Politics and Public Opinion, Elections

More secrets behind Obama’s ‘Moneyball’ campaign: Targeting ‘TV Land’

U.S. President Barack Obama, who won a second term in office by defeating Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, waves as he addresses supporters during his election night victory rally in Chicago, November 7, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

U.S. President Barack Obama, who won a second term in office by defeating Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, waves as he addresses supporters during his election night victory rally in Chicago, November 7, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

I wrote in the Washington Post this week about Obama’s unprecedented data-mining effort, and here at AEI about the team of behavioral scientists he used to help craft effective get out the vote messages.

Now the New York Times reports on how Obama put that data and those messages to work in an unprecedented campaign advertising strategy:

Culling never-before-used data about viewing habits, and combining it with more personal information about the voters the campaign was trying to reach and persuade than was ever before available, the system allowed Mr. Obama’s team to direct advertising with a previously unheard-of level of efficiency, strategists from both sides agree….

Through its vast array of information collected via its e-mail list, Facebook and millions of door-to-door discussions conducted by volunteers in swing states — and fed into the campaign database — the campaign devised a ranking scale for voters ranging from likeliest to support Mr. Obama to least likely.

Then the advertising team worked backward to figure out what sorts of programs likely and undecided voters were liable to watch, and when. It did so using not only traditional Nielsen Media Research data but also newly available information from set-top cable boxes that gave a far more detailed sense of how the groups watched television, and, more important, commercials.

The answers led to advertising purchases that the campaign might not have made, especially as it pursued undecided voters who did not regularly go to traditional sources for news….

In the past, Mr. Margolis said, the campaign would have been less likely to advertise as much on a network like TV Land because it knew less about its audiences based on the information available to general commercial advertisers.

Advertisers generally buy programming in a standard set of demographic measurements. Those seeking to reach viewers ages 25 to 54 will place commercials in local news; those seeking to reach people over 65 will tend to buy advertising time on 7 p.m. shows like “Jeopardy!”; and those seeking to reach young upscale women ages 18 to 49 will direct their advertising to prime time shows like “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Political campaigns have tended to use the same categories, traditionally advertising most heavily in news and pre-prime-time game shows, where the most reliable voters can generally be found. Mr. Romney’s campaign largely did this until the final weeks of the race, when it increasingly relied on cable as well.

But by then, Mr. Obama’s campaign had been on cable for months, focusing on niche networks and programs that did not necessarily deliver large audiences but, as Mr. Grisolano put it, did provide the right ones

How were they able to collect the data and develop this strategy? It turns out the decision by the Romney campaign and Super PACs supporting him to sit out the summer not only allowed Obama to define Romney — it gave the Obama campaign time to prepare its unprecedented Fall advertising blitz. The Times reports:

Erik Smith, another senior [Obama] strategist, said a decision by “super PACS” supporting Mr. Romney to hold off on their first major anti-Obama advertising push until well after the primaries had given the team extra time to develop its system.

More evidence of the GOP’s “bag phone” approach to the election compared to Obama’s iPhone campaign. As Ken Goldstein of Kantar Media/CMAG told the Times “Future campaigns ignore the targeting strategy of the Obama campaign of 2012 at their peril.”

Before Republicans start remaking the party in the ideological mold of the Democrats, they might want to start remaking themselves in the technological mold of the Obama campaign.

3 thoughts on “More secrets behind Obama’s ‘Moneyball’ campaign: Targeting ‘TV Land’

  1. More of Mr. Theissen’s pathologies on display. Obama didn’t win because:

    1) His opponent was a selfish plutocrat who embodied every excess that caused us so much misery.

    2) His opponent changed his position depending who he was talking to.

    3) His opponent expressed hatred and contempt for nearly half the American populace

    4) His opponent told Hispanics to get lost

    5) His opponent wouldn’t disassociate himself from racism and mysoginy of his surrogates

    Naah, the American people were tricked by this “data mining.”

    Sad, really.

  2. Even I could have told you that TV Land was a good buy for Obama. It indexes very high on “low income” and “not employed”, and very low on “educational attainment”. That would be the perfect Demo for Democrats, but probably not for Romney. Romney probably also passed up BET.

  3. This is such nonsense. Romney lost because he couldn’t differentiate himself from Obama, and those who value liberty weren’t excited about going out to vote for an unknown Progressive like Romney. Republicans had an easy victory and they blew it by propping up another big government Progressive like McCain.

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