Political Advertising: Targeting Voters Far Outstrips the Message

Targeting Voters Far Outstrips the Message If you consumed any media in the last week, you noticed the overwhelming barrage of political ads. Many of the campaigns set records for spending, and experts estimate that over $4B was spent in this year’s midterms. TV and radio stations loved the burst of income, even if it made their platforms intolerable. Social media and other forms of narrowcasting were also effected. But now comes a new report that targeting voters far outstrips the message.

Alex Lundry, co-founder of Deep Root Analytics recently shared that “our ability to target has far outstripped our ability to create. We do have too many options and not enough time.” It appears from other industry experts that the science of targeting has outstripped the art of messaging. The dynamic was described in a recent New York Times article.

Over the last decade, it is increasingly popular for politicians to not only target by sex, age and neighborhood, but also many of the voter’s habits – what you buy, what kind of a pet you have and where you work. But what do you say to suburban men who drive F150 pickups and shop at Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops every month? Which raises the question, why target, if you can’t deliver an intelligent message.

In my county, we faced a proposition that sought to limit oil development and production. Without getting into the details, the messages that were shouted were binary: If the proposition passes, the county loses tax money requiring it to lay off teachers and firefighters. If the proposition fails, big oil will drill in every square yard of the county. This was often summarized as “no environmentalist would ever vote no.”

At the heart of the proposition was fracking and what can and can’t be injected into a well to spur production. But as a voter who was paying attention, I never did figure out what could and couldn’t be inserted. There was no discussion of science on pros and cons. No one even encouraged I watch Promised Land.

The big data media folks claim the fault lies in messaging. I say they’re lazy. I don’t need a custom message, but rather I want information. Search my browser data and you will see I’m a theoretical – a learner.

Let’s use big data to target the right information, not a bubble headed message that has no explanation. American voters deserve more. Much more.


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