Political Parties Vie for Direct Approach

Article excerpt

In the run-up to Christmas the Conservative Party sent out a direct mail appeal to 100,000 homes of Tory voters asking for donations to the party.

Given the Tories' low standing in the opinion polls and the party's internal troubles, a poor response would have been little surprise.

Yet, within six weeks more than 450,000 [pounds] poured into Conservative Party Central Office, making it one of the party's most successful direct response campaigns.

But this was an appeal with a difference. The campaign had been put together by Claydon Heeley International and was themed around a lottery.

Prizes included a 14,000 [pounds] Rover 400 and a 4000 [pounds] Caribbean cruise. The more money supporters donated, the more chances they got to enter the draw.

So impressed was Conservative Party Central Office by the initiative that it is now looking for other direct marketing schemes that can raise funds, recruit members -- and, crucially, win votes.

Message to the electorate

The `lottery' appeal marked the first time the Conservative Party had formally handed an agency a direct marketing campaign and signalled its determination to look at new methods and ideas for reaching its supporters.

For political parties, the attraction of direct marketing is that it allows them to make use of the rich data they already possess on their members and likely supporters and target them for specific messages.

In the last General Election the Tories used databases to identify people who'd bought shares in privatised services, and then contacted them to try to persuade them that they'd lose out under Labour.

The Liberal Democrats also launched a direct marketing campaign through TBWA-Holmes Knight Ritchie, in key marginals it believed it could take from the Tories.

And even before it took on the `New' tag, Labour was looking at ways to use direct marketing, offering members its own affinity credit card (in conjunction with the Co-Operative Bank) as early as 1989 and making a habit of looking for new recruits among the ranks of trade unions.

But now all the parties are looking at more ambitious ways of using direct marketing, including campaigns aimed at specific social groups. …