OMT One Man's Trash...from Norman Leahy

Friday, September 22, 2006 :::

It's Online Donation Time

We must be getting into the new television season (and campaign reporting period) because both senatorial campaigns are sending out the emails asking for a little help.

Oddly, the hook for both the Allen and Webb email requests is...Ronald Reagan.

The Webb email positions Reagan like this:

If you are wondering if Jim Webb's first ad "Gipper" is having an effect on our campaign for U.S. Senate, all you have to do is look at how upset George Allen's team is over an ad that simply highlights Jim's lifetime of service to our country. In the dozens of campaigns I have worked on, I have never seen a positive biographical ad get the other side so upset.

So how should we respond to George Allen and his team of campaign hacks?

Let's make sure we keep this ad on the air. Contribute today and ensure that thousands of Virginians learn about Jim Webb!

Notice the use of the familiar, "Gipper." Not "President Reagan." Not "Ronald Reagan." Just "the Gipper." Normally, that's a term used by those close to Reagan. But to the intended audience of this email, actually using his name might be akin to invoking the Dark Powers. Can't do that. Wouldn't be prudent. And better show that Barak Obama picture, just in case people might think Webb is getting too misty over his GOP past.

And the small, but telling, line, "...ensure that thousands of Virginians learn about Jim Webb" is more than self-referential. It's a sad fact: this late in the game, Webb is still largely either unknown or poorly understood among the general public -- another reason why an ad like this should have been running long ago.

But now to the Allen side, where an email begins with, well, Ronald Reagan:

You may have recently heard that Senator Allen'?s opponent, James H. Webb, Jr. has launched a TV ad campaign misleading the people of Virginia to believe that the late President Reagan has endorsed his candidacy.

You may have also heard that Webb has rejected a request from former First Lady Nancy Reagan to withdraw the television ad. Mrs. Reagan directed the Webb campaign to refrain from using President Reagan's name, image and likeness to imply that the late President is endorsing Webb.

And what did Webb do? He ignored Mrs. Reagan's request. The fact is, Webb'?s campaign managers described President Reagan as a "?pompous, arrogant fool" and said that the Reagan Administration was "?a sell out and a sham."? And they continue to treat the late president'?s widow with unbelievable disrespect.

Much tougher in its tone, and far more specific in its charges. Moreover, it mentions all the right names, and does so formally -- even Webb gets the legal name treatment (tit-for-tat, I suppose over that sophomoric "Felix" meme the Webb campaign pushed early and often...but now may have dumped owing to recent events).

There is also a picture of Reagan here, right above the donation link. Smart. Make Reagan the subtle focus of the ask -- in essence, people will be giving to him, not Allen. Well, whatever works.

Both emails are generally well-crafted. Webb's is more like those the Kaine campaign used in 2005 -- no set ask amount, multiple soft links for giving. And, not surprisingly, the Allen email is much like those used during the Kilgore campaign -- set ask amounts, a post script with an ask line. Overall, a more traditional direct mail feel and tone than Webb's.

Which one will pull better? Hard to say. Webb's uses deadlines and fundraising goals as motivators, which are always good. Tbey also include a viral element, telling the recipient to forward the message to others if they, personally, have already given. That's how I got this email, so it's obviously worked.

Allen's does not use these elements. Instead, it relies on emotional motivators that usually work very well under almost every circumstance. The use of the post script is very good, not only for its content, which takes Webb to task for airing a "deceptive" ad on 9/11, but also because the P.S. will actually get read (dirty secret of copywriting: All those words and clever phrases that clutter the page are so much dross. It's the lede and the P.S. that make the sale).

There's much to like in both approaches. Even so, who would have thought that Reagan would ever become a positive, bi-partisan fundraising hook?

::: posted by Norman Leahy at 9/22/2006 0 comments


"You know what the fellow said: In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they also produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love -- they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock." -- Orson Welles, The Third Man

"The graveyards are full of indespensable men" -- Charles de Gaulle

"Oh, so Mother Nature needs a favor? Well maybe she should have thought of that when she was besetting us with droughts and floods and poison monkeys. Nature started the fight for survival and now she wants to quit because she's losing. Well I say, hard cheese!" -- Montgomery Burns

"Don't pretend that you know me...cause I don't even know myself" -- The Who

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