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Precision Network Targets Online Ads Against National Democratic Voter File

BY Nick Judd | Monday, May 21 2012

Democratic online operatives are pulling the curtain up on a series of recent agreements to sell online ad targeting services to progressive causes and campaigns.

Precision Network, a new political ad targeting company launched by Change.org alumnus Tim Lim, has announced a deal with NGP VAN that allows it to do more targeted online ad placement for progressive causes and campaigns. Precision takes voter file data from the National Voter File Co-op, an organization set up by state Democratic parties to keep a central, up-to-date voter file, removes personally identifiable information from the data, and matches it against a universe of about 350 million cookies placed on individual computers by a variety of ad exchanges and networks, said the company's founder, Tim Lim.

The end result is online ads targeted with a purported precision that has been discussed often already in this election cycle. After being used in the private sector for years, this type of ad targeting is now becoming more common in politics. Precision's Lim says he has signed up a number of congressional campaigns and labor organizations as clients. The company took its platform out of beta in February.

"We can target literally any attribute off the voter file," Lim told me today, "including voting frequency, early voter status, absentee voter status, gender, age, party affiliation, whatever is available right now on the NGP VAN voter file we're able to target off of."

Precision — and other companies like it — can cross-reference that data against the behavioral data ad networks keep about individual Internet users' browsing histories. This means Precision will buy ads on sites that users are more likely to visit and use tools like retargeting, which serves ads up to a user that relate to subject matter that user has already seen.

This deal also highlights a recent change in the political data industry. Before this year, people on the left working for organizations or candidates outside of the Democratic Party structure largely relied on a company called Catalist for voter data, while the Democratic National Committee kept another list in cooperation with state Democratic organizations. This state of play excluded some groups, like small nonprofits, that weren't dialed in to the state party or couldn't stand up their own state organization to pool the money for a list from Catalist.

Earlier this year, though, the software provider NGP VAN announced it struck a deal with the National Voter File Co-op to serve as the data broker for outside groups looking to gain access to that voter file. This makes a primary Democratic data source available to a wider group of allies.

Precision Network's deal with NGP VAN is also possible thanks to the co-op's increased flexibility, which comes as the Republican Party and its ideological fellow travelers also pay renewed attention to giving allied campaigns access to up-to-date intelligence about voters.