The Science Behind How Political Ads Target You

Rather than generic ads meant to reach everyone, campaigns are opting for targeted TV ads to zero in on those most likely to vote.

By Alain StephensOctober 27, 2015 2:24 pm

Have you ever had an advertisement pop up that’s just – so you? You could be watching TV at midnight and somehow they just knew you’d be interested in a Doritos Taco. Or maybe they knew you’d were jonesing for that brand new Ford F-150.

Companies aren’t the only ones who are able to tailor ads to specific audiences, politicos are now jumping into the mix. They say the strategy not only works better, but can also stretch the value of campaign dollars.

Carol Davidsen, who used to be a campaign staffer for President Obama, oversees political analytics for Rentrak, which culls data from the providers that can give information on TV and satellite devices and their behavior: what channels it’s on, how long it’s on and when someone changes the channel.

“There’s always going to be waste in TV buying,” she says, “but you can still figure out how to most cost-effectively get them, and waste the least amount of budget getting them.”

What you’ll hear in this segment:

-Why campaigns have adopted this strategy instead of trying to raise general awareness of the candidate or the issue

-How technology and analytics segment households for targeting

-What kinds of ads political campaigns can run on TV, based on the viewers’ likelihood to vote