Targeted Victory Featured in Frontline Special "The Digital Campaign"

October 26, 2012 by Rebecca Heisler

Watch the full special here.

Targeted Victory was featured in a new Frontline special called The Digital Campaign.  The program looked at how the Presidential candidates are using digital to target and persuade voters. Frontline visited the Mitt Romney campaign headquarters in Boston and our office in Alexandria over the summer. Our co-founder and digital director for the Romney campaign Zac Moffatt explained to Frontline correspondent Hari Sreenivasan the importance of digital in the 2012 election.

For the Romney campaign, what we have determined [is] that if we only rely on national television, we will lose this election. This is the first time in presidential history that people take dollars out of television and move it online.  And so digital becomes a persuasion-mobilization effort, as opposed to historically just being list-building and fundraising.

Both Presidential campaigns have placed more emphasis on digital as it becomes a bigger part of our everyday lives. More voters are now spending a majority of their time online compared to watching TV or reading print media. These “off the grid” voters will determine the result of the election. Moffatt defined what makes a person an “off the grid” voter:

We define them by this term of people who we call time-shifters, people who don’t watch live television anymore.  Other than sports, they kind of─ they choose to live their lives on demand… They’re choosing when they consume their content, so that’s the big differential for them.

Instead of investing in television advertisements, the Presidential campaigns must focus on reaching “off the grid” voters through different digital mediums including: email, social media and online advertising.

Our study with SAY Media found that one third of voters are going “off the grid” and no longer watching live TV.

One way the Presidential campaigns are reaching “off the grid” voters is through new data collection software. The campaigns can use this software to select specific advertisements based on a person’s interests. Our co-founder Michael Beach explained how campaigns can target voters with specific types of information with tools such as Lotame‘s Crowd Control:

So you first run geographic.  It’s kind of your initial way to narrow down an audience.  And here, you know, we’re just going to run to Virginia… And then after that, it’s starting to get into what kind of medium are you trying to run.  Are you trying to reach people on desktop?  Are you trying to reach people on mobile, reach people on tablets?  And then that’s starting to get into demographic information to kind of narrow your target further.

The Romney campaign can use tools including Lotame‘s Crowd Control to target online advertisements based on demographics specific to different voters.

By using targeted online advertising, the Presidential campaigns can collect data on a voter’s interests and select the advertisement that corresponds to their interests. Not only can online advertisements be customized based on a voter’s interests, but also on the advertisement’s objective. Beach explained the importance of selecting an effective call to action:

There are a lot of data points available.  The challenge is for online to be effective for a campaign, it has to scale…But I think the idea is to definitely cut off as much waste as you can, and then really figure out the top objective of the ad, whether it’s to─ like you said, to mobilize or it’s just to persuade.

The digital campaign is an important part of the current election cycle and will continue to play a significant role in the future. More voters are going “off the grid” and the Presidential campaigns are investing more of their resources into digital instead of traditional TV and print advertisements.  Digital allows the Presidential campaigns to use new technology as a way to target people based on their interests and encourage them to volunteer, donate or attend campaign events. Thanks to digital, the Presidential campaigns are reaching voters more effectively and efficiently.