Cover Story: Political Direct Marketing 2004
According to comScore Networks’ analysis, JohnKerry.com drew an average of 28,000 visitors per hour between 10AM and midnight EST on Thursday, July 29, the day the challenger spoke at the Democratic National Convention. In all, more than 300,000 Americans visited his Web site during July 29, a starkly different audience level than recorded on an average day. (In June, JohnKerry.com drew an average of approximately 40,000 visitors per day.)
Also, during Kerry’s speech, GeorgeWBush.com attracted approximately 30,000 visitors — the highest hourly traffic level recorded for the site during that week.
“We’ve seen the number of unique Web site visitors increase since March, as soon as we knew who our opponent was going to be,” Turk says. “We expect to see a huge traffic bump coming out of the [Republican National Convention], and then building up to the crescendo right before election day.”
A direct-mail duel
One of the most obvious yet compelling differences between online and offline political fundraising is the cost. Pieces of direct mail — when you calculate paper costs, list rental and production fees, among other expenses — can total 40 cents to 60 cents a package. But despite unprecedented gains in Internet technology, as well as the cost effectiveness of blasting out urgent e-mail solicitations, direct mail is still the unflinching workhorse of any political-fundraising campaign. For starters, direct mail still is used more as the medium for advanced targeting and segmentation, and is more relevant to and trusted by certain demographic groups, such as older individuals who represent the core of philanthropic giving.
For years, the Republicans had the jump on the Democrats, both in terms of database sophistication and direct mail inventiveness. During the Reagan years, Republican candidates and conservative mailers practiced sound direct marketing, sparing no expense by offering donors and prospects fine paper stock, embossed certificates, plastic membership cards, four-color glossy photographs of the candidate and his wife, and stickers and decals.