Category Archives: Advertising

Using Data to Transform Elections

I’m at Netroots Nation 2012 (#nn12) and will liveblog as possible. The first panel I got to covered the data-driven transformation of American politics, whether that’s testing messaging, identifying groups of persuadable voters, and modernizing political advertising.

David Mermin of Lake Research Partners talks about testing messages.

Traditionally, we do dial testing of targets while watching a video. The viewer toggles a dial up and down over thirty seconds, and we get a nice line graph of their reactions.

Now we have Internet surveys, visual stimuli, and other methods. But public polls online have sample issues — weighting and demographic matching still doesn’t always account for online demographics. Mapping to voter files is a challenge, as well as district boundaries. But unlike phone surveys, you can be interactive.

You can simulate a ballot, and see where people have trouble with the design. (see also

You can ask people to highlight the parts of messages they like, and create a paragraph of talking points where the key phrases that resonated with voters are larger fonts, like in a tag cloud.

And then there’s online dial testing, where you can see how the base, persuadable, shifters, and opposition each trend in their reception of your message. In this case, you can view not only how each group responds to the message, but also the gaps between groups, which you might actually seek.

Who’s persuadable?

Polling has always been concerned with identifying the persuadable voters, but there are new tools for getting answers to whose mind can be changed and which messages are effective.

Are weak partisans more partisan than independent leaners?
They tested attitude consistency from 2008-2010 on attitudes towards Obama, the NRA, and other hot-button issues. They found that independents who lean Democrat are actually more progressive on a whole range of issues than people who identify themselves as weak Democrats. The same holds true for Republicans. [Could the answer to this be that this group of independents who lean towards one side aren’t, in fact, centrists, but are actually to the left and right, respectively, of the parties?]

Iterative mail testing for the AFL-CIO
They measured the persuasion effect of mailers in 2010 and tested the targets their model predicted versus those the model predicted, and tripled the efficacy of their communications (and mail is expensive). Many of our assumptions don’t actually play out when we look at empirical tests.

Once we have data, what can we do with it?

David Radloff with Clarity Campaign Labs, formerly with ISSI:

There are a lot of terms buzzing about these days – modeling, microtargeting, statistical analysis. But a model is just a statistical tool that gives a probability for each voter’s likelihood of taking an action, voting a certain way, support an issue, and so on. Common types of models include turnout and ballot return dates and the likelihood that the person is a progressive activist.

We’ve been carving universes of voters from the voter file for a long time now. We have many pieces of data about voters – age, race, marital status, voter registration status, where they live past information from previous campaigns, and now, thousands of consumer fields augmenting the existing file. No one uses these fields individually, but rather as parts of complex models that create likelihood scores for each voter.

It’s a three step process:
1. Training data is collected from a poll or previous turnout data or other sources
2. Algorithms are applied to find patterns, usually based on
3. Score the voter file

Once you have the counts, you run them against a turnout model, which projects likelihood of turnout and likelihood of being a Democrat and cross them and see where they meet and talk to those groups. It becomes a fairly easy tool to aggregate large amounts of data you weren’t otherwise able to take into account.

So far, the empirical research has found that it’s really hard to guess, and it usually requires testing for each issue and each campaign. Conventional wisdom is something consultants tell you because they feel like they need to have an answer.

Persuasion targeting best practices

  • Cross-pressured voters
  • base education or low information models
  • intra-survey message test models
  • experiment-informed-program models

Targeted Political Advertising

Tim Lim (@PrecisionNet @limowitz):

Tim starts by illustrating the waste that’s happening in online political advertising. The total Democratic vote is much smaller than the US population, voting eligible population, and actual turnout groups.

Innovation in online advertising happens in the commerical sector. Between 15-20% of commercial media budgets are spent online. In the political world, it’s even less, and amongst Democrats, only 5% or lower.

Online advertising is effective. 2% of time spent viewing video online is spent viewing ads, while with television, 25% of your time is watching ads. This leads to better recall amongst targets in the online environment.

