A misguided approach

Thursday, August 5, 2010

By the time you get a chance to read this editorial, it's probably Wednesday or Thursday night, and if you're like me, you're thankful the primary election is over and you don't have to watch anymore television campaign commercials. Over the last week, I've either fast-forwarded through these annoying ads or walked out of the room while they were airing. The closer it came to the primary, the nastier the commercials got. It's like this every campaign cycle, and I for one am turned off and a little disappointed that candidates seem to be opting for expensive, obnoxious and over-played TV commercials rather than newspaper ads.

In particular, I found myself disturbed that very few if any of the candidates running for the highly contested Seventh District Congressional seat chose to advertise in their local newspapers. There were at least three of the candidates who have strong ties to the Barry County community and none of them ran a single ad in any of their home town papers. They were contacted about advertising but chose to spend their money in the larger markets.

This is a gross oversight on their part. I interpret that decision two ways. Either they are out of touch with their local constituents or they are taking the votes of their local supporters for granted. It's very interesting to me that these same candidates fill our inboxes with e-mails about their voting records, endorsements and campaign appearances, which they want us to publicize for free, but they are unwilling to budget a portion of their campaign war chests on newspaper advertising.

Not only is this a slap in the face to the newspaper industry, but it shows a glaring ignorance about effective advertising strategies. Research proves that newspapers are trusted and relied upon by people who vote. According to surveys commissioned by the Missouri Press Association (MPA), voters use newspapers more than any other source to help them decide how to vote.

Research conducted by Pulse Research, of Portland, Ore., on behalf of MPA produced the following findings that we hope future campaign planners consider when the next election rolls around:

* Question: Where did you get information to help you decide how to vote? Results: 40.3 percent, newspapers; 32.8 percent, election section of newspapers; 29.3 percent, television ads; 15.5 percent, newspaper editorial page; 11 percent, radio ads; and 10.3 percent, direct mailings.

* Question: What form of political advertising did you find most helpful? Results: 23.3 percent, newspaper ads or inserts; 13.3 percent, television ads; 8.3 percent, direct mailings; and 5 percent, radio ads.

* What political advertising did you find most offensive? Results: 62.3 percent, television ads; 13.5 percent, phone calls; 5.3 percent, radio ads; 3.5 percent, mailed information; 1 percent, live speeches; and 1 percent, newspaper ads.

It also should be noted that newspapers have staying power. The ad isn't gone after 60 seconds. People who subscribe to newspapers tend to keep them around for a week or more and pass them on to friends and family. And maybe most importantly for political candidates, research shows that 67 percent of newspaper readers voted in the last election. By placing an ad in a newspaper, you can know it's going to be read by intelligent, interested and civic-minded voters who look to their home town newspapers as their primary source of local news and information.

Lisa Schlichtman