Campaigns mine online data to target voters

By BETH FOUHY Associated Press

NEW YORK—Voters who click on President Barack Obama’s campaign website are likely to start seeing display ads promoting his re-election bid on their Facebook pages and other sites they visit. Voters searching Google for information about Mitt Romney may notice a 15-second ad promoting the Republican presidential hopeful the next time they watch a video online.

The 2012 election could be decided by which campaign is best at exploiting voters’ Internet data.

The Romney and Obama campaigns are spending heavily on television ads and other traditional tools to convey their messages. But strategists say the most important breakthrough this year is the campaigns’ use of online data to raise money, share information and persuade supporters to vote. The practice, known as “microtargeting,” has been a staple of product marketing. Now it’s facing the greatest test of its political impact in the race for the White House.

“The story of this presidential campaign will be how both sides are using data and algorithms and personalization and math in their marketing,” said Adam Berke, president of the digital retargeting company AdRoll. “The promise and beauty of it is that it’s highly measurable—it’s easy to collect data and see what’s resonating and not resonating with voters.”

Campaigns have worked for years to target subsets of voters using commercially available demographic data, ZIP codes, shopping preferences and television viewing habits.

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