Most political advertising is still done primitively, through site-by-site ad buys and vendor-by-vendor deals. Measurement of ads is poor.

Precision takes the voter file, overlays third party data, does precision matching, and serves up ads.

Targeting options range from electoral information (voter ID, party, voting frequency), demographic, economic (including donor history and occupation) and behavioral (online / offline purchases, content subscriptions, online browsing habits, and browser language settings).

They also do custom list matching, so you can target ads on your existing supporters list. It’s a shift from buying media on specific websites to buying media to reach specific people.

aCPM is the actual CPM it takes to reach your target audience. Advertising on mainstream sites like CNN, HuffPo, and others costs more because only 20% of site visitors might be in your target group.

David Radoff: The exciting thing is merging all of these fields together.

Old Spice Guy chats with his creator at #ROFLcon

Craig Allen: one of the two writers of the Old Spice campaign, is here to tell us about its origins.

Old Spice Guy himself, Isaiah Mustafa, was supposed to be here but is currently busy using his biceps as a dam to prevent a flood from wiping out a small village, but has recorded a personal message for ROFLcon.

Craig worked at TBWA Chiat/ Day on Skittles, Starburst, Vodka, and other things that are bad for you. So he went to Wieden+Kennedy to work on Nike and Old Spice and drink free Coke. They have a terrifying collection of former Old Spice props.

The original storyboards show a white guy on horseback, before they casted Isaiah. There was a lot of debate about whether Old Spice Guy should have a girlfriend, and if so, should he have multiple girlfriends. Wieden+Kennedy disagreed with Procter and Gamble on this matter.

Craig has predicted our questions for us and prepared answers in advance.

Isaiah is currently single.

Also, they nearly killed him on every shoot. The studio bathroom is very heavy, and was built on top of a boat, and collapsed during one shoot, which fortunately, occurred before Isaiah was famous.

The first commercial required 63 takes over 3 days. Fortunately, Isaiah is flawless, which is good, because everything else that could go wrong did go wrong.

Like the rest of us, creative types at Wieden+Kennedy spend 99% of their day in pointless meetings. In his little concepting time, Craig plays around online at ESPN and celebrity sites. He says concepting is pretty depressing act of sitting in a room fighting over ideas and generally hating each other.

The perks of having come up with such a successful campaign are many: Craig gets to travel to cool places, ride rollercoasters, and get away with stranger ad campaigns. They got Grover to model in a spot, Smell Like a Monster.

He also got to ride motorcycles with Fabio. Fabio owns a LOT of motorcycles.

On the downside, they shoot spots over Christmas. “The only people making money off this are Procter & Gamble and Isaiah.

No, you can’t intentionally make something viral.

Isaiah Mustafa Skypes in!

Client approval on the live responses: The client wasn’t exactly thrilled about not having approval of the web videos before they went live. They gave a few simple rules: no dead animal jokes, no sex jokes. Then they’d call after watching a video that had gone live, because they were watching along at the same time as the public, and they’d say, “Hey, about that dead animal joke…that was very clearly prohibited.” And we’d say we had to run.

Is it Isaiah’s charm, or the script?
Isaiah: It’s all your writing, wordfather.
Craig: If I read the same script, no one would laugh. So let’s split it 50-50.

Has this changed Hollywood’s perception of you?
Isaiah, laughing: Well, there was no perception before, so it’s been positive for my career.

When’s the next commercial?
Craig: I legally can’t say.

We applaud Craig’s weird and extensive portfolio of Skittles commercials, including the one where the old man gets milked. “That one didn’t run as much.”

Can you turn these commercial characters into full-blown franchises? I’d like to see the Old Spice Guy team up with the Most Interesting Man in the World and explore the globe.
Apparently the Most Interesting Man in the World is super old, kind of a perv, and lives on a boat in Marina Del Ray.

Craig: People don’t mind being sold to if you’re truly entertaining them. That Jennifer Aniston thing that came out where she just drank water.

Did you actually sell more Old Spice to women?
Yes. I was astounded at the research. Apparently, we, as gentlemen, don’t buy our own body products. Especially when you’re married, your wife goes to the store, she smells the things, and she informs you how you’ll be swelling.

