As the general election draws near, IDGNet talks to political parties about using the internet in their campaigns. Each day we'll talk to a different party. First up is National.
The internet will change the face of political marketing as much if not more so than television did, according to the National Party director general Allan Johnston.
Johnston says political marketing is a very simple beast at heart.
"You have to identify the customer. You have to work out the best message for that customer and you have to find a cost-effective method of delivering that message to that customer. Technology provides the answer to all three of those issues."
Johnston says the party is putting a great deal of time and effort into what he describes as a "very powerful and valuable tool for us".
"It's the notion that consumer markets and media channels are fragmenting and when you fragment the market every individual is their own market segment."
National, like all political parties, has access to an electronic version of the electoral roll, which it uses to target its messages at specific voters.
"We want to target them in their own time, at their own convenience with information that interests them." Johnston says while person to person marketing isn't going to disappear and mass media is also important, we're seeing a growing awareness of the importance of the internet as a medium.
"I like to think of it as a 'new media' adding a third leg to the stool. I think the new media leg will get stronger as the mass media leg reduces."
Johnston says internet polling is one area National is very interested in.
"It's getting harder to get people to answer phone polls at home, and fewer people want to take part in focus groups, so internet polling is somewhere in between the two."
One of National's targets for its new-found technology bent is the estimated 250,000 New Zealanders living overseas.
"The internet is the perfect medium for getting in touch with them. Already we have made contact with National Party people living overseas and we're establishing virtual branches to stay in touch with them."
National is also interested in email and text messaging as powerful tools.
"I don't know if it's true or not, but I believe the day after the September 11 attacks, [British PM] Tony Blair sent out an email to a mailing list outlining what had happened and what the government's stance was. Imagine that, waking up to hear such terrible news and finding an email from the prime minister waiting for you. That's powerful stuff."
Johnston says most New Zealand political parties are of the "bizarre notion" that they stand for election every third year.
"This kind of immediacy and feedback means they can find out what people think all the time. They will be constantly assessed."