Web-based political ads: Why they scare the Obama and Romney campaigns

by - April 27, 2012

But even if campaigns have finally acquired the technical capacity to target Web ads with the precision of mail or a door-do-door canvass, they are not using it that way. While political advertisers can specify which 100,000 individual voters they would like to reach, only a small fraction of those voters maintain a large enough online footprint to actually be targeted. If they wanted to, the campaigns could learn which of their 100,000 targets actually saw their ads, and which didn’t. But spooked by a furor over online data collection by consumer advertisers, major political players are voluntarily refusing that information. As a result, online targeting is lagging in efficiency behind more traditional methods: A campaign manager knows the names of targets who were unreachable by a phone vendor’s call centers, and can send them an extra mailer instead. He gets a list of which doors went unknocked upon by his canvassers so the voters living there can be targeted to receive robocalls. But political advertisers have shut themselves off from the analogous online information: The Obama and Romney campaigns do not find out which voters were actually delivered their ads, according to those familiar with each campaign’s targeting practices.

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