In a few weeks, political campaigns will increase the number of products running through Treasure Valley Lithos presses by 50 percent.
For about a three-week period, owner Chris Haechrel said, the company will crank out postcards and brochures for all kinds of local candidates. Haechrel may hire extra people to keep up with demand.
Then, on Nov. 6, itll end, and life will go back to normal for the printing company.
The bump is short-lived, but it matters. Haechrel guessed campaign advertising accounts for 10 percent to 15 percent of his business every year.
Political season is probably the biggest one-time event, he said.
Dave Brady, owner of Printworks Co. in Eagle, gave a similar estimate though few of the business people interviewed for this story were willing to share specific dollar amounts.
We could live without it, but its kind of fun, Brady said.
Its not like department stores depending on the Christmas season to make it through the rest of the year.
LOCAL IS WHERE THE MONEY IS
The 2012 presidential campaign may be one of the most closely watched in years. But that doesnt necessarily translate to more money for Idahos newspapers, TV and radio stations, printing companies and advertising firms.
Candidates for state races governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, schools superintendent have typically spent more money to capture Idaho voters attention than presidential candidates do, Chief Deputy Secretary of State Tim Hurst said.
Some of that has to do with the fact that Idaho isnt a swing state in presidential elections, which is where the big money is spent. All the money in the campaign wouldnt move Idahos four electoral votes into the Democratic column, so President Obama and Mitt Romney will instead inundate the newspapers, airwaves and mailboxes of bigger states that could vote either way, such as Florida (29 electoral votes) and Ohio (18).
Marie McGlynn worked at a Fox affiliate in Orlando, Fla., in 2008. She said political campaigns spent a whopping $30 million in her market that year. Her experience is quite different this year as general manager of the Journal Broadcast Groups Idaho division, which owns KIVI Channel 6 and several Treasure Valley radio stations.
This is maybe a couple million, McGlynn said.
MONEY FOR MEASURES
Ballot initiatives, such as bond elections, commonly spur more spending than campaigns for individuals, said Travis Quast, the Idaho Statesmans vice president of sales and marketing.
This year, the advocates and opponents of repealing Idahos Students Come First laws estimate theyll each raise more than $1 million for their cause.
Republican dominance across Idaho also reduces the amount of campaign money spent on local and legislative races, at least in the general election. Primary elections often generate more revenue simply because they attract more candidates, said Frank Thomason, editor and publisher of West Ada Countys Valley Times.
By the time the general election arrives, Thomason said, many Republican candidates find themselves unopposed or facing opponents that carry the handicap of being Democrats, independents or write-ins.
Through the years, Thomason said, candidates in local races have scaled back their involvement in the small details of their campaigns.
These days, theyre more likely to hire professional agencies that design ads and help shape the campaigns message
The trend has contributed to more sophisticated presentation and use of a wider array of publicity options, such as guest editorials and letters to the editor.
Were seeing the whole process become a little bit slicker, Thomason said.
In the simplest terms, marketing firms and professional publicists earn campaign money by freeing candidates and their assistants to focus on campaigning instead of designing ads, said Todd Daniels, advertising and production manager for Boises Stoltz Marketing Group. Theyre also experts at distilling a message and helping a candidate convey the message to voters.
Sometimes, that means a bunch of yard signs in a neighborhood, though that segment of the political advertising business appears to have waned, printers said. Sometimes, it means a 30-second spot on the radio or a few column inches in the newspaper. The decision comes down to how much exposure campaigners think they can get for the money.
TARGETING THE VOTER
One time-tested format is the mailer a brochure or card, often brightly colored, that comes to constituents in the mail. Advantages of the mailer include the fact that its cheap and can be delivered to a specific geographic area especially helpful for campaigns whose success or failure depends on voters in a specific district.
It encourages a deeper level of interaction than a few-second glimpse of a yard sign through a car window, said Brian Sperry, regional spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service.
The person who opens the mail is usually involved in a households money decisions, so it would make sense for them to help make the voting decisions as well, Sperry said.
ON THE WEB
Quast said the Statesman takes in more campaign money for Internet advertising with every election cycle. Partly, thats because the Statesman can aim online ads at specific voting districts as opposed to the papers entire readership area. In print, Quast said, smaller newspapers attract more advertising from candidates in local races who dont want to pay for the Statesmans larger circulation.
The smaller the footprint, the more local races theyre going to get, he said. Being the states largest newspaper, we have a tendency to get more involved in the congressional races, things like that.
All in all, though, the most popular format for campaign advertising is a television spot, Daniels and McGlynn said. Thats a reflection of perhaps the most important goal for any campaign: helping voters relate to the candidate as a person.
Youve got the candidates picture. Youve got the emotion. You can just do more with TV, McGlynn said.
Sven Berg: 377-6275