Targeting The Individual: Political Orgs That Use Advanced Advertising Techniques

political-dataThe rules of marketing have changed drastically for organizations that traditionally relied heavily on the big broadcast buy. Consider political campaigns, which are placing a growing premium on targeted messaging across multiple channels.

The tech-savvy campaign that President Barack Obama’s aides unleashed six years ago was only the beginning – employing digital strategies is quickly becoming a differentiating point in the political arena.

In a show of bipartisanship, agencies on the opposite aisle recognize the shift.

“(Content consumption) behaviors are changing,” said Zac Moffatt, co-founder of the digital agency Targeted Victory. He left the company briefly in 2011 to serve as Mitt Romney’s digital director during the primary and general elections. “With television, for the first time ever, now 50% of viewers are watching television online. You still have broadcast, but you have broadcast cable, broadcast cable online.”

Consequently, agencies that service political organizations are looking to expand their horizons. Case in point, Targeted Victory recently integrated its ad tech with community organization platform NationBuilder, a move designed to reach specific audiences via geotargeting or voter data through display ads, preroll video and Facebook Exchange.

Mobile is another hot area. Marketing agency Revolution Messaging, which serves the political and nonprofit sector, has seen an increasing demand from organizations looking for help targeting constituents through mobile advertising.

The company managed an average of $3 million in digital ad spend last year and expects that amount to reach approximately $7 million this year, said Keegan Goudiss, a partner at Revolution Messaging.

“More and more people are realizing that digital advertising, particularly mobile, is an important tactic in politics and more people are asking us to work with them,” Goudiss said. Revolution Messaging uses Moasis, a geotargeting platform provider, to help boost its ad-targeting capabilities.

With its Geo-Grid platform, Moasis analyzes the location data, IP addresses, mobile behavioral data and other data points from smartphones to identify the ad impressions in which Campaign Grid has indicated interest. From there, Moasis bids on those impressions to serve targeted to users who cross a geofence.

The women’s rights organization UltraViolet, for example, asked Revolution Messaging to deliver mobile display ads urging Reebok to terminate its partnership with rapper Rick Ross after he released a song with controversial lyrics that reportedly condoned sexual assault.

The ads were aimed at employees at Reebok’s headquarters in Canton, Mass. (Moasis estimated that mobile devices that repeatedly appeared within Reebok’s headquarters belonged to employees.)

Reebok subsequently dropped the partnership with Rick Ross. Click-through rates and app downloads are the most common type of success metrics that clients look for, according to Goudiss.

Moasis also enables Revolution Messaging to add a third-party layer of demographic or behavioral information from data providers like Experian, Polk, Factual and Esri.

Combined with its own voter profile data, Revolution Messaging can deliver ads aimed at specific demographic groups, Goudiss explained. “Moasis can help us target Hispanic voters during the midterm elections, for example, which we’ll be doing later this year,” he said.

These targeting elements have become increasingly precise. Targeted Victory has a relationship with data-management platform provider Lotame, which it uses to help build out audiences. It begins with the voter file, which records how often constituents voted in the past.

“Once you get the base file, you’re updating multiple times of day based on how people are behaving, using machine learning as you’re going through (the data). These are things you go through in real time,” Moffatt said. “Television is one instrument that saturates everyone to talk to the 11% you really want to hit. If you’re going after single women in northern Virginia who are undecided, that’s a model we can build out pretty quickly.”

Ad platform Campaign Grid has a version of the standard voter file, enhanced with third-party data elements, which it calls the National Online Voter File. One application: Advertisers can create cookie-based display ads.

To extend reach into mobile, Campaign Grid turned to mobile ad firm Amobee, which offers a cross-device matching technology. “It takes a lot of work to find voters on mobile devices and it’s a completely different process from the desktop, so we’re excited to work with Amobee,” said Campaign Grid President Jordan Lieberman.

Amobee estimates which mobile devices and desktop PCs are being used by the same person based on IP addresses and geolocation data that is matched with an anonymized device ID such as Apple’s IDFA or the Android ID.

“Then we take the resulting data and send it to Neustar, which has targeting data on hundreds of millions of households of consumers and we’re able to match that with Campaign Grid’s voter data,” said Dakota Sullivan, SVP of the Americas at Amobee.

Amobee allows Campaign Grid’s clients to bid on impressions through its demand-side platform (DSP), which includes targeting techniques such as the preferred language of the mobile user, which is key for voter campaigns, Lieberman noted.

“The language capability is particularly important to us in politics since there’s a large fear of running a campaign in the wrong language,” he said. “For example, in California, we might create two sets of ads for a congressional primary in the Bay Area, which has a very large Hispanic population.”

Through its partnership with Amobee, Campaign Grid can send ads to 70 million registered voters with video and display ads on mobile browsers and apps on their smartphones and tablets.

Clients can target constituents based on voting behavior such as party affiliation, voting history, geography and other data points. Campaign Grid’s first campaign with Amobee is a live, open-seat congressional campaign that is sending targeted display ads to Republicans who have voted in two of the last four primary elections. Lieberman declined to name the candidate or the district. Campaign Grid was formed in a partnership with the Republican Party, but is expanding its client base.

The majority of Campaign Grid’s mobile ads are text-based banner ads, but clients are increasingly asking for video capabilities, Lieberman added.

“Advertisers want to target people through video on mobile because they see it as a more engaging way to interact with people,” he said. “And there’s a lot more inventory coming into the exchanges and DSPs that are rich media and video enabled, so we’ll be doing more in that area.”

Campaign Grid will be using common metrics such as view-through rates and completion rates that are used to measure video, but few benchmarks exist for voter-targeted video mobile ads. In addition, the concept of mobile advertising is relatively new to the political space, and precedents are still being set in terms of what is an acceptable targeted ad, Lieberman noted.

“Because mobile is a personal way to communicate with someone, the big test with political clients is what level of personalization are voters comfortable with and where do you draw that line?” he said. “We’re still figuring that out ourselves.”

Ryan Joe contributed.

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