Political campaigns are combining online and offline data to form a detailed picture of prospective voters, and looking for clues that a voter might be swung by a well-targeted ad. Campaigns from both major political parties are hiring political advertising and consulting firms like Aristotle, CampaignGrid, RapLeaf, and TargetedVictory, all of which have amassed personal and political data on millions of people.
This data is gleaned from voting information in the public record--party affiliation, and how often the person has voted over the years.
Firms can combine that offline political data with other offline data such as real estate records, and then combine that with a subject's online activities, such as social network profiles, online shopping histories, contributions to charities and political causes, and articles read (the types of articles you read say a lot about your political leanings--whether you're pro-guns or pro-choice, say).
Political campaigns will spend more than ever before on advertising in the 2012 elections, according to a report from Borrell Associates, and they will spend far more on online advertising than in the past. Campaigns will spend a total of $9.8 billion (much of it Super PAC money) in 2012, up from $7 billion in 2008, and online advertising spending will rise to $160 million in 2012 from $22 million in 2008.
Still, online political advertising remains in its infancy. While TV will get 57 cents of each advertising dollar spent on 2012 campaigns, online advertising will get only 1.4 cents, the Borrell Associates report says.
Online Advertising 3.0
The online advertising business is powered by personal information. In fact, the industry is being defined by an arms race to develop both new ways to collect more (and more accurate) personal data and better methods to track and analyze people's online choices and behaviors.