Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hodes Campaign Mailer Makes a Splash

(Re: The title - I'm really sorry, I couldn't help myself.)

Anyway, this mail piece from the Hodes campaign has not struck the fancy of New Hampshire newspapers. Mike Pride at the Monitor says it was a mistake, that it will detract from the perceived seriousness of Hodes' campaign, that it looks like a cheap shot. John DiStaso in the Union Leader cites Pride's dislike of the piece as evidence that it must have "backfired."

But on what evidence do they judge the piece? By what standard of success? So far, all we've got is that Mike Pride doesn't like it and John DiStaso thinks that's evidence of something.

Anything we can say about the effectiveness of this piece will be anecdotal or speculative: I know someone who liked it - you know someone who was offended. Research suggests X about the general effectiveness of direct mail, but we can only guess about this piece.

So, where is the evidence? A piece like this won't have the direct measurability of a fundraising mailing, where you can track how much money comes in as a result. But presumably the company that put it together is one that has learned the lessons available from such fundraising direct mail. (Contrary to Pride's imagining of "the campaign people putting this ad together. They probably chortled to themselves about their cleverness," I believe this piece was in fact done by direct mail professionals.)

Pride feels that Hodes needs to appear serious - but polls suggest that Hodes is in need of greater name recognition, and a memorable mail piece might help with that.

How can a piece be memorable? The Altosa Group, a research and marketing firm, says (PDF)
Be visual.
Two-thirds of newspaper readers only look at pictures and headlines. A message buried in the text won't get read! Pictures and headlines must carry your entire message. Let the text support that message.
This piece is highly visual - indeed, that seems to be a large part of Pride's problem with it. But perhaps its visual nature can help it cut through the American consumer's well-developed ability to ignore information - especially advertising. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell writes that the "stickiness factor" is necessary for successful advertising:
Reaching the consumer with the message is not the hard part of direct marketing. What is difficult is getting consumers to stop, read the advertisement, remember it, and then act on it. (Page 93)
This means that maybe the point is not that Mike Pride fears that this mailer was a bad move for Hodes. Maybe the point is that he looked at it, and decided to write about it. That in itself is a measure of effectiveness. NH-02 Progressive has another measure of effectiveness: His own brother. You really have to read the whole post, which is excellent, but in brief
My brother would have got to the polls because he hated Bush, and because I would have hounded him for two years if he didn't. But he wasn't sure about this Hodes guy. Too stuffy, he thought. Maybe a little full of himself.

I told him I met Hodes a couple of times, and that was not how he was at all in person. But he pointed to the TV ads. Stiff, he said. I'll vote for him, but he's stiff.

Well, now my brother has discovered that he has something in common with Hodes: a sense of humor. Despite the draining years Bush and Bass have put us through, we can still laugh.
As I said above, the effectiveness of this particular piece at getting votes is an open question. But it sure has gotten attention, and, as Gladwell notes, in advertising, that is one of the most difficult tasks.


Blogger yankeedoodler said...

I think the ad is hysterical - until I realize how true it is, and then it just makes me want to work harder for Hodes.

Anecdotal, yes, but reminding me how close Bass is to Bush on votes that matter? Very important.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Putney said...

Let's get serious. Hodes can only win if he gets Democrats and Independents who voted for Bass to switch and vote for him

Charlie has TV ads claiming he's a moderate and Paul responds with this stupid card. This is not going to get those Bass Dems and Indies to switch.

Who is directing Hodes' campaign? Jack Heath.

Hodes is blowing this one big time.

5:10 AM  
Blogger MissLaura said...

Jack Heath? I volunteer for the Hodes campaign a couple times a week and this is the first time I've heard of him. But I note that he appears to be a PR person, which makes me wonder if maybe a certain former Hodes campaign ad person is behind your little snit.

I'd suggest you look at GraniteProf's post on the most recent UNH poll of the race - he's no Hodes partisan but assembles a fair amount of evidence that Hodes exactly is getting "Democrats and Independents who voted for Bass to switch and vote for him."

