While 2008 was not a good year for mail volume in general, one source of optimism for the future is the continued growth in mail tied to spending on political campaigns. This is spending during political campaigns on direct mail to promote candidates or issues and to raise funds. Fundraising requests can also generate single-piece First-Class Mail responses. Although in the recent election there was much discussion of President Obama’s creative use of the Internet to communicate with supporters and raise funds electronically, for election campaigns below the national level direct mail is still the most effective tool for reaching localized areas. In an article in DMNews, William Berry, president of William Berry Campaigns, was quoted as saying, “Right now there’s just no effective way to really localize new media direct marketing. Remember, 98 percent of candidates are running for offices such as city council or state assembly and 85 percent of their ad budgets are still direct mail — it would be malpractice to recommend anything else.”
The revenue potential of expanding voting by mail has received attention, but campaign direct mail may offer even greater opportunities for the Postal Service. Spending on campaigns has gone up every election year, even in years when there was not a national election. Campaign spending on election mail amounted to $648 million in 2004 and $707 million in 2006, before rising to just over $1 billion in 2008. While there have been efforts to market election mail (voting by mail), the revenue potential is not as significant as local campaign mail. For example, if the entire country were to adopt voting by mail, and even if as many as five mailpieces (registration, confirmation, voter guide, the ballot, and return of the ballot) went to or from each of 180 million registered voters, the number of mailpieces would not surpass a billion. The associated revenue would only be several hundred million dollars. Additionally, there is a risk that Congress could mandate that the Postal Service carry election ballots at a discounted rate or for free. The Postal Service has made a special effort to target official election mail, but a focus on campaign direct mail could have a higher revenue potential.
How should the Postal Service reach out to campaign mailers and political advertisers to generate more revenue?
This topic is hosted by the OIG's Sales & Service directorate.