Obama 2012 And The Future Of Media Buying

2012-01-26_1327587338This is an awfully long article to slog through, but it was from the NYT Magazine, so I guess the long form is understandable.

The callout on the article “The Obama Campaign’s Digital Masterminds Cash In” is mostly true to form – focusing on the people and personalities involved – but somewhere around page 5 (can’t believe I got that far) it grabbed my interest.

Behavioral TV Ad Buying; It’s Time to Ditch Demographics

The Obama campaign used social data to guide their media buying.  They had a list of 15 MM persuadable voters (culled from FB and other sources) and a plan to focus on putting messages in front of those 15 MM people at the lowest possible cost.

They did not do this with demographics.  They did it with behavioral data.  They crossed the “persuadable voter list” with actual viewing data sourced from set-top box data provider Rentrak who had lots and lots of individual level viewing data.  (For instance, Rentrak had 100,000 people in its Denver sample, some 20,000 of whom were on the Obama list; Nielsen had a total of 600 people in Denver.)

They crossed these two data sources using a third-party to “anonymize” the data, avoiding privacy concerns.  The output guided them to buying micro-targeted ads – think “Judge Joe Brown” in the middle of the afternoon instead of the evening news.  The Obama campaign ran twice as many cable ads on more that twice as many channels as the Romney campaign did.  Over 566k ads on more than 100 cable channels.

Remember the key driver for this optimization – observed behavior – not demographics.  They identified 15 MM persuadable voters (mostly via Facebook) and then figured out exactly which TV shows those people watched.

Implications for marketers are obvious.  The technology is available for behavioral segmentation (persuadable voters) and targeting (what shows they actually watch) right now.  All marketers will be doing this within 10 years, but who will do it now to drive competitive advantage?

@tomob

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