Analysis: There Was Something Different about the Measure L Campaign


While some have made a big deal out of the $155 thousand spent by the Measure L campaign, and the campaign certainly enjoyed a sizable monetary advantage, there is really nothing that different about this campaign as opposed to other Measure J/R campaigns.

In 2005, 2009, 2016 and 2018, the developer has spent far more than the opposition.  In the past that has been at least $250,000 and as high as $600,000 (and we still think that was a low number for what was actually spent in 2005).  But there was something different this time – people may not have even noticed it except in retrospect.

Our mailboxes this time were not bombarded with endless shiny, colorful, and glossy brochures.

Measure L was one of California’s first “all digital” campaigns.  I’m not talking about campaigns that are under-resourced and therefore cannot afford to do direct mail, which can be expensive at the cost of $6000 to upwards of $10,000 per piece when you factor in the cost of printing, handling and postage.

The campaign, by choice, sent no mail.  They did all online campaigning.  They focused on “retail” campaigning with walking and drop pieces.

The marketing team from Advocacy Marketing provided the Vanguard with some specs.

They ran 133 posts on Facebook.  According to their analytics, those posts were seen 273,318 times in the two Davis zip codes.

They targeted those posts on people interested in community issues, people that were self-identified as Democrats, Republicans, enviros, seniors, progressives, conservatives, grandparents, parents, etc.

Of those people that saw the posts, 5681 of them engaged with those posts.  That meant that they clicked through to the WDAAC website, Ballotpedia, a Vanguard news article or whatever was the subject of the post.

They believe this is one of the first major “no mail” campaigns in California.  Even two years ago, it would have been unheard of to send no postcards or brochures.

They told the Vanguard that they had five boosted posts up and running on Facebook on Monday and Tuesday this week alone.

You may think – well that’s not a huge success rate.  However, they pointed out that you can contrast this with the typical campaign that sends out a half-dozen mailers, hoping that voters will glance at one before throwing them into the trash.

In this case, they have concrete measurables that 6000 people targeted in the zip code actually clicked through for more information about Measure L.

That obviously was not the extent of their campaign.  The campaign also did some slate cards, and created a walk piece where they walked from door to door.  However, they sent no Yes on Measure L specific mailer.

They have a point – mail is expensive to do, and it has a fairly low hit rate, especially in the middle of a busy campaign where people’s mailboxes are bombarded with political ads and your expensive piece is competing with several others.

Our belief is, for a Davis City Council race, all you really need is about $20,000 or so.  Enough to do one drop piece, one mailer, your political signs and maybe one ad in the newspaper.

The Measure L campaign certainly was not being frugal – they spent a lot on advertising both in the newspaper and on-line, they spent a lot on consulting, and digital media.  But perhaps going the digital route is a more effective way to do things into the future.

If you can afford to promote your Facebook posts to be seen nearly a quarter of a million times and reach 5600 people to be engaged with, that’s probably better than sending out six mailers.

At the very least, it will make our mail boxes safe to approach during campaign season.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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7 thoughts on “Analysis: There Was Something Different about the Measure L Campaign”

  1. Matt Palm

    What sets L apart from other measures is that the adverts for the campaign doubled as adverts for the development, which was framed to voters as an opportunity for many of those voters to downsize in Davis… particular the voters most likely to turn out: Seniors!

  2. PhilColeman

    I toss every printed political statement received in the mail into the recycle bin while walking back from the mail box. I never read them, already knowing what they say thanks to social media. Half to two-thirds of everything put in my mailbox at substantial cost is never opened. Every ad insert in the local newspaper receives the same fate.

    Subscripton to the local paper is continued only to give some level of financial support to a dying industry. I go through the paper in a couple of minutes with most of the stories having already been learned a day or two earlier from on-line sources. Newspapers are like comic books, I look at the pictures, that’s the only thing new.

    The US Postal System will be out of business in the next decade. Their new revenue source is delivery of packages on weekends, which will soon be overtaken by the three more efficient package delivery services we see go around our neighborhood every day.

