Lawn Signs Do Not Win Elections - Not Even in St. Petersburg
I do not know how many times I have said that to clients. Enough times and enough variations on the theme that I have lost track.
This train of thought was triggered while reading a post on Local Politics Is All about the campaigns going on right now for the 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 7th City Council Districts. The 3rd and 7th are open and in the 1st, Herb Poulson was appointed to finish the term of now State Representative Rick Kriseman and is now running to hold that seat in his own right.
The post describes some of the expenditures made by some of the candidates.
Republican Ed Montanari spent $3,100 on signs. Bill Dudley spent $2,600 on signs (and $500 on t-shirts, which is a whole other post/rant).
How can I put this... oh yes: YARD SIGNS DO NOT WIN ELECTIONS.
A minimum of 75% of campaign monies should be spent on direct voter contact. What do we mean by direct voter contact? Primarily, we mean paid media - radio, direct mail, and television. Newspaper ads would also be considered in that category, though I, personally, am not convinced of their efficacy compared to more targeted forms (by targeted, I mean that it is aimed as much as possible to just your voters; for example, a mail piece that hits only likely voters or a cable buy for viewers in just those zip codes contained in the district). Paid phones and canvassers could also be included in this.
The only major expense outside of this that I approve of is a quality voter file - preferably a web based one from a professional voter file vendor and not something created by a close friend on Microsoft Access.
The remaining 75% goes to items like office space and staff (on larger campaigns) and things like palm cards (the literature given out at the door when the candidate and his or her volunteers canvass potential voters; also known as walk literature) and yard signs.
One of the biggest mistakes rookie candidates make is spending too much on things like yard signs and too little on things that win elections. I estimate $800 as being more than sufficient to buy enough two color yard signs with wire stakes (wooden stakes are just too much trouble - wire stakes are so much easier to deal with) for a city council race in St. Petersburg.
In District 3, the most competitive seat, Cathy Harrelson is well behind in the money race, but if she has been husbanding her resources for expenditures that focus on direct voter contact, she may actually wind up more or less equal with her opponents because they will have frittered thousands of dollars away on too many overpriced yard signs.