What scent do you wear?
Craig is a Denali man. Isaiah has to wear it or an alarm goes off. He has every flavor known to man.

What are the conceptual differences in copy written for men vs. women?
Women like to be complimented and told all of their finer qualities that we forget all too often. But guys wouldn’t watch that. So we disguised that in manly talk and jokes to get past guys’ radar. Isaiah is what women want their man to be, and men are happy to have him do it for them.

Things get personal and someone asks if Isaiah knows Craig’s wife (who’s fair game because we saw her sign into Skype). Craig tells the story of his wife having their baby while they were filming together.

What computer were you using in the Mantoclaus commercials?
It was like a box with orange buttons on it.

What are your favorite internet memes, beside yourself?
“I hide my wife and I hide my kids.”
[He’s singing tonight at 7!]

Has a celebrity ever freaked out when meeting Isaiah?
It happened this one night where I got invited to an Oscar party by Madonna and Demi Moore, because I did a PSA for Ashton Kutcher. I show up not knowing anybody. Chris Evans, Captain America comes up to me, and he’s cool enough to let me tag along with him for a while. So I just start walking up to people. I walk up to Forrest Whittaker and introduce myself. He looks at me kind of strange, so I go, “I do those Old Spice commercials,” and he goes, “WHOA!” and they recount the action. I go over to Josh Groban and tell him I used his dad’s voice a little for the character, and he’s equally astounded. So I feel really good about myself, start to walk outside, and this guy goes, “Young man, come here.” I turn around, and it’s Tom Hanks. I could have died right then.

Do you feel as if being a black man as the face of a large American brand has impacted the world of advertising?
Maybe a little. People are people nowadays. Terry Crews literally kicked the door down for me.

We ask him to say some lines in character. The crowd demands his shirt off. He checks with the Princess Leia cardboard cutout behind him, she approves, the shirt comes off. He recites the original spot’s monologue without blinking. Raucous applause follows.


sums up just about every energy drink’s marketing plan / advertising:

with the exception, of course, of my “favorite”, the commercial introducing Tab Energy drink, perhaps the most offensive-to-the-female-gender commercial I have ever viewed:

“because it takes a special kind of energy to be a woman” [images of girls shopping, dressing, eating, and getting into car with boy]

Reese’s Releases

reeses.jpgReese’s needs to learn to love itself for the way it is.

I understand that capitalism pretty much dictates that companies must endlessly increase sales, and this translates to continuously messing with classic products. This is why when you go to buy toothpaste it takes 45 minutes and two copies of Consumer Reports to decide. See, for example, Oreos. Now, granted, innovation has led to undeniably remarkable new products: Double Stuff, Halloween, and mini Oreos being good examples. But look also at the dilution of the brand: The Clorox-colored Spring collection, the bland peanut butter variety (and I’m normally a big fan of all things peanut butter), and congealed Oreo cheesecake.

But no brand has engaged in as many pointless variations of its base than Reese’s. They realized long ago, probably in the years following ET, that little more could be done with Reese’s Pieces (although the M&M forays into other fillings should serve as inspiration), so they turned to bastardizations of what can best be described as peanut butter Kit Kats. As I drove past a billboard for a Reese’s peanut butter cappuccino a couple of weeks ago, I had to wonder, does this relentless product roll-out really work?

HERSHEY WILL RELY ON RAMPED-UP consumer marketing spending to bring it out of a slump this year. The nation’s largest candy maker yesterday reported a dismal fourth quarter due largely to aggressive trade promotion to clear out unsold merchandise



zima.jpgHoly crap. The last time Zima was available, I didn’t even understand the concept of alcohol.

But like everything else that was once mediocre, it’s been revived solely on the grounds of name recognition.

So if you’ve outgrown Sprite but aren’t quite ready for anything else, toss me the keys to the Zima.

The lemon-lime drink was part of the “clear craze” of the 1990s that produced products such as Crystal Pepsi and Clear Tab.


Thanks to CK for the heads up.