3:52 PM  
Blogger Putney said...

Your claim that "a certain former Hodes campaign ad person is behind your little snit" is ridiculous.

Did you hear Arnie Arnesen yesterday (Friday) morning on WKBK say the same thing?

Jack Heath is a PR person who is working for the Coburn and Pataki campaigns (and doing a miserable job).

7:09 AM  
Blogger MissLaura said...

12:24 PM  
Blogger Putney said...

Is this in spite of, or because of this ridiculous campaign? The article states that Bass is still leading.

Hodes should be doing much better at this stage in the election cycle.

Bass = Hodes should be the mantra, not some obscure sophomoric Zoology 101 reference.

Why are you trying to provide cover for his campaign managers?

1:03 PM  
Blogger MissLaura said...

Bass=Hodes? I would think that would be the wrong message.

I don't know a huge amount about running a campaign, but from what I can see, this one is being run very well. And while I'd certainly consider any reasonable, substantive critiques, I haven't seen any from you. The race should be closer? Do you have any idea how difficult it is to defeat a 6-term incumbent? It's frankly amazing that they are where they are - and where they are is positioned to win. One poll has Hodes up, one has Bass up. The last three polls out have Bass under 50%, which is the danger zone for an incumbent. You're just showing your ignorance of politics, frankly.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Keener said...

I don't know what to say about the rest of this... but if you read the national horse race guys on this race, it has advanced far more than an be explained by the scandals.

But I suppose it's easier to imagine the race is there for the taking. That's more comforting.

I have no problem with people criticizing the campaign, especially if they have a proven history of fighting the good fight. Arnie can say what she wants, she's earned a pass.

You, on the other hand, have only posted on this one issue, and you posted the exact same comment on my blog as on this one (word for word) so I don't blame ML for wondering if you are waging a campaign on this single issue for reasons that have nothing to do with wanting us to win.

Sorry if we're overly suspicious here. But if you had any history of commenting on or supporting other issues, your criticisms might have more weight.

11:06 PM  
Blogger Putney said...

You both said the same thing about the ad, you both deserve the same comment.

It's that simple.

This conspiracy theory from both of you is pathetic.

Have you ever thought that I am a Democratic activist who just wants Paul to win and doesn't like the way he is doing it?

5:09 AM  
Blogger Keener said...

Putney --

No conspiracy theory here, and I understand many local Dems do not like the style of the ads.

And most likely you're one of them, I simply meant to point out it is not out of bounds for MissLaura to bring up the issue.

As you probably can tell looking through our past comments, the majority of people that post on this site and my site are people that are either Republican trolls or disgruntled Democrats. It gets a little frustrating hearing the Defeatocrats sounding off three weeks before an election.

But frankly, it's worse if you are just a concerned Dem.

Because at this point, what really is the point of your analysis? The ad buys are made, the mailers are sent. The tag line has been chosen.

There's a time for course correction, and there's a time to close ranks and get this thing done. We are 2 weeks out. Time to close ranks.

I'm a fairly newly minted Democrat, and comments like yours drive me nuts. Dissent is a noble and necessary thing when it is framed in terms of a worthy goal.

But what can possibly be your goal here? To show how smart you were if we lose? To get ready to throw Paul over the starboard side as the Defeatocrats did with Kerry DAYS after the 2004 election?

I'll repeat -- I'll give a free pass to people working their asses off for this thing. Permission to bitch granted. But I didn't see you stickering people at Pumpkin Fest, and MissLaura didn't see you in Nashua yesterday.

If you want Paul to win, if that's really your concern, the simple way is take Nov 7 off and help GOTV, and get yourself to a phone bank the weekend before.

You do those two things, and I will give you a guest post on my blog where you can tell everybody how you would have run the media campaign differently.

I am serious about this offer.

10:20 AM  

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