GOP Firm Counts on Big Data for Down-Ballot Races – Washington …

GOP Firm Counts on Big Data for Down-Ballot Races – Washington …

Patrick O’Connor


Voters in Miami, Fla., hold up signs as they walk to an early voting site to cast their ballots on Aug. 11, 2014, the first day of early voting for the Aug. 26 primaries and nonpartisan elections. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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One of the big questions that emerged from the 2012 White House race is whether down-ballot candidates running on shoestring budgets would ever have access to the same data and technology President Barack Obama used to target voters.

Increasingly, the answer is “yes.”

On Tuesday, Targeted Victory, a large Republican firm that specializes in digital outreach, plans to unveil a tool that allows candidates with smaller war chests to harness a scaled-down version of the same targeting technology Mr. Obama and other well-funded candidates use to run television ads in media markets across the country.

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Since the last election, operatives in both parties have developed technology comparable to what Mr. Obama’s re-election effort employed to buy television ads. These new platforms focus more on the quality of the audience and the costs to reach it than the same arbitrary measures campaigns have used for decades to blanket specific media markets or demographic groups.

Most of those tools are tailored to campaigns with the deepest pockets, the big statewide Senate or gubernatorial contests. Targeted Victory appears to be the first to address the needs of candidates with smaller media budgets, and others are expected to follow suit in a mad dash to get products to market before candidates finalize their media plans for the fall campaigns.

“The question coming out of 2012, when it comes to ‘Big Data’ is one of scale,” said Elizabeth Wilner, who oversees the Campaign Media Analysis Group for Kantar Media, which has announced a partnership with Targeted Victory. “There’s huge potential in down-ballot races.”

Tuesday’s announcement marks the latest twist in a quickly evolving world of American political consulting. Borrowing lessons and personnel from Silicon Valley, political operatives are figuring out how to harness big batches of data to upend the multi-billion dollar business of American politics. One goal is to spend candidates’ money more wisely now that Americans are trading live television for the Internet and previously recorded shows.

For years, candidates were forced to spend large sums on advertising to reach the small sliver of voters that can sway an election. These new data firms are trying to limit that waste by tailoring the media buy to the largest possible share of targeted voters.

Targeted Victory is not trying to supplant firms that already provide sophisticated television-targeting tools for the biggest races, but rather to give candidates with smaller budgets – including some that may not intend to buy TV ads – a chance to benefit from some of the same technologies pioneered by the $1 billion Obama re-election effort.

Now, a candidate willing to spend as little as $15,000 on a television ad – a pittance, in the current campaign environment – can reserve TV time with a few clicks of the mouse.

“This is where the market is moving,” said Zac Moffatt, who founded Targeted Victory in 2009 with Michael Beach. “We think this is the future of being more efficient.”

Targeted Victory is already a major player in the world of online advertising and fundraising, handling the digital outreach for 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. By wading into TV buying, the firm is giving candidates a chance to consolidate their media budget under one roof, allowing campaigns the chance to compare the costs and efficiency of reaching voters across multiple platforms.

This could dramatically change how campaigns spend money – and threaten the traditional media buyers, as well as other vendors who typically offer just one service.

“Our mission is to bring transparency to media buying through technology,” Mr. Beach said.

To do this, Targeted Victory has partnered with a number of major data providers from television-measurement firm Rentrak, consumer research giant Acxiom and the GOP’s two biggest data portals, i360 and Data Trust. These partnerships help ensure the online and TV ads reach the largest possible share of targeted voters for the lowest possible cost.

“Campaigns that are successful in 2014 and beyond will be driven by the intelligent use of data and their desire to, as efficiently as possible, allocate their resources,” said Chris Wilson, president of Rentrak, which collects information from set-top boxes to track millions of households’ TV viewing habits.


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GOP Firm Counts on Big Data for Down-Ballot Races – Washington …

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