You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Obama Veterans Partner Up To Enable Long-Tail Media Campaigns

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Thursday, November 21 2013

This map from GMMB and Civis Analytics displays patterns of the percentages of uninsured populations in the U.S.

Two companies formed by veterans of both of President Obama's election campaigns announced Thursday that they're partnering up to provide other campaigns, corporations and non-profits the same targeted media services that they pioneered in 2012.

The Democratically-oriented GMMB advertising communications company is partnering with Civis Analytics to offer clients the same "Optimizer" tool that the Obama campaign used in 2012 to more efficiently target its television advertising and messaging.

The two companies have been using the system this year to target advertising at the uninsured on behalf of an undisclosed client. They've also worked with a national political committee. Dan Wagner, Civis Analytics' CEO, and Daniel Jester, GMMB's senior vice president and media director, said that they aren't free yet to disclose who these clients are. Jester bought and placed ads for Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaign, and Wagner was Obama 2012's chief analytics officer.

In their current healthcare-related work, the two companies have been looking at data on the uninsured, and combining that information with census data, as well as television viewing data from Rentrak, and online information to create targeted campaigns on television, radio, billboards, and online, Jester said.

"The place that we're trying to get to is that we're trying to serve multiple kinds of ads to multiple kinds of audiences, rather than have one ad blanketing one district," he said in an interview.

"For example, on the Obama campaign, in Shaker Heights (a suburb of) Cleveland, Ohio, we specifically targeted Jewish voters. We also had that in West Palm Beach, Florida," he said. "In Akron, we targeted Ford factory workers. The more data you have, the more you can serve out individual content that's really relevant to the consumer in a precise way."

All this data gathering and analysis is why the Obama campaign's ads in 2012 didn't always run against prime-time shows with massive audiences. Instead, they'd run against programming that the analysts had determined that the persuadable audience were specifically watching, such as the Family Channel, the Food Network, daytime television and the Hallmark Channel, for example, according to this detailed story on the Optimizer that ran in the Washington Post last year.

It also meant that the Obama campaign was advertising on 60 channels in one week of the campaign, compared to 18 for the same period for Mitt Romney's campaign.

This approach pretty much seems to adhere to former Wired magazine Editor Chris Anderson's marketing theory of the "Long Tail," which says that to be successful, businesses can't mass-market to bulk audiences anymore, but to a million different niches instead.

The Obama campaign was unique in that it had a lot of money to spend. The television viewing data that it used was expensive, and could be out of reach for smaller, more cash-strapped congressional campaigns.

In an interview, Wagner said that the partnership could help to defray those costs by buying the data in bulk, and using it more efficiently.

"We have so many different clients that we can help to scale this up easily across other clients with pretty competitive pricing," he said.

With the launch of the partnership, the 2014 mid-term elections should provide a fascinating laboratory to see how and if the innovations of the Obama campaign can be deployed on a smaller scale.

Civis won't be the only game in town. Other Obama 2012 veterans also formed a competing company called Blue Labs in Washington D.C. They recently worked for Virginia Governor Elect Terry McAuliffe.

Wagner said that for its part, his company specifically helps clients to define their audiences, understand what kinds of media they're consuming, and then to target them to "maximize reach, frequency and impact." The partners will also monitor the reaction to the ads, and provide its clients with tools to experiment to make sure that their buys are effective.

The two companies also rolled out this engrossing map, which lays out all the state and federal level political races for 2014, population density, ad rates for all the different media markets, voting patterns, and regional population health insurance status.

All great not only for politicos, but also great fodder for endless political articles.