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Politico: Direct Mailing in the Digital Age


Post Date: August 7, 2014
By: Janine Perri

With the cost of television time increasing and more viewers skipping commercials, politicians from both parties are seeking less expensive, more effective ways of engaging with voters. As it turns out, politicians are continuing to rely on the same method they have used for decades—direct mail.

A recent article in Politico stated, “In an era of highly targeted digital and TV advertising, political campaigns are still banking on an old-fashioned, mundane routine: Voters picking up their mail and leafing through it as they walk from their mailboxes to kitchen trash cans.” According to Politico, party committees and outside groups have spent at least $150 million on direct mail so far in the 2014 election cycle, while they have spent less than half that amount –about $70 million – on digital, online, web and email combined.

The article claims that direct mail can help a candidate stand out from his competition, “if the voters are already being inundated with political ads on the airwaves and online.” Unlike digital channels, which voters can easily skip, delete, or avoid, direct mail is a physical object that voters must interact with, if only for a short time. But often, a short time is all that is needed.

Michael Centanni, president of the direct mail fundraising company Base-Connect, told Politico, “From studies, we know that people remember more of what they read on paper rather than on a screen.” Based on studies that determine the most attention-grabbing features in a direct mail piece, voters usually notice the main picture, the text written in the biggest font, and the disclaimers.

The article listed several successful direct mail campaigns targeting older, more conservative demographics, though the channel has proven effective for other political parties, too. In addition, direct mail is highly important for soliciting donations from people who are hesitant to give their credit card information online.

Though direct mail has existed for many years, political direct mail campaigns are evolving to incorporate modern data-driven marketing strategies. According to Politico, more politicians are using data-mining techniques to tailor their messages based on the voter’s demographic information. Many direct mail pieces are also encouraging multichannel engagement, asking voters to connect via social media and including links to a microsite that has information and online ads.

Even with digital and mobile channels becoming more advanced every day, direct mail is far from an “old-fashioned, mundane routine.” Rather, these political campaigns are proving that direct mail can be highly effective as a single channel or as part of an integrated strategy.

Now – how much longer until Election Day?

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