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Consultant: Attack Mailer Messages Get Lost In The Shuffle

The campaign mailers Indiana candidates and SuperPACs have been sending out tend to be negative, but an ad consultant says they are not effective.

Senate Campaign

Photo: Yin Jenkin/WTIU-WFIU

Negative campaign mailers have been filling voters' mailboxes in the days leading up to the election.

Advertising experts say much of the attack mail Indiana voters have received this election season is not achieving its goals.

A recent mailer paid for by a left-leaning political action committee attempts to let Senate candidate Richard Mourdock himself tell voters why they should not elect him. When you open it, it plays an audio recording of the comments he made during a Senate debate about pregnancy in the case of rape.

But there are a number of problems with ads like these, says Ann Bastianelli, who lectures on marketing at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.  First, the ad takes a long time to make its point.

“You’re going to sit there and listen to that whole thing? You’re going to volunteer for 30 seconds, a minute of recorded information for Richard Mourdock. If you’re for Richard Mourdock, you might not even do that,” she says. “We’ve got less than a week to go. So for an awful lot of this, this is clutter.

She says the mailer also does not appeal to voters whose minds might be changeable, so many will not even pay attention to it.

“You’re trying to first of all intrude enough to stop doing what their doing and pay attention,” she says. “Then their level of involvement in it has to do with do I like the subject matter.”

Consultants who produce these glossy cardboard messages say they’re expensive to create and send, often costing thousands of dollars per mailer. Bastianelli says that’s a lot of money to waste, but adds the PACs which craft the messages clearly have money to burn.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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