Imagine opening up your mailbox, reaching inside, and between all the bills and the catalogues, finding the unexpected… anad for a political candidate.
Sorry, let me try again.
What if, instead of the usual political mailer, maybe a flyer or letter, you found a pre-loaded digital video player, complete with re-charging cord?
Jeb Bush’s super PAC is hoping that would be a political ad that will catch people’s attention. According to reports, Right to Rise is sending select voters a video player that automatically plays their fifteen-minute documentary “The Jeb Story” when opened. A Republican activist on Twitter posted that the mailer arrived by FedEx overnight delivery on Monday.
— Douglas J. Palardy (@djpalardy) January 18, 2016
Right to Rise produced the biographical documentary during the fall, hoping to introduce voters to their candidate’s life story. The video has been advertised online and in social media, and is still airing on New England Sports Network in New Hampshire and neighboring states.
Building on Precedent
While this may be a new way of delivering a message to voters, it isn’t completely without precedent.
The idea of producing a biographical documentary wasn’t new – Barack Obama famously aired a 30-minute infomercial in the week before Election Day in 2008. And obviously, direct mail has long played an important role in political campaigns.
In 2012, Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century used technology similar to a singing birthday card to send voters in Missouri and Indiana talking mailers that played outrageous comments about rape from Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock. Gumbo PAC used a similar tool against David Vitter last November. This appears to be the next step in that evolution.
The Future of Political Ads?
Nowadays – there isn’t much you can’t get delivered through the mail – books, movies, groceries, 18-roll packages of toilet paper. Instead of wandering around to find a cab or your favorite burrito, you just press a button and they come straight to you.
So why not do the same for political ads?
Heck – through the magic of the internet, there’s already a website where you can find hundreds of the best and most entertaining political ads right at your fingertips, all in one place (cough::IAgreeToSee.com::cough).
But sending a physical video player through the mail seems to be something else. Campaigns are questioning the cost-effectiveness of traditional advertising methods that reach more people but are increasingly ignored, and weighing them against tactics that are expensive but more targeted and innovative.
It is unclear at this time how much Right to Rise is spending to send these ads. A spokesman for the organization said that the cost of each video player was “far less than a good bottle of Scotch.”
Presumably, that wasn’t the alternative. But if Right to Rise manages to spend the more than $100 million they raised and their candidate doesn’t make it past the New Hampshire primary on February 9th, they could probably use a good, stiff drink.