27 October, 2008


Slate Magazine reports political scientists at Yale have determined the marketing tactics voters respond to most during campaign season.

Their findings shouldn't be much of a surprise for anyone who pays any attention to consumer habits or, barring that, uses common sense. In-person interaction still pulls rank in terms of effectiveness. Automated phone calls, on the other hand, rank at the bottom of the list, just behind stashing a wad of cash into the trunk of '72 Buick and pushing it off a bridge.

One tidbit pulled from the fact-crunching meat grinder was the effectiveness of text messaging. The Obama campaign has employed the tactic in lieu of automated phone calls, still a staple of many--if not most--political campaigns. It's allowed them to target their messages not only by geography, but even down to personal details provided by the hundreds of thousands of Changemongers who signed up for the mailing list.

With one vote converted for every 25 people contacted, it falls behind the conversion rate of one vote per 14 contacts that in-person canvassing produces. But when costs per converted vote are tallied, it's ridiculously cheap. A vote converted from text messaging costs about $1.50 compared to $29 for a vote coaxed through person-to-person contact.

Don't expect text messaging to perform like that in the future though. If there's one thing marketers (particularly, political marketers) know how to do, it's wear out a good thing. They'll ride that pony all the way to the Alpo plant.

But for now, it's working. That leaves at least one question unanswered: How long before we finally retire the automated phone call? It may mean waiting for the old-guard politicians to go extinct. They'll no doubt be buried in their diamond-encrusted tombs with their auto-dialers and door leaflets.

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