How Data and Micro-Targeting Won the 2012 Election for Obama

If Obama’s Presidential campaign in 2008 was defined by social media, then surely his successful 2012 re-election bid should be attributed to their use of data and micro-targeting.

Election night seemed to confound many of the pundits. Governor Romney appeared to put together a strong campaign with the polls leading into the final week suggesting a tight race. Romney won 60% of White voters. He in fact even won the independents vote. Yet he lost the key battleground States of Ohio, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Iowa, Colorado and Nevada … handing the sitting President a second term.

How did Obama win?

First, he delivered a well-orchestrated campaign of largely negative advertising targeting Romney, which served the purpose of suppressing voter turnout by traditionally Republican supporters.

Second, he mobilized key voter blocks to register early and vote. 18-24 year olds; African Americans; Latinos and single women in the key swing States. Voter turnout for these four key demographics was about 70% thereby giving him the numbers he needed to push him over the edge.

At the heart of these two strategies, was micro-targeting.

Micro-targeting is the ability to dissect in this case, the voter population in to narrow segments and customize messaging to them, both in on-the-ground activities and in the media.

Micro-targeting isn’t a new idea in politics or marketing for that matter. Karl Rove expertly exploited this in the successful Bush campaign in 2000 and 2004. But it was the sophistication and the scale of how they executed this strategy that in the end, proved the knock-out punch for the Democrats.

The Obama camp in preparing for this election, established a huge Analytics group that comprised of behavioral scientists, data technologists and mathematicians. They worked tirelessly to gather and interpret data to inform every part of the campaign. They built up a voter file that included voter history, demographic profiles, but also collected numerous other data points around interests … for example, did they give to charitable organizations or which magazines did they read to help them better understand who they were and better identify the group of‘persuadables‘ to target.

That data was able to be drilled down to zip codes, individual households and in many cases individuals within those households.

However it is how they deployed this data in activating their campaign that translated the insight they garnered into killer tactics for the Obama campaign.

Volunteers canvassing door to door or calling constituents were able to access these profiles via an app accessed on an iPad, iPhone or Android mobile device to provide an instant transcript to help them steer their conversations. They were also able to input new data from their conversation back into the database real time.

The profiles informed their direct and email fundraising efforts. They used issues such Obama’s support for gay marriage or Romney’s missteps in his portrayal of women to directly target more liberal and professional women on their database, with messages that “Obama is for women,” using that opportunity to solicit contributions to his campaign.

Micro-targeting helped them to steer their broadcast buying approach. While both campaigns followed conventional wisdom to buy spots in Local Broadcast news programming, Obama’s team differentiated their schedule by adding networks like TV Land whose viewers they determined “were less political” and therefore more likely to be a persuadable.

Even the selection of celebrity fundraisers were informed by the data. The team identified women 40-49 as the highest contributors to their campaign. Obama’s analytics team in crunching the numbers uncovered that Sara Jessica Parker of Sex in the City fame popped as the most appealing celebrity to this demographic and called her up to ask if she would host a fundraiser dinner for Obama in New York. Web ads and emails from Michelle Obama were sent targeting this group asking them to “chip in whatever they can” with a chance to win an invitation, hotel and flights to New York to attend the event.

As mentioned earlier, encouraging early voting and a higher turnout of key target groups was critical in winning the swing states. They used classic micro-targeting online advertising to reach those groups. Obama’s team’s use of Facebook this time was also very clever, tapping into Facebook’s individual profile data. A million users downloaded the Obama 2012 app on Facebook. The app was able to identify their Facebook friends that fit favorable profiles located in key swing states, encouraging them to contact these friends to remind them to vote. Sources say one in five of those contacted this way were influenced positively by this contact.

