Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Campaign Season: The Highs And Lows, The Fast And Slows

Karla Robinson |
October 17, 2012 | 7:00 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Election Mail [Creative Commons]
Election Mail [Creative Commons]
Proponents of California’s ballot measures are extra busy in the final weeks before the election, driving their message home before voters drive to the polls. But what about the companies that work behind the scenes on campaigning - printing slate mail, conducting research and polls, building election websites, circulating petitions or making TV and radio ads?

Try calling any of these businesses in the weeks leading up to the election date. You’ll be lucky if they have 10 minutes to spare.

Often working seven days a week, pulling extra hours every day, printers and researchers and consultants alike can hardly catch a break until Nov. 6.

For each of the 11 propositions on the ballot, there are numerous committees formed to support or oppose the measure. Each of those committees in turn hire out various businesses for the campaign’s needs.

Some businesses, like printers, thrive during election seasons on the even years and then see a significant drop in business during odd years.

“In two weeks from now when the political mail is all done, we could slow down for as many as 14 months before the next political cycle starts again, which will be in 2014,” said Lance Green, owner of printing company Lithograph Reproductions, Inc., in a phone interview.

“We do have our regular accounts that we do work for on an on-going basis and we try to sell; we get out there and sell what we can for different print buyers,” Green said. “Then we just gear up for the good years. We put our acorns away, save it up, and get ready for the possibility of a long period of time with not as much work.”

That’s more or less the name of the game for printers these days, Green said. The slow season between elections is especially tough when the economy is down.

“The overall economy is very important,” he said. “If the economy is strong, we could be busy throughout the course of that odd year that’s not an election year. If it’s weak, and businesses aren’t buying promotional material, then it could be very, very, very slow. In which case, it hurts the business; it hurts the employees.

Green said he tries to not lay off employees.

"We cut hours back but we try not to let anybody go during those periods of time,” he said.

On the other hand, there are some companies that are able to maintain consistent business during the “off” season.

“We’re not exclusively doing election work,” said Richard Maullin, president of research company Fairbank, Maullin, Metz & Associates, in a phone interview. “We have a broad practice that involves many other types of clients and research activities. When the odd years come, we still have plenty to do.”

That said, the campaigns do provide a noticeable boost to Maullin’s business.

“We do work longer hours, seven days a week,” Maullin said. “The even numbered years with the big races, big number of candidates and ballot propositions, it’s about 30 percent more business than in the odd years.”

Many media companies also work closely with campaigns for TV or radio spots. However, these companies are consistently tight-lipped about how much campaigns factor into their business - at least during the election season.

One media planning firm working on the “Yes on Prop 30” campaign said they absolutely weren’t able to talk to the media until after Nov. 6, not wanting to give their opponents any information about their advertising efforts. An official from another media company agreed, adding that he wouldn’t have the time even if he were able.

For all the companies that make a campaign what it is, the election cycle is demanding: The companies are either extremely busy to the point of exhaustion or slow to the point of cutbacks.

“It’s tough,” Green said. “It’s very difficult.”

 

Reach Staff Reporter Karla Robinson here.




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