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Google Now Allows Advertisers To Target Ads By Congressional District

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, August 3 2012

Google rolled out a new service this week that enables advertisers to target their audience specifically by congressional district.

The new functionality adds a level of granularity that isn't available through Facebook, and comes at a time when incumbent candidates and their challengers are dealing with newly-redrawn districts.

With so much talk about digital microtargeting by location, personal interests, age, and your buying habits, it's surprising in a sense that this most obvious and relevant way of targeting voters isn't already the norm. Both Facebook and Google have enabled ad-targeting by zip code in the past year, but not specifically by congressional district. But as Google's Jesse Friedman pointed out earlier this year, the process of redrawing the lines is relatively complicated, politically fraught, and has been subject to court challenges.

Digital media directors have long praised digital advertising for being a more cost-efficient tool than television as a method of targeting relevant voters -- this new service takes that concept to a new level thanks to information compiled by the mapping software company Azavea.

Google's new capability is part of its AdWords program. Political and issue-oriented campaigns can now focus their messages through Google's display, mobile and video ads within these specific congressional areas by specifying their district numbers within their advertising parameters.

The National Congressional Republican Committee has already started using the program to strategically target five congressional Democrats who voted on Wednesday against a bill that would extend expiring income tax cuts put in place in 2001 and 2003 by President George W. Bush.

The NRCC has bought YouTube pre-roll in the districts in which the Democrats are running for re-election. These ads supplement the television ads being run by the NRCC's political action committee.

The five Congressional Democrats are: Bruce Braley running to hold onto Iowa's 1st district; John Garamendi currently of California's 10th district, now running for the state's third district; Mike Michaud of Maine's 2nd district; Nick Rahall of West Virginia's 3rd district; and Betty Sutton of Ohio's 13th district, running for its redrawn 16th district.

"We love it -- any time you can be more specific, it benefits a political campaign," said the NRCC's Digital Director Gerrit Lansing in an interview. "We'll be using it constantly."

The NRCC so far has budgeted $10,000 for each district.

"We'll run until the buy runs out and then make a determination based on the analytics to keep going on not," Lansing said.

This post has been updated.

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