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Direct Response Marketing

Election 2008: The Ultimate Multi-Media Direct Response Campaign

1 Oct, 2008 By: Thomas Haire Response

As we close in on Election Day — Nov. 4 — media focus on the presidential race between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain continues to edge closer to its peak. At the same time, the marketing of each candidate is also reaching a final summit, as both campaigns finish the push to get their voters to the polls.

The marketing of the modern-day presidential candidate has evolved with both time and technology. When John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in 1960, many pointed to the debates as a turning point. While those listening on radio pointed to Nixon as the winner, the vast majority watching the debates on television for the first time named Kennedy the resounding victor — a major turning point in election, television and marketing history.

In all media, candidate marketing has always been performed using the basic tenets of pure direct response advertising. After all, much like a product marketer looking for a phone call from the consumer to place an order, the candidates' marketing teams are also seeking a direct response — in this case, from the voter. There's no lead-gen angle or continuity. They are seeking two things: during the campaign, your donation; and, on Nov. 4, your vote.

In recent presidential cycles, the Internet has played a growing role — but never like it has during the 2008 campaign. Mirroring the direct response marketing industry's growing reliance on Web marketing, Obama's campaign has been especially proficient utilizing the Web. From E-mail to search engine optimization to integrating Web drivers into television and print ads, the Obama campaign has maximized its Web DR component like no other campaign in history, setting one fundraising record after another, and creating a huge buzz about his candidacy among progressives.

On the other side, the McCain campaign has been a bit slower on the uptake when it comes to a multi-media DR campaign. It's unclear how much McCain's personal discomfort and inexperience with the Internet played a role in his campaign's marketing efforts being dubbed "old school" by media and marketing pundits. However, in recent weeks, the McCain team has really ratcheted up its effectiveness in the Web component — especially in the search engine space, drawing praise from media and marketing observers.

There is a generational divide in this election, both between the candidates themselves and between younger and older voters. Has that divide been reflected in each campaign's marketing efforts? Or have the choices made by the candidates' marketing teams deepend that divide? No matter your political affiliation, the 2008 race has been an enthralling one — both from a purely political standpoint and our viewpoint as experts and leaders in direct response. Whether it is Obama's new-school Web-centric campaign or McCain's more traditional, TV-based campaign that eventually drives more voters to the polls in a few weeks, marketing observers will learn more than a few lessons from this campaign.

Oh, and one last thing: get out there and vote!

Thomas Haire, Editor-in-Chief

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