A Tale of Two Attack Mailers
Saturday, November 05, 2005 :::
No, not the two mailers that will live forever in the SBE hall-of-shame, but two different mailers, one each from the Kilgore and Kaine campaigns, that slam the other hard. Each has undeniable strengths. But they reflect differences in approach, content and style that are deeply telling. And one clearly scores a knock-out punch.
"Cesspool of Corruption"
From the Kilgore campaign, received on Friday. An 8 1/2 x 11 piece printed on black. It's target is Richmond's seedy recent past, and how Tim Kaine lorded over one of the most inept, bungling, yet corrupt local governments this side of Washington, DC. There is a lot of copy here -- many call-outs, sub-heads, and the usual raft of quotes from Doug Wilder, trashing the old, bad Richmond system. "Cesspool" and "corruption" are the backbone words in this piece. In general, a very tough piece that could make some locals wonder why on earth they would want to give the keys of state to an old Richmond pol.
From the Kaine campaign, arrived on Saturday. The same size and black background color as the Kilgore mailer. But where the Kilgore piece has copy on the front and back, this features a single line of copy on one side: "Embarrassing Secret Inside." And inside, there are a few bold headlines, a four copy blocks lots of white space. The thrust is that Kilgore cannot call for more spending, repeal of the 2004 tax hike (disguised gere as the "Warner budget agreement"...that's new) without (as we see on page 3) higher property taxes. It features a picture of Kilgore with a quote from a speech where he says "my plan doesn't affect the ability of a local government to set as high a tax rate as they want."
Kilgore uses more copy than Kaine. Traditionally, more copy is supposed to be better because, while people say they hate junk mail, they also tend to read it all. Kaine takes the opposite track. People would rather scan the mailing and get the point quickly. It's a newer school of thought, but increasingly common.
But one thing clearly, absolutely, makes one piece stronger than the other.
Kaine's piece arrived on the very same day the bill for the second half of my property tax arrived. Forget whether the message is true -- the impact is undeniable.
Kilgore's piece is strong. But it's also evergreen. It could have mailed in June and had the same impact. Kaine's is timed beautifully...particularly if he mailed it only in those jurisdictions that, like Henrico, collect the second half of their property taxes before year's end. If he mailed it statewide, the effect is diminished considerably in areas where the taxes have been paid and forgotten.
Even so, if Henrico decides who wins Central Virginia...and maybe the whole shooting match, then Kaine played this one exactly right.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 11/05/2005