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Obama Campaign's Former Digital Analytics Director Wants To Moneyball Your Campaign

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Wednesday, January 16 2013

President Obama's former campaign director of digital analytics Amelia Showalter launched a new consulting company in Washington, D.C. Tuesday. She hopes to deploy the skills she developed on the virtual trail to others down the ballot, as well as with causes that need to raise money and communicate with their constituents online.

During the 2012 election cycle, the Obama campaign refined the technique of applying statistical modeling and prediction to all aspects of political campaigning -- everything from measuring the effectiveness of e-mail fundraising to figuring out who the President's most influential supporters were on Twitter.

The campaign also raised an unprecedented $700 million, more than $500 million of which came through digital channels, the Obama campaign's former Digital Director Teddy Goff said in December. Those channels include email, social media, mobile phones and the campaign's Web site. What was even more remarkable was that almost half of those donors hadn't supported Obama financially in 2008.

Showalter declined to discuss the specifics of the Obama campaign's mechanics, but she said that one of the most surprising results of her team's constant testing was its decision to send out "ugly" e-mails with the text highlighted in yellow.

"We had tried to make the e-mails prettier, thinking that prettier would win, but prettier didn't win, so we said, alright, let's try to figure out how to make e-mails uglier," she recalled in a phone conversation. The digital analytics team discovered that donation levels increased significantly after they sent out those e-mails with the yellow highlighting.

Showalter was in charge of a team of 15 analysts on the presidential campaign. Nevertheless, she's flying solo in D.C., saying that she enjoys the relative leeway and freedom of being a consultant. (She had done the logistical legwork of establishing her consulting firm shortly before joining the Obama campaign, anyway.) She said that she's in the process of talking to some potential new clients, but wasn't ready to go public with any names.

Prior to working for Obama, Showalter did a brief stint for an organization called the Oregon Demography Project. There, she used a statistical method of testing risk and outcomes called Monte Carlo simulation to predict electoral outcomes for a redistricting analysis. Before that she worked for a couple of years as director of media strategies at Changing Targets Media, where she assessed the effectiveness of television advertising.

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