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that would be how a lot of people on the ground interact with those scores, and it’s interesting. In 2008, I spent a lot of time trying to persuade peo- ple that this dark magic was actually not so scary and was accessible and they should trust it. Micro- targeters aren’t the wizard of Oz. [laughter]

Drechsler: As Joel alluded to, a lot of it is dispelling myths of what microtargeting is. Some out there see it as magic, and some see it as bullshit.

Allen: The truth lies somewhere in between.

Drechsler: The Obama campaign’s success with microtargeting has made everybody in some way want it. Some people have very high expectations [that they’ll have the same result Obama did], which isn’t necessarily true. The campaigns that embrace microtargeting and run with it will have success. Those campaigns where they say, “We don’t need it,” without having an understanding of what it is, can be frustrating.

C&E: When you approach a client, what are some of the things you impress upon them? What is the education process?

Drechsler: The approach is different depending on budgets. The reality is, we can do programs as small as $10,000 or up to a half million. It really depends on what your objectives are. I think one of the best selling points is that it pays for itself.

Meyers: We try to walk through with clients on this idea of, “Is my campaign big enough for mar- ket targeting, or is it too small?” And then we try to say that it doesn’t really have anything to do with how big a district you are in; it has to do with how big your direct contact budget is.


you have a $30 million budget, and you’re going to spend $29.9 million of that on TV and the rest on market targeting, that doesn’t make any sense. Our general rule is that if the project is going to cost you 10% or less of your direct contact budget, then this isn’t an easy decision for you. If you’re in the 30 to 35% range, you’re probably at the point that you should just be looking to put more mail in the mailboxes.

C&E: Does it make your job difficult, figuring out what the other side is doing?

Meyers: We all have some idea what each other does, but we’re probably missing half of it or mis- interpreting half of it. There are certainly a few

The Obama campaign’s success with microtargeting has made everybody in some way want it. Andrew Drechsler

Allen: Nothing that anybody at this table does is reinventing the wheel in terms of analytics or modeling. The tools already exist. Building your analytical tool chest is fairly easy, especially since the user community always lags behind the state of the art in terms of what we can do with the data or the behavior of the data. We have to push the enve- lope incrementally, because if we try to throw three new tools at [clients], they will probably use none of them. When you do a big presidential level race or a top-tier senate race, you’ve got people who are presumably focusing a lot of time and energy on adoption.

Rivlin: I find that this conversation has to happen on two levels—that you have to have buy-in from the people who are signing the checks and order- ing the projects, but increasingly you also have to have buy-in from the people who are implement- ing it on the ground. In 2008, we ran projects where people would spend a lot of money and we would be in contact with the campaign folks, and some of the people on the ground didn’t know the scores existed or didn’t know how to use them and didn’t trust them. Field organizers are my favorite people in cam- paigns, but they have to know how to pull the list. They have to know what things are, what they can trust.

It’s very tempting to see a score on a

screen like it’s on tablets of stone. You know the reason those people have the jobs they have is that they get the local politics, they get where they

December 2010 | Campaigns & Elections 69

people that claim to do microtargeting, but you can just tell by the way they talk about it that it isn’t the same thing.

Rivlin: Part of the arms race isn’t so much work- ing out what weapons each person has as assuming the other side has the arms and making sure you’re muscled up so that when you go to battle, you’re not at a disadvantage.

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