C&E: Was there a revelation or a technological advance that lead to the ability to “microtarget?”
Beach: From the political side, when we were working in the 2007 – 2008 cycle, the big story was about how small budget allocation was going into online advertising. Direct mail and cable ads were dominating the budget [for campaigns]. At the end of the day, the committee side decided there was no online product that met our needs. We needed a persuadable audience to move the numbers, and we were running display ads on [Erick Erickson’s community-generated blog] Red State.com, which his just preaching to your base.
Monfried: The first thing [for microtargeting] is identifying your audience geographically and locally; getting a focused audience to target and getting concise and focused information on that target audience. There are three pieces to that audience; one is age, gender and location. Second is what interests do they have? What is in their profile or what key words do they use? Someone who types in “football” and lives in Iowa is a sports fan from Iowa. Then we find who they are. Are they a blogger, or a commentator? There are a number of ways to do it and by finding a logical way to group all three [categories], we have an active audience receptive to advertising.
Porres: One layer that we have at our disposal is the survey. Embedded within our ad infrastructure is the ability to survey anyone we see and ask questions that the answers of which can augment a profile. We may ask survey questions which could be topical about healthcare, the upcoming primary or any topic you can think of. We can survey a constituency and the data that comes back helps us to build and expand audiences at a sufficient scale so the team at Targeted Victory has some detail on how the message should be conveyed, in what format it should be conveyed and the combination of media, data, creative and intelligence that is informed by surveys. [We can find out] whether people are creating or sharing content. There are many companies that may do one or two pieces, but not the whole pie.
Monfried: That is a big distinction. We are very transparent about how we acquire that information and data and precisely how we are targeting that voter. We employ complete strictness of anonymity, [we share] no personally identifiable information. We are not identifying email addresses, home address or names – only age, gender and zip code.
C&E: What is some of the work you are doing with for the Marco Rubio and Dino Rossi for Senate campaigns?
Beach: Both those campaigns went up with ads after their [respective] primaries. Anytime they have gone up with an ad on television, we go up on the same day with what we call a rich media ad on the Lotame network. That is a big change from the past where that was not the thought process before; deploying both [ads] at the same time and using one to target the right audience. In the last four weeks, both of those campaigns have come out with three ads each. Each ad has been accompanied by a rich media unit to what we call the “persuasion and mobilization” audience. If you are looking at a budget for direct mail, television ads, et cetera, we put [targeted rich media ads] in the same terminology so you can compare each side by side.
C&E: What is the Audience Targeting Platform?
Porres: Just to back up a bit, Lotame is a marketing technology firm. We are able to deliver advertising to constituents and consumers to define a mobilization audience. The Audience Targeting Platform is a technology platform specifically activated for political advertising. We have done literally months of survey work in the field to know how we create the audience we create to deliver for campaigns, to create pre-campaign insights and, finally, results. It is at its core a piece of technology that combines survey data, audience data, media, creative, surveying and reporting all in one place to deliver results that candidates need to help them win seats.
Monfried: The information that we get is [captured and delivered] virtually in real time. We get survey results within hours to help candidates deliver a message.
C&E: How narrow can you define the audience in order to deliver a targeted political message where it will have the most impact?
Monfried: It’s basically at the direction of our clients how narrow [a targeted filed can be] in terms of statistical significance. We like to keep it north of 50,000 members in an audience – anything less is tough. We do not target the individual level, for example. If you get too granular in the dataset, it becomes almost irrelevant.
Porres: To add to the inside-baseball talk, there may be a “persuasion audience” of three million people, but we can break that audience down into segments. For example, one is geography plus survey [data]; one is geography plus survey plus interests. Those are the analytics that we employ. When you run an online ad campaign for a traditional web-publisher, most of the time you are launching that campaign for a single section [of an audience]. Even when working with an ad network, you are buying a channel, not clusters of an audience based on specific criteria to deliver a persuasion experience. It is not “launch, set and forget.” We are continuing to build on our knowledge-based, voter response survey data that we collect in campaigns to define what advertisements are seen and yield the results that campaigns are after. Of that audience segment of 50,000 people, that number will change over time. The whole audience changes over time, in fact, by virtue of what we learn over time.
