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Personalised online ads for US voters

News, 11 November 2015

WASHINGTON: US voters in next year's presidential election can now be targeted with "laser-like" precision by political marketers, thanks to a tie up between ad tech business Xaxis and data analytics firm HaystaqDNA.

The latter holds predictive data on some 166m individuals – including party affiliation and their opinions on issues ranging from gun control to abortion – which has previously been used in offline campaigning tactics such as direct mail and door-to-door canvassing.

By taking that information and marrying it to its own data collected from online users, Xaxis is "opening up an entirely new level of sophistication for political marketers", according to CEO Brian Gleason.

"We haven't seen anyone else doing [online political targeting] with this level of granularity," he added.

The new tool offers more than 20 pre-built models predicting turnout, partisanship, ideology and positions on hot-button issues, with political advertisers able to reach relevant voters across display, mobile, online video, digital radio, connected TV and social media, The Drum reported.

Xaxis Politics, the new division housing the service, will tap into a fast-growing sector: a recent report from media firm Borrell Associates said that more than $1bn would be spent on digital marketing in the 2016 election campaign, up from just $158m in 2012.

The intervening four years has seen the constant development of digital advertising as ad tech has utilised consumer data to serve ads more accurately and, increasingly, in real time.

"Today, a marketer can send ads to very specific swaths of the population almost instantaneously, which is an enticing opportunity for campaign managers who may want to pounce on opponent miscues within minutes," the International Business Times noted.

A note of caution came from Kip Cassino, executive vice-president of Borrell Associates, who warned that online campaigns "could absolutely backfire" if targeting errors creep in and people are shown the wrong message. There is also a risk they could find tailored ads intrusive or creepy, the Financial Times reported.

Data sourced from Financial Times, Xaxis, International Business Times, The Drum; additional content by Warc staff