Well Behaved Targeting

Targeting Alert: Just in time for the 2020 Election, a key buying tool in online advertising – tracking the behavior of Internet users – is coming under increasing fire.

Political folks don’t spend a lot of time thinking about targeting other than by voter registration information. But voter targeting is a sub-set of “behavioral” targeting for several reasons.

The first is the one most often overlooked: Voter registration information contains a lot of what’s known as PII – personally identifying information. It’s not acceptable to use PII to target ads online across the ‘open web’. So large buying platforms use the behaviors associated with a group of voters on a target list to send them ads.

This has a bunch of what you might call dumb results. First, consumer behavior and voting behavior are often very different. We all know Democrats who shop like a Republicans. One even ran for president. Also, most online ad targeting relies on financial data – credit cards, mortgages, buying habits – and that means some populations can’t be easily found online.

Over reliance on targeting also means that competing campaigns go after the same sets of people. Result? Increased pricing. Second result? Lower bidders – even if they’re political ad buyers – loose out to corporate brand campaigns or deeper pocketed opponents. So, if you’re looking for women in November you’re up against Target, Safeway and Wal-mart (Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas).

Also, there’s some evidence that behavior targeting does’t work as promised. And its coming under increasing scrutiny in Europe as more stringent privacy regulation takes effect.

The sorest of the sore points in Europe: Real-time bidding and use of behavior information in tandem. Translation: the process by which most political advertising – which emphasizes low cost and voter targeting – is purchased.

It’s gotten to the point where Silicon Valley companies are calling for more oversight of the data sales business. And, control of consumer data is at the front and center of a series of legislative proposals Congress is contemplating, all of which is going to change how voter lists are handled.

The conventional wisdom says no substantial legislation on privacy or any other ‘big’ topic will pass Congress this year. But this isn’t a political climate where conventional wisdom endures. Regular readers know Spot-On has always had a jaundiced view of voter and behavioral targeting for political outreach so we’re prepared for what we think are inevitable changes in the law.

Question is: Are you? As we look ahead, Spot-On sees a more complex market for online ad buying.

That’s why Spot-On’s working on a solution. Our Pinpoint Placement platform is built on a database of more than 2700 local news sites across the country. They’re divided up by Congressional and state districts, searchable by zip code. We’ll offer automated direct buying, real time campaign reporting and a host of other features.

Want a seak peek demo? Send an email.

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