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Shop Talk MICROTARGETING


they’re given. Across multiple campaigns, you’re going to get this nice field experiment mode. Then you say, “All right, let’s see if we can learn anything, and hopefully we’ll learn something important and be able to adapt what we do.”


Meyers: And convince anybody that you’ve actu- ally learned anything.


You’ve got to be able to deliver narrow messages, but also not get so focused that you’re looking at your own navel. Joel Rivlin


Rivlin: I think that the testing question, this is one of the advantages of being in a firm that does other stuff. We have a research and development budget that is mixed between the mail side and the analyt- ics side, and we do a fair bit of it. Even earlier this cycle, we did tests and some of it was subsidized through legalities that allowed us to learn what works and what doesn’t work. I think modeling has gotten to a place where people are comfort- able. The thing that’s dragging us back a little bit is the quality of the data. We can improve the model- ing. I think the next step is working out the effec- tiveness of programs.


Allen: Persuasion and GOTV is tough to test. Rivlin: Yes.


Meyers: I don’t know how you guys feel, but I’m frustrated trying to extend these tests that get done to all campaigns for all times. Somebody had touched on this earlier. “I’m going to run this cam- paign like a business.” There’s no business in the world that would spend $20 million to go from 47% market share in California guaranteed to 51% market share! There’s sort of this silliness to it.


C&E: Is there a concern that there isn’t enough po- licing of the industry? That’s why there is always such a thing with polling—when something goes wrong, everyone goes nuts because everything’s accepted as legitimate.


72 Campaigns & Elections | Canadian Edition


Rivlin: I think your reputation matters; it matters in everything in politics. It’s the same reason we down-sell a huge amount of time. The clients will come to us and ask us for x, y, and z. We’ll sell them x, and tell them to spend their y and z for voter contact, because they need to come back for more and for your reputation. They’ll see pretty quickly that certain things are harder to test, but if they are running any kind of ID program, they’re running things again. There is policing almost af- ter the fact, and, as with everything in this busi- ness, reputation and the people giving you recom- mendations are key.


Drechsler: Training that regional field director, who might be way down on the totem pole today but could rise above down the line—that’s where you’re building your reputation. Its standard prac- tice to be nice to people, to take their calls and walk them through it. There are times where some people get it better than others, and it’s frustrat- ing and you want to beat your head against the wall. On the flip side, occasionally you have people who come in and question everything, and it’s just one of the things you have to deal with. In some ways we police ourselves. There are some who claim they do microtargeting, and they don’t do microtargeting! I think that’s the most frustrating thing. You sit there and you pull your hair out, try- ing to go around and dispel that, but is it always the best use of your time? You think, “They won’t be around next cycle; we will be, because we’ve been doing this and we have a track record.”


Allen: There is enough money chasing things in politics that even people who aren’t very good at what they do manage to make a decent living sometimes. But there are hierarchies, and if you are successful and win things, people sort it out pretty quickly.


Meyers: Oddly, the lousy competitor is the one who scares us most—going out and selling real cut-rate stuff.


Drechsler: It’s tricky because you don’t want to outright trash them, because then you are trash- ing the people who hired them for making a bad decision. It’s a delicate walk through that minefield.


Meyers: Right, when we lost Bloomberg to you it was a little difficult; it was the only time we ever lost to another democratic firm. Had to cancel the summer home!


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