This year's presidential election has prompted plenty of advertisements that either promote or attack the candidates. Now an unexpected triumvirate -- Condé Nast, the League of Women Voters and Oldsmobile -- is producing a public awareness campaign that advertises the election itself and particularly encourages women to vote.
"In the last presidential election, 36 percent of the overall population voted -- the lowest it has been in a while," said Dr. Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins, the president of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters in Washington.
"But there were pockets of increase, and that is what was promising to us," she added. "We need to capitalize on that."
For example, she said, since the 1980 presidential election, women have made up the majority of voters.
With these statistics in mind, Oldsmobile is sponsoring parts of the league's national "Take a Friend to Vote" campaign, which will be created by Condé Nast and inserted into some of its magazines. The gist of the campaign, which the league estimated would cost $800,000, is to encourage women to take a friend to the ballot box on Election Day.
"Voting is something that Oldsmobile has taken as an important cause," said Cynthia Babcock, the divisional marketing communications manager at Oldsmobile in Detroit, a division of General Motors. And sponsoring an initiative intended to increase voter turnout among women allows Oldsmobile to increase awareness of its cars.
"Women for Oldsmobile have been important in the past because they account for 51 percent of new cars sold, and they influence more than 85 percent of purchase decisions," Ms. Babcock said.
The effort will begin on Monday, with Oldsmobile serving as a sponsor at the league's 80th-anniversary dinner, which includes an awards ceremony honoring leaders in government and commerce who are women.
The campaign will continue through the fall with the publication of a four-page supplement in the October and November issues of The New Yorker, Self, Vanity Fair and Women's Sports and Fitness, which have a combined readership of about 13 million.
The supplement, which carries the headline "Get Out of Neutral," features women like the actress Allison Janney of the NBC television show "The West Wing," the singer and songwriter Aimee Mann and the basketball player Sheryl Swoopes. Each woman is photographed casually beside her best friend -- the friend that she plans to take to the voting booth.
"The whole thing was to engage women and get them to take action," said Cara Deoul Perl, the vice president for creative marketing at Condé Nast in New York, a unit of Advance Publications. "At the end of the day, if you don't vote, you cannot impact it at all."
Ms. Deoul said the idea was "to make it very personal and fun," suggesting that by bringing a friend to the ballot box, women can "go vote and then go shopping."
"It can be boring waiting on line," she said.
The insert comes with two detachable postcards, featuring famous friends like Laverne and Shirley on the front, that women can mail to friends they want to vote. It states: "Join me at the ballot box and make your voice heard for our future. Let's start something together!"
The back of the insert will be created by the Chicago office of the Leo Burnett Company, which is part of the B Com3 Group, an Oldsmobile roster agency.
The campaign will also have a sweepstakes in which the winner will receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington for the inauguration.
As an online component, Condé Nast will create a Web site this fall at www.friend2vote.com, where visitors can obtain information about voting and politics and send electronic versions of the postcards to friends.
"The broader implication is that all citizens will get re-engaged and also be more excited about holding the elected officials accountable," Dr. Jefferson-Jenkins said, "because this doesn't just end when the election is over."
Allison Fass, The New York Times. June 13, 2000
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