Marketers need to take heed of how the Obama campaign transformed their marketing approach centered around data. They demonstrated incredible discipline to capture data across multiple sources and then to inform every element of the marketing – direct to consumer, on the ground efforts, unpaid and paid media. Their ability to dissect potential prospects into narrow segments or even at an individual level and develop specific relevant messaging created highly persuasive communications. And finally their approach to tap their committed fans was hugely powerful. The Obama campaign provides a compelling case for companies to build their marketing expertise around big data and micro-targeting. How ready is your organization to do the same?



Who should lead communications planning?

By Antony Young, appeared in MediaPost on March 16, 2011.

Media used to be the last five minutes in the meeting.

In an era where creative ruled the roost, selling the big advertising idea was the stuff of legends. “Just Do It,” “Priceless,” “Where’s the Beef” … great slogans and great ads in a time where advertising and brands were more easily able to penetrate the consciousness of the consumer on mass. Today, we live in a more personalized and connected communications landscape that has blurred the lines between analog and digital; content and context; and audience and editor.

There are just so much more media and tactics that marketers have available at their disposal. As a result, agencies and clients have elevated the media agenda. And this is why communications planning is now a hot topic of discussion and was the subject of a panel I chaired at last weeks 4A’s Transformation 2011 conference.

Communications planning has become a fertile battleground for the media agencies. It is seen as a critical area to increase their value proposition to clients. Media buying and execution, while important, have become more commoditized, or at the very least, less differentiating.

Comms planning encapsulates the shift in role from delivering the creative message to exploiting media to creating more relevant, memorable and interactive occasions with the brand. It has become a chief ingredient to the integrated marketing communications recipe.

Speaking on the panel, Jacki Kelley, UM’s Worldwide CEO summed up this shift by describing communications planning as a more consumer-centric approach to planning media, describing it as “a holistic approach to understanding key behaviors that a consumer is taking in order to better connect with them and the brand.”

Communications planning isn’t just the domain of the media agencies.

Creative powerhouse, Goodby Silverstein & Partners has embraced the function for many years. Joshua Spanier, the agency’s director of communications strategy, believes that bringing together creative and communications planning strategy offers powerful synergy. He argues that the separation of creative and media was a set back for agencies.

A recent development we’ve seen is the interest in communications planning by the digital agencies, in part, due to them branching out beyond their digital realm. As the general agencies have digitized, many digital agencies are now massaging their positioning as more rounded communication agencies.

What they are able to bring is a heavier leaning on analytics, adding more rigor to the planning process. “The integration of previously disparate data-sets and tools are moving into one common language and currency that can break boundaries,” commented Scott Hagedorn, CEO of Annalect, who was previously CEO of PHD.

Founding partner of Naked Communications, Paul Woolmington argued that any agency that was tied to execution [presumably creative, media or digital agencies] couldn’t truly be media neutral … a critical criteria in developing a communications plan. He added that in his view “everything communicates” and therefore, marketers need to consider all their options rather than lean towards a particular channel.

While the panel couldn’t entirely agree on which agency should lead, they were all in agreement that clients ultimately were responsible for owning the communications strategy.

The panel felt that media owners can play an important role in communications planning. One considerable area is in helping them to better understand the latest consumer trends and how to engage their audiences. For example, what doesn’t MTV know about GenY? The editors at The Wall Street Journal know better than anyone else what’s keeping CEOs up at night.

UM’s Kelley candidly confessed: “One reason I came to the agency side of the business … is that I found – while being a seller – there are very rarely people at the agencies unlocking the insights that I could have provided.”

Spanier added that “content has gone beyond just advertising.” Access to co-branded content by media partners is proving a powerful strategy for some advertisers.

Communications planning is increasingly becoming a requisite discipline in the agency world. There remain contrary views on how it might be executed, and who should lead. But what appears clear is the need to provide a solution for clients to help deploy their budgets and navigate across the plethora of media channels and platforms.

Groping For Answers

-By Antony Young
Communications planning is a bit like early teen sex. A lot of curiosity, plenty of talk and possibly some experimentation, but rarely is it being practiced as regularly as it is being bragged about.