C&E: How do you measure your impact versus the effects of an advertisement, developments on the campaign trail or simply the year we are in?
Beach: At the most basic level, it is being able to measure how much of your message got to the audience. Once you built this target cluster, you don’t have any way of measuring each person’s fit or what actions they took after [they were exposed to a message]. The basic [metric by which we measure performance] is “engagement cost;” what does it cost to get the user to engage and opt-in to the ad. Running an expandable ad, that is when a cursor runs over an ad and the ad expands over your browser window and a video plays, we consider that an engagement. That is the most basic thing that we try to measure and focus on that cost. Once we get beyond that, we are able to focus on other areas. You not only hope the person receives your message, but you hope they physically use that message.
Porres: To Michael’s point, time is a critically important variable. Something we are very proud of is that we are able to measure the time spent on advertising. Not just the time loaded, but if that voter took some form of action beyond viewership. One of the other pieces that we measure that we often deploy for campaigns; we look at voters, constituencies within these audience segments, in a controlled and exposed manner. So, for those not exposed to advertising at all we give a set of questions. For people who were exposed to advertising, we give the same set of questions. Then we measure a comparative lift from the exposed and the control group, and we can ask any question there and build statistical significance around voter intent – how likely are you to vote for candidate “X,” what is your opinion of issue “Y,” would you prefer midterm election outcome “Z.” What you want to see is the exposed group has a percentage lift higher than the control group. We pass that along to Target Victory.
C&E: Any final thoughts for our readers?
Porres: There are two things to leave with; I, too, have election experience online, going back to 2004 when I started a political agency that worked for Republican candidates. What we are seeing (and were happy to see it 6 years ahead) is that the internet has proven itself to be an effective persuasion medium for political campaigns. That is not something we could have said before.
Monfried: The ability to marry data and online video has been a game changer for the persuasion audience for the targeting that we have uncovered.
Beach: On top of all the measurements, you can reach an audience that is no longer watching television ads and deliver [an advertisement] to them, measure results, take [those results] back to the client and measure cost versus return. It has absolutely been a game change.
Andy Monfried is the leading voice for the power of social data, audience segmentation, and insight. Prior to founding Lotame, Andy was responsible for building the New York office of Advertising.com (now Platform-A). Through his leadership efforts, he and his staff generated over $100 million in advertising revenue within five years. In 2004, Advertising.com was acquired by America Online for $435 million. Andy is an active investor and adviser to many Internet start-ups. He is also a husband, father or two, and junior basketball coach. Andy graduated from the University of Bridgeport.
Michael Beach is a founder of Targeted Victory. Prior to joining Targeted Victory, he served as the National Victory Director for the Republican National Committee. In his role, Michael oversaw a 50-state voter turnout program for the 2007-08 election cycles. Prior to that, he served as the Political Director for the Nevada Republican Party during the 2006 campaign cycle. Before joining the Nevada Republican Party, Michael was at the Ohio Republican Party during the 2004 campaign cycle in the 72 Hour Department. He attended undergraduate at the Ohio State University where he earned a bachelors’ degree in both Economics and Political Science.
Eric Porres is a digital marketing veteran and educator for the industry. He leads Lotame’s marketing team to explain, position, and demonstrate why the segmentation and activation of audience data revolutionizes their approach to online marketing. His extensive experience and deep expertise across the ecosystem helps him and the team generate marketing insights and guidance for its clients. Eric previously was a founding partner of Underscore Marketing, a fully independent, full-service digital media agency launched in 2002. He helped build the team into a recognized Inc 5000 company and expand its presence internationally. Eric is also one of the founders of Pericles Consulting, an online political marketing firm that developed and executed online marketing programs for Presidential and Senatorial campaigns across the country. Eric graduated from Duke University.
Noah Rothman is the online editor at C&E. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org