Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why The Kathleen Lost

The simple answer is, because she robo-called me during dinner Monday night.

The more complex answer has to do with voter perception about her binding ties to organized labor, the nastiness of the campaign she ran against Peg Lautenschlager for Attorney General a few years ago, and the undeniable fact that Tom Barrett for the last few weeks has been acting like he actually wants to win the Governor’s office this time around.

Back to the robo-call, and, if I may, a long digression.  Several thousand years ago, during one of my southern California iterations, as a marketing exec for the Jack Kent Cooke Organization (Cooke Media Group, to be specific), among other tasks, I wrote scripts for the telemarketers in the huge phone rooms of the Los Angeles Daily News.  Back in those heady days in the 80’s, LA had three viable daily newspapers: the Times (back when it was a Chandler paper, before the Tribune Company bought it), the Herald Examiner (a Hearst paper), and Jack Kent Cooke’s Daily News.  The Daily News was a jaunty paper with lots of color, lots of attitude, and we wrote telemarketing scripts for various zip codes, tailoring them to the specific demographic and ethnic group we were trying to reach.  Daytime scripts were heavy on the coupon aspect of the paper – you were more likely to reach housewives at residential phones during the day, and all the telemarketers had to say to close the deal was “the coupons in the Sunday paper will more than pay for the cost of the subscription”.  And, these were real, live, flesh-and-blood think-on-their-feet telemarketers, the kind who know when to abandon a script, and when to say “maybe this isn’t a good time to talk; I’ll call you back in a few days”.

Long before the advent of no-call lists, we used “sequential dialing sheets” to reach the listed and unlisted numbers.  For instance, in each L-A metro area code, the other marketing whizzes broke down the exchanges, and the telemarketers went to work.  For instance, in the 213 area code, the targeted exchange, let’s say 486, would produce call sheets that looked like this: 213-486-0001, 213-486-0002, all the way to 213-486-9999.

A couple things we knew for sure: robo-calls were not effective; and that a trained, professional, polite  telemarketer could boost sales (circulation) more than any machine playing a recorded message (with a “press 1 to be connected to a sales agent right now!” spiel).

Back to The Kathleen and the interrupted dinner.

No one wants to talk to a telemarketer while they’re eating or have their meal interrupted by a robo-call.  People have meals at divergent times, so it’s not practical/feasible/possible to “block out” 5-6 PM or 5-7 PM or whatever for a “no-call” time.  And robo-calls can’t ask if you’re eating or otherwise occupied and decide maybe it would be best to say “I’m sorry; I’ll call at a different time”.  And, the thing is….politicians KNOW robo-calls don’t work.  A couple weeks ago Isthmus ran a story about how politicians know the calls don’t work, yet they continue to pour thousands and thousands of dollars into this failed approach.  The head of the National Political Do-Not-Contract Registry, Shaun Dakin, told Isthmus robo-calls “have a perfect record of never having worked”, citing a number of respected studies.

We don’t need this fact to indict the political class as being hidebound and stupid, because plenty of such facts are already in evidence.  Political consultants and campaign operatives just keep ordering the robo-calls because they’re cheap: less than a nickel a call, whereas today a live telemarketer call can cost a buck.

Another sidebar: it’s amazing, based on the number of tweets and Facebook status updates, how many people don’t realize that our politicians exempted nearly all political and campaign activity from the no-call list.  The calls are perfectly legal.  Some states have a few restrictions on robo-calls, and Indiana and Wyoming prohibit them altogether.

So, when I was chomping down my chicken breast and salad Monday at 6:15 PM and the phone rang, with a 608 area code displayed, I answered it.  I’ve learned not to answer any phone call from the 414 area code in the evening, because it’s invariably a political call.  When I answered the call, The Kathleen launched into her script – probably something about remembering to vote tomorrow – I don’t know, because I disconnected the call after about five words.

My bride said “who was that?”, and I said “Kathleen Falk, sealing her doom.  We won’t need to watch the election coverage tomorrow night.  She’s toast.”

And so she was.

(The Sheboygan Press holds the copyright on the photo at the top of this post.)


  1. Add to all that...her TV ads simply didn't portray her in a vigorous light. Her walk up the Capitol steps seemed tedious. In the closing still, she looked tired.

    So much work to be done...and the ad looked like she was mailing it in.

  2. And she re-sealed her doom by ending her public television debate with the statement that she wanted to be Wisconsin's "mom."

  3. Since we're rerunning elections, can we rerun Feingold/Johnson too?