members of Congress, like Sens. Boxer & Feinstein and many more, were now in office. “Change” it seems, was in the air. National Health Care was on the way, thanks to Co-President Hillary, and Democrats, it seemed would be in the drivers seat for some time.
Well we all know how that worked out. 1994 anyone? Speaker Newt? Majority Leader Dole. Senator Santorum?!?
But today I would like to focus on one piece of the “DNC Annual Report” – the section that talks about the DNC “grassroots campaign” to support the “Health Care Plan” for Presidents Clinton and Clinton. If you don’t remember any of this, don’t worry – that’s because in the pre-Internet, pre-blog, political world, efforts like this cost a fortune and didn’t really do so great, no matter how hard people tried.
When the cost of disseminating information and organizing people nationally is high and is led from the “top” down, the chances of igniting a movement to change something as big as the health care system is really difficult. Entrenched interests fought back with those f*cking “Harry and Louise” ads, and well, the rest is history (often revised, Soviet-style on the campaign trail, it seems).
Today, however, there are many ways for people to talk amongst themselves, and link up with like-minded folks around the country (and world), rather easily. Movements can take a life of their own, and evolve (as MoveOn did from the late 90s) and today, we have the prospect of a presidential candidate who is able to be competitive with a well-financed, Washington insider because he can activate over a million active donors (most of whom are giving in small amounts.)
It’s interesting to see how much has changed in technology, communications, and organizing in the last 15 years. It’s also interesting to see how little has changed in the mentality of the well-paid pundit and consulting class in Washington DC who seem to know how to make lots of money, but not how to get anything done. They do know, however, how to complain and whine about “blogs and the internet” and urge a nostalgia for something that never really existed. Funny, that.
Although I work on primarily political campaigns, I try to read as much as I can about “real” advertising, since the political consulting industry can sometimes get a bit static. We tend to use the same ideas over and over because they usually work – and no one wants to go out on a limb (especially clients) and try some crazy new idea and lose and be “the guy who sank the campaign with the weird idea.”
That’s unfortunate, because to reach people today you have to speak their pop culture “language” and compete with thousands of messages from “real” advertisers. If you always hit them with “red white and blue,” they tune out. At the same time, unlike “real” advertisers, we can’t sell 365 days of the year so the tendency to stay the course is understandable.
One of my favorite places to catch up on all things ad and design related are the Under Consideration constellation of websites, and in particular, their Brand New blog which chronicles the retooling of corporate logos and brand identity.
Most recently, they wrote about the remake of the Life Savers logo and packaging which was fascinating. Almost everyone knows what Life Savers are – little hard candies that haven’t change that much for decades. Thus, how do simple sugary candies stand out in an era where everything marketed has to be “xtreme” or “totally awesome” and as loud as possible?
The folks at Wrigley’s figured it out – rather than compete on the same level as all the trendy fad candies, coming up with zany flavors, they decided to play to their strength – simplicity. In a crowded aisle full of colorful packaging the Life Savers candy bags – with their simple depiction of just one BIG picture of the candy – stand out.
In politics, sometimes you have to do the same thing to win and get your message out. There was a school of thought (especially in Democratic circles) that to win against the “other side” one had to pre-empt them on “their” issues by making them “yours” as well, so you couldn’t be attacked – you were “innoculated.” (Just take a trip in the Wayback Machine to 1984 and 1988, and you can see why people thought this might be a good idea.)
While that strategy might have made sense in the late 80s and early 90s, as it was with folks like former DLC chairman Bill Clinton when they ran for President, it’s not entirely foolproof. If politicians compete to be more and more alike, the result is often mushy rhetoric that sounds “phony” to the average voter.
Sometimes if you really want to distinguish yourself and your message, you have to stop competing with your opponent on their terms, and redefine the argument to your strengths instead. Plus it has the added benefit of being a bit more honest.
It’s funny how a piece of candy can teach you a lesson about politics. The question is, which Presidential candidates are learning the lesson, and which aren’t?
I guess we’ll see on Tuesday! Don’t forget to vote!
Thanks to The Internets, I was able to see my good friend Jim Spencer of The Campaign Network on the Daily Show, even though I don’t presently have cable.
Jim’s a great guy and one of the best political consultants in the country, and has run some pretty amazing campaigns over the years. I worked with him when we both worked at The Big Company I Can’t Name, and later in 2003, I spent a summer working for his firm in Boston which was quite fun. Here you can see the view from the company’s offices in Boston.
And, thanks to Comedy Central, you can see the video, and learn a little about direct mail! Check it out! (link fixed…)