DM takes centre stage in the battle for Number 10

As I reluctantly stepped below ground for a rare commute using London’s public transport system this week, I noted the carpet of discarded party political leaflets littering the floor of the tube station.

Russell Parsons
Russell Parsons

In this instance, the candidate pitching for votes was representing Labour, but I wager that the same scene can be found in travel interchanges across the UK as the parties ramp up their marketing efforts in preparation for the May poll.

Direct mail – be it door drops, inserts or leaflets handed to reluctant high street shoppers – has been a key tool used by all parties in the general election campaign so far, and one which has proved to be controversial.

In the second of three leaders’ debates last week, Labour leaflets claiming that the Tories would leave pensioners cold and without free prescriptions and bus passes led to one of the night’s, and one of this campaign’s major talking points to date.

David Cameron’s fury at Labour’s tactics mirrored the malevolence his party hurled at Labour in response to the 250,000 leaflets Labour was said to have sent to women warning them that Tory policies on cancer could endanger their lives. The accusations of smear tactics were made even more pointed by the fact that many of the women had cancer, leading to claims that they had been targeted.

Party political mud-slinging aside, the fact mail is attracting significant attention is a minor victory for the channel.

Barack Obama’s election victory in 2008 was widely seen as the paradigm for a new kind of political campaigning driven by digital, and one which was to inspire UK political parties to dispense with traditional campaign channels such as leaflets in favour of the brave new digital world.

Thing is, as effective as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogging and email will no doubt prove to be, it is not time for politicians to retire door drops, posters and direct response advertisements just yet.

As any good marketer will tell you, an effective integrated campaign takes in several touch points in a bid to reach as many people as possible. Yes, digital can help reach the previously unengaged, but as students of this election will tell you, it is the older and less digitally savvy voters that will swing this election for the ultimate victors.

And it is perhaps those people who will be swayed either way by claims made in a door drop.

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