    Politics and political strategy reflect current cultural norms more than we realize, or are willing to admit. Public debates are now more theater than substance with small polarized groups attending and glaring at each other. Our divisive politics make many people say, “I don’t need that grief,” and don’t bother attending. They may be persuaded to watch on local government TV, but even that is problematic. Public forums must now attach themselves to more attractive events such as the local farmer’s market.  There’s really nothing different about Measure L, we’ve just begun to better realize what has been happening all around us.

    1. Howard P

      Amen, bro…

      Same thing, re: glossy print detritus left in my mailbox and porch, in this household… glad we have a reprieve (and a pretty good paper waste recycling program)… until the “holiday ads” start cluttering up those, and our newspapers… guess I don’t really care if folk waste their effort and money that way… as some have opined, too bad that $ didn’t go to actually helping folk.

      Same for TV, radio, other media (such as blogs), and text messages and v-mails/phone calls… I got about 2 dozen texts (purportedly from Trump, but I know better) urging me to vote a certain way in the NV elections!  Again a waste of their $ and time, (and mine, in deleting them).

      From one of my favorite songs, “when will they ever learn.. when will they ev-ev-er learn?”

      But, perhaps it is a calculation… that there are enough sheep and lemmings out there who can be persuaded to go with ‘group think’… or follow a ‘judas goat’… if the calculation is correct, am damn concerned about the future of American representative democracy…

  3. Keith O

    David, I have a question for you.

    Can any small struggling newspaper maintain its objectivity towards a new proposed development or candidate when they’re running ads for them?

    Can any low budget blog maintain its objectivity towards a new proposed development or candidate when they’re running ads for them?

    Do you believe that plays into how editorials and opinion pieces are shaped or slanted by these small news outlets being that they need the revenue?

    Do you believe that articles and editorials in local news venues can have a huge affect on local elections?

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I’m not sure this on topic, but there are a few points I’d make.

      First, advertising in a campaign is an attempt by the campaign to reach an audience. For the most part, a campaign is not purchasing advertising because they agree or disagree with the publication. They are attempting to reach a given audience.

      Second, campaign advertising is one-time or short-term revenue. It’s nice to have, but it’s not sustaining. We received a single check in June for advertising from the campaign for the amount of $1500. From the financial filings, it looks like the campaign gave the Enterprise around $12,000 for advertising. That’s it. It’s not like the campaign gives additional money if we or the Enterprise support them.

      Third, I’d estimate that between June and now, we’ve received somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 in money. A very small percentage of that was ad revenue from this campaign.

      Did that play into what I wrote? No. What did play into what I wrote were the issues that unfolded. The arguments put forward by the No side, the tone of the campaign, the specifics of the project. I laid it all out – my decision was based on the positive side on the need for the affordable housing and on the negative side the concerns about a low density peripheral project.

      My prediction of who would win was based on several objective factors and that turns out to be correct while yours turned out to be 100 percent wrong.

      At the end of the day, I called this as I saw it.

  4. Alan Miller

    We’ll be fighting in the streets
    With our children at our feet
    And the morals that they worship will be gone
    And the men who spurred us on
    Sit in judgement of all wrong
    They decide and the shotgun sings the song
    I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
    Take a bow for the new revolution
    Smile and grin at the change all around
    Pick up my guitar and play
    Just like yesterday
    Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
    We don’t get fooled again
    The change, it had to come
    We knew it all along
    We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
    And the world looks just the same
    And history ain’t changed
    ‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

    I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
    Take a bow for the new revolution
    Smile and grin at the change all around
    Pick up my guitar and play
    Just like yesterday
    Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
    We don’t get fooled again, no, no
    I’ll move myself and my family aside
    If we happen to be left half alive
    I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky
    Though I know that the hypnotized never lie
    Do ya?
    There’s nothing in the streets
    Looks any different to me
    And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
    And the parting on the left
    Is now parting on the right
    And the beards have all grown longer overnight
    I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
    Take a bow for the new revolution
    Smile and grin at the change all around
    Pick up my guitar and play
    Just like yesterday
    Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
    We don’t get fooled again
    Don’t get fooled again, no no
    Meet the new boss
    Same as the old boss

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