At best, communications planning is being offered up as an added value proposition by the major media agencies rather than being central to the agency’s offering. Yet there are strong signals that a shift is taking place that could have significant implications as to how agencies organize and structure their approach to their clients’ businesses.

Simply put, communications planning is a more strategic way of determining key media choices and connection strategies. It is about moving away from the science of delivering messages to audiences and toward the art of understanding how consumers receive and respond to communication. The starting point is the consumer, not the media channel or discipline. When practiced at its best, communications planning not only influences where a marketer’s creative will run, but also informs the creative, strategic and activation processes as well.

Fifteen years ago, there were fewer media channels, and marketers seemed prepared to accept that half of their advertising wasn’t working, because the other half was supporting a growing business base. Now, with the pressure on corporate earnings, companies are being forced to improve marketing’s productivity.

Communications planning is also increasingly becoming more important due to the impact of the Internet, both in terms of viable channels by which to talk to consumers and its ability to affect purchasing behavior and facilitate brand interaction. According to a survey by Netpop|U.S., four of the top six sources used for influencing purchase decisions are found online, with “browsing in retail stores” only slightly edging out search engines as the most important influencer.

Marketers are quickly feeling it’s uncomfortable to manage their mass advertising media channels separately from other specialist communication channel disciplines, in particular digital, but also in-store, sponsorship, marketing PR and trade efforts. Determining how those channels are integrated into the marketing communication effort is a core role of communications planning.

While U.S. marketers may not be asking for communications planning services by name yet, they’re increasingly asking their agencies for solutions to marketing problems that communications planning is uniquely suited to address. We are seeing a growing number of marketers putting a greater emphasis on strategy over execution. Strategy is about coming up with ways to not just make a brand relevant, but also to differentiate from its competition.

Communications planning has many facets, but it is first and foremost about setting a strategy that defines how you communicate your brand in ways that differ significantly from your competitors. For this reason alone, it could become the most important tool a CMO needs—and that an agency can offer. If you have the same strategy as a rival brand that’s spending more than you, you’ll find yourself lost in the clutter of sameness, a condition few marketers can afford in these challenging economic times.

Communications planning in the U.S. has often been packaged as media planning plus. It is rarely at the center of an agency’s proposition as most media agencies’ profits are derived from media buying. That is clearly an outdated model. There is also a need to change the mentality of agencies. Too often agencies (no matter which type) want to own the idea or lead the strategy. Profit centers and egos have inhibited integration and need to give way to collective ownership and partnership.

We are at an important crossroads. The agencies that will succeed are those that embrace a more integrated approach to client problem solving, as well as the added responsibility—and potential rewards—that it entails.

(Adapted from an article that appeared in Mediaweek)

‘Dexter’ vs. ‘True Blood’: The Battle of Two Killer Media Plan

Two shows whose marketing has stood out in recent years, however, don’t even have commercial time for marketers and their agencies to buy: Showtime’s “Dexter” and HBO’s “True Blood.”

Visa vs. MasterCard: Who’s on the Money?

The credit-card companies were presented with some challenges in 2009. First and foremost, the risk that their advertising is seen as encouraging reckless spending or increasing consumer debt; and secondly, being closely associated with the financial institutions seen as responsible for much the economy’s woes. So how did they handle their media campaigns while driving their business?

Panasonic vs. LG: Who Delivered the Sharper Image in Media?

Unit sales of digital TV sets in 2009 will reach nearly 35 million, up about 8% from 2008. The category is flooded by a multitude of Japanese, Korean, European and Chinese brands. While consumers are all too ready to compare side-by-side prices, technology and design, we like to think that marketing and promotion still helps influence brand choice. Panasonic and LG, two brands battling to pull out in front of the pack and compete with established market leaders Sony and Samsung, employed different media strategies. Let’s see how they did.