A Functional Analysis of Presidential Direct Mail Advertising

By Benoit, William L.; Stein, Kevin A. | Communication Studies, September 2005 | Go to article overview

A Functional Analysis of Presidential Direct Mail Advertising


Benoit, William L., Stein, Kevin A., Communication Studies


Most research into political campaign messages investigates television spots (see, e.g., Benoit, 1999; Diamond & Bates, 1992; Jamieson, 1996; Johnson-Cartee & Copeland, 1997; Kaid & Johnston, 2001; Kern, 1989) or debates (see, e.g., Benoit et al., 2002; Benoit & Wells, 1996; Bitzer & Rueter, 1980; Carlin & McKinney, 1994; Hellweg, Pfau, & Brydon, 1992; Hinck, 1993; Jamieson & Birdsell, 1988; Kraus, 1962, 1979, 2000; Lanoue & Schrott, 1991). Although these two message forms are without question important ones, this emphasis provides an incomplete picture of presidential campaigns. Direct mail advertising, sometimes known as pamphlets, brochures, or fliers, is a frequently used but rarely studied medium of political campaign communication. Pfau, Kenski, Nitz, and Sorenson (1990) reported that "Targeted or direct mail has a relatively long history dating back to 1914 when Woodrow Wilson sent out more than 300,000 pieces of campaign mail" (p. 26). This remains a popular medium for communicating with voters: A recent study by PQ Media revealed that more money was spent on direct mail advertising than any other medium (radio, cable, newspapers, online) except for broadcast television. The amount spent on direct mail increased from $242 million in 2000 to an estimated $564 million in 2004 (Lieberman, 2004). Direct mail is used for both for fund raising and persuading voters (Friedenberg, 1997; Shea, 1996). We are concerned here with the latter function: direct mail as a means of conveying candidates' messages to voters.

Trent and Friedenberg (2004) explain that brochures have two clear advantages, compared with other media: It is easy to target specific groups of voters (if one has their mailing addresses) and brochures allow longer messages (than, say, spot advertising). Shea (1996) explained further that:

   More than any other political technology, direct mail has changed
   dramatically in the past two decades. The availability of personal
   computers to produce high quality print jobs ... [and] compare
   available [mailing] lists, has created a direct-mail environment in
   which the individual preferences of voters can be addressed
   specifically in a mass mailing. (p. 210)

Of course, in the years since Shea made this observation, computer hardware and software have advanced considerably, which suggests that such campaign messages should be even easier to develop and distribute today.

Heller (1987) notes that direct mail is less expensive than television or radio. Hollihan (2001) elaborates an important implication of this advantage, explaining that "Direct mail is especially useful in campaigns where the voting districts and television media markets do not match up very well" (p. 102). He offers an example to illustrate this idea:

   The Los Angeles media market ... is the second largest in the
   nation. Seventeen commercial [television] stations serve 4.8
   million households in Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, San Bernadino,
   and Inyo Counties (Ansolabehere, Behr, & Iyengar, 1993). The
   average cost of a 30 second television ad in Los Angeles is
   $15,000. Television is too expensive and too inefficient for most
   candidates, and thus direct mail, even though it is also expensive,
   is often a better way to reach the voters. (p. 102)

Thus, cost is an advantage of direct mail advertising generally, and this is a particularly important advantage in some media markets.

Finally, Armstrong (1988) speculates that this medium allows stealthy attacks: "Attack your opponent's record on television and he will respond in kind. Attack your opponent in the mail, and he will never even know what hit him" (p. 66). Therefore, direct mail advertising is a medium with several important advantages in political campaigns.

Some may question the impact of these messages; however, evidence indicates that they reach many voters. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Functional Analysis of Presidential Direct Mail Advertising
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.