October 10, 2002

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if your competition came to your business and asked to place a flyer in the window inviting your customers to make a switch? While we aren't getting any door-to-door requests like this, political advertisers are pushing the boundaries of what newspapers will tolerate.

As the November election draws nearer, candidates, supporters and political parties alike are busily making every effort to convince voters of the right choice. What's that mean? If you watch television you will be bombarded by expensive ads for every candidate under the sun. Your mailbox will likely have more political ads than credit card applications, doubling your junk mail bundle for the recycling bin. And if you work for a newspaper, which survives through securing advertising revenue, expect to be overwhelmed by faxes, e-mail and letters attempting to get free "news" coverage for the candidate of choice.

Don't get me wrong, we do get the occasional political advertisement, especially from the local candidates. Yet it amazes me how newspapers are, for a lack of a better description, taken for granted by political campaigns. State and national campaigns toss us a scrap every once in a while, yet when it comes to distributing the news of where the campaign is stopping next or adding a name to the endorsement list behind the candidate, newspapers are the first phone number of the fax list.

This little argument is filled with plenty of irony. While I can't say that our newspaper was a part of this little controversy, but apparently several small newspapers across the state received faxes from both the Republican and Democratic committees of Missouri regarding the group's latest broadcast advertising campaigns. That's right, the GOP sent out a news release back in August regarding a new television advertising campaign for the parties candidates. Not to be outdone the Democratic Party sent a similar press release out to newspapers attempting to promote the new TV ad campaign for Senator Jean Carnahan. (This information was taken from a monthly bulletin published by the Missouri Press Association)

If that's not ironic enough, I've got one even better for you. I know I'm not the only one that has found plenty of direct mail advertising campaigns in my post office box. What's ironic about that? Well if you actually read the fancy, full-color glossy piece of cardboard, all of these candidates say something or other about budget concerns and cutting the costs of government. I'm not sure it is wise for a candidate to promise to make wise budgetary decisions for a state or a nation when they can't even make a smart money choice on their advertising. Maybe these campaigns have more money than they know what to do with? However most of us try to get the best bang for our buck. So why are these campaigns spending all this money on printing and pre-press work then shelling out even more cash for postage, when they could reach a vast majority of these same people by simply running an inexpensive ad in the newspaper?

Junk mail is annoying. People pay to receive the newspaper. So it seems to me the obvious choice would be to save money, purchase advertising in the newspaper where you will reach the people that want to read about your candidates, and avoid making someone mad by filling their mailbox with more unsolicited junk mail. Besides then you can make that annoying newspaper editor happy and he'll probably run a few more of those press releases you are constantly sending him.

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