on May 11th, 2009 in Products & Services | 9 comments
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.


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This is a timely posting. In light of the signifcant current volume decline, the Postal Service needs to work really hard to find new ways to grow mail volume. This seems like a good opportunity to explore and pursue. And I agree that direct campaign mail has a higher revenue potential than official ballot mail. And it has less controversial issues to boot! I am wondering if there is any data on what percentages (it may vary with type of campaigns) of total campaign advertising budget is typically spent on direct mail. This may give us a sense of the opportunity at hand. Any thoughts?

One article I read said that in 2006, of $3.14 billion in campaign spending, $707 million went to direct mail. The same article estimated that for 2008 campaign spending for direct mail alone would be between $800 million and 1 billion, and that was for national campaigns. I haven't seen anything that included state and local campaigns.

this is a bad idea under current rules they have set up the system to get rates lower then non profit and they follow no rules on size making every piece having to be delt with by hand none of it can be prossed by machine and this cost us way more then we bring in money wise ask any carrier and political mail is the worst part of the job hands down

Campaign mail may be a bit of a pain to handle but it's an important part of our election process. There are some things the Postal Service can do to improve the way that campaign mail is handled, such as consolidating the manual log into an automated recordkeeping system, and developing better processes for accepting, processing, and documenting political mail inquiries and their resolution.

But do you know how much of a pain it is to handle? We are talking about counting each individual piece, logging who mailed it, who it is supporting/opposing, and fax it to the BMEU everyday. There couldn't be any more handling involved if you tried! There is no way we are making money on this, yet a potential cash cow is there. With all of the analysts out there, did any of them ever analyze how many hours and dollars are spent with this inefficiency?

If there really is a need to keep track of it, why not just handle it like a "Open and distribute" tray where you scan a tag and the mailer knows it has made it to it's destination.

Good lord we have an outdated business model - we carry information on little pieces of paper by driving to their house six days a week - regardless of whether or not we actually have information for them. We still have people in the postal service who think that by embracing and supporting electronic communication USPS will somehow take away from our "core mail business" - like anything USPS does will prevent that anyway. And now the question of the day is whether increasing annoying political mail will increase mail volume?? Thank you Cliff Claven.

i dont understand why a few of these blog entries ask the question should we go after growing mail volume by doing..... do whatever it takes to grow mail volume, i dont care what it is. send out teams to get the word out way before elections are even thought about and grow the volume!

also i dont get why the quote in the story it says that promoting and having everyone vote by mail would only raise "a few hundred million dollars". hello wake up at the wheel, right now we could use a few hundred million dollars and the volume.

Where I am at, we have to seperate all of the political mail, count the pieces, log in who it is from, who is paying for it, etc, then fax the log. With all of this extra handling, combined with almost all of it being sent at standard class but treated as first class, are we really making money off of it?

Treat it like any other standard mail, and then worry about pushing it. Enough with the inane logs.

The Post office must be privatised.

Sell it to the highest bidder.
Hopefully UPS or FedEx will show some interest...

Volume down 10% per year lately, and another 7 Billion dollar loss projected this year.
That's basically, eating/destroying 27 million dollars per day!

'outdated model' is an understatement.

Continued support of this pig is like paying to keep the candlemakers 'in business',
after the lightbulb was invented.
Completely disastrous. :)