Will political mail hit $1B in '08 election?

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Catalogers, financial institutions and other direct mailers are not the only ones closely watching the evolving field of list marketing.

Political consultants and campaign fundraisers, who help determine what percentage of a candidate's election campaign will be dedicated to broadcast media, newspapers or direct mail, have just as much to gain as the ability to target specific groups of the population with improved mailing lists.

"The use of direct mail will grow based on the ability to micro-target," said Jordan Lieberman, publisher of Campaigns & Elections magazine, a trade publication for political consultants. "Political consultants are really watching for this."

Not that the existing levels of spending on direct mail by political candidates is anything to complain about.

In the 2002 midterm election, $1.6 billion was spent by the various candidates' campaigns on all types of media; $912 million of that was spent on direct mail, according to figures supplied to Campaigns & Elections by research firm PQ Media.

In 2004, a presidential-election year, media spending climbed to $2.7 billion, but only $648 million went to direct mail. Even without presidential budgets, last year overall spending climbed to $3.1 billion, $707 million of which went to direct mail.

PQ Media predicts spending on direct mail in the 2008 election will be between $800 million and $1 billion, Mr. Lieberman said.

"What's exploded is broadcast and cable advertising," Mr. Lieberman said, adding that there wasn't much of this in the 2002 campaign.

The amount spent on Internet marketing is still a drop in the bucket, according to reports.

By all accounts, Democrats and Republicans are both increasing their use of e-mail, interactive Web sites, blogs and mobile marketing because they are relatively inexpensive media that provide a quick and easy way to reach out. Plus, politicians want to be perceived as being in touch with their constituents. In addition, many people are becoming increasingly dependent on Internet news and social interaction.

WMUR-TV in New Hampshire recently teamed up with social networking site Gather.com to create a Web site at www.wmur.gather.com for people to engage with one another in real-time discussions about candidates and issues during the June presidential debates.

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