Ok, I’m not going to ask anyone to get up out of their seats and go to the window and scream “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any longer”, as Peter Finch’s character Beale proclaimed in the 1976 movie Network; but like me, I hope you’re mad as hell about the barrage of political advertising during the election seasons, which seems to increase election by election. I cringe at the thought of the upcoming 2016 U.S. Presidential election and without a doubt, I’m sure direct mail will break more records in advertising spending. For instance, Senator Cory Booker, from New Jersey spent over $4.6 million within 4 months during the special election in 2013. According to Steinhauser & Yoon (2013), during 2012, the average cost that winning candidates spent during an election year was $10.3 million. If that’s not enough to make you scream out the window, the Vital Statistics on Congress reported that it typically takes an average of $1.6 million to win a House seat, and reportedly that is an increase of 344% since 1986 (2013), and that doesn’t include advertising from candidates from the State and Local elections…now that makes me not only scream out the window, but also contemplate whether I should jump.
If I wanted to start a dialogue on the political realities in America I would likely talk about the premise that you either have money or have the ability to raise money in order to serve your community or nation as a public servant. Just to be clear, I believe this is a sad truth that most us of know; however some of us still hold on to the idea that if you dream and work hard enough, you can grow up to be President one day…well maybe, but raising about $40 million will go a lot further in attaining your goal. Depressing.
Since I am screaming about political advertising, lets review the one thing that effects every one that has a mailbox or mail slot – direct mail advertising. As time approaches Election Day, mailboxes are crammed full of last minute political messaging, as if we haven’t heard or seen it before. As noted by Issenberg (2011), traditionally campaign managers stockpile funds for a last minute deluge of advertisements aimed at the undecided voters. Considering TV and radio ads are normally booked, the most reliable and economical media is direct mail…lovely. Just when you thought everyone was moving to the digital arena, campaign managers, outside fundraisers, and political party affiliates continue to turn to mailers, mainly because of cost and the connection with their audience. According to the Federal Election Commission reports, the political machine spent at least $150 million on direct mail during the 2014 election cycle.
So with that said, when is enough, enough? In other words, how many spaghetti noodles do you throw on a refrigerator until one sticks? Who knows…and apparently campaign managers don’t have the answer either.
Federal Election Commission (2014). Retrieved from http://www.fec.gov/press/campaign_finance_statistics.shtml
Issenberg, S. (2011). The secret weapon of modern political campaigns: The mail. Slate. Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/victory_lab/2011/12/ u_s_postal_service_changes_how_they_ll_affect_the_2012_campaign.html
Malbin, M., Mann, T., Ornstein, N., & Wakeman, R. (2013). Vital statistics on Congress. Brookings and the American Enterprise Institute. Retrieved from http://www.brookings.edu/research/reports/2013/07/vital-statistics-congress-mann-ornstein
Parti, T. (2014). An unlikely survivor in the digital age: Direct mail. Politico. Retrieved from http://www.politico.com/story/2014/08/an-unlikely-survivor-in-the-digital-age-direct-mail-109673.html
Steinhauser, P., & Yoon, R. (2013). Cost to win congressional election skyrockets. CNN Politics. Retrieved from www.cnn.com/2013/07/11/politics/congress-election-costs/