"Hillary Clinton siempre ha estado a nuestro lado," declares a Spanish language ad launched April 12 by the former New York Senator that is currently running in the New York City market.
The "Una Bandera" ad – or "One Flag" -- is just the sort of targeted message that addressable TV advertising was made for.
Though it is unclear whether the Clinton campaign is using addressable TV for that particular ad, both she and her Democratic rival Bernie Sanders are sending TV ads to New York voters through addressable TV ad services from Cablevision and D2 Media Sales, a partnership between DISH and DirecTV/AT&T. The services allow advertisers to serve ads directly to TVs in specific households over their set-top boxes. While this pricier form of TV buying accounts for just a portion of their overall TV budget, political media sources say addressable TV is on the rise this primary season.
"I would guess Hillary was targeting more African-Americans and Latinos that were Democratic primary voters and Bernie was targeting more youth," suggested Carol Davidsen, who helped develop President Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign's data-driven TV buying system and now serves as VP-political technology at TV data firm Rentrak.
"Both the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns have become very active in this area recently," said Jennifer Koester, senior VP-advanced advertising products and data analytics at Cablevision Media Sales, referring to addressable TV buys and ads purchased based on data modeling to determine what shows target audiences are watching. "They are both running addressable in portions of the NY DMA in our service area."
In order to aim addressable TV spots to those voters, the campaigns provide a list of the individual voters they want to target to Cablevision or satellite providers DirecTV and Dish. That list is matched against each provider's customer database and ads are served to the matching households. Because voter data includes actual names and addresses, the same information the TV providers have for billing purposes, they readily can match up the lists. In the case of the Clinton campaign's Spanish ad scenario, Spanish speakers may have been marked as such through various contacts with those voters, or the campaign could aim ads to voters with Hispanic surnames -- a less reliable approach to finding Spanish speakers.
The match rate for addressable ads is typically low, however. A campaign might find that just 10% of a list of thousands of voters in a district it wants to reach are matched depending on the coverage of the addressable TV provider.
Sources with the Clinton and Sanders campaigns did not respond to request to comment on the record for this story.
In the New York City area, Cablevision's coverage and capabilities make addressable TV especially appealing to advertisers such as political candidates. Along with less-pervasive providers including DirecTV and Dish, Cablevision allows advertisers to deliver household-targeted ads within live, linear TV rather than only in recorded or on-demand programming. Since Cablevision covers 2.6 million households in its New York service area -- primarily in the Bronx and Brooklyn -- that creates targeted impressions with the reach and frequency a political campaign needs just a few days before voting day.
A D2 spokesperson said the partners do not report household numbers in specific markets, but said D2 reaches more than 20 million households nationwide.
Not only would New York be a prized win for either Ms. Clinton or Mr. Sanders, the state holds closed primaries, so only voters registered with a party can vote in that party's primary. "Just for targeting reasons there's no reason to hit independent households," said Ms. Davidsen. "It's a clear case why micro-targeting is important."
An April 13 Real Clear Politics polling average shows Mr. Sanders trails Ms. Clinton among New York voters 52.6% to 39.3%.
While addressable advertising could cost as much as 10 times that of other TV buys, "The promise of addressable is I know I'm going to get these households," said a Democratic consultant who has worked with the Clinton campaign for its data-driven TV planning who asked not to be named in this story. "I think people forget how algebraic media buying is; what's my return on investment and what's my rate I can pay?"
Another plus for political campaigns using addressable ads is the ability to directly measure whether a voter whose household received the ad actually came out to vote. Political campaigns and parties have worked on ways to measure the results of advertising on voting for years now. An organization, for instance, might determine that an ad had an impact on turnout if voters in households that hadn't voted in recent elections went to the polls after being served an addressable spot.
"It's something that is important to do afterwards," said Chris Wilson, director of research and analytics for the Ted Cruz campaign. But it will take time before secretaries of state provide data showing who voted in the caucuses and primaries this year. "We can't do it yet even in Iowa; they haven't released that data," said Mr. Wilson of the earliest January caucus in the state.
Despite having an internal data staff and spending millions with outside analytics and media firm Cambridge Analytica, it appears GOP hopeful Ted Cruz is not doing addressable TV targeting in New York. In fact, neither the Cruz campaign nor its super PAC Keep the Promise have bought any ads in New York according to media tracker Kantar Media's CMAG.
The Clinton campaign has spent $448,000 on cable ads and $773,000 on broadcast TV in the New York City market since the week of April 5, according to CMAG. The Sanders camp has spent more -- $1 million on cable and $1.4 million on broadcast. The research firm does not track how cable ads are targeted, so it's unclear what portion of the cable buys are addressable.
Most of the remaining presidential candidates -- notably Ms. Clinton, Mr. Sanders and Republican Ted Cruz -- work with data and analytics consultants and internal staff who have developed data models that help them determine which voter groups and areas are most important for them to contact in each state. By now, those campaigns have assigned a score to each voter in New York rating their likelihood to support a given candidate or likelihood to vote in the state's April 19 primary.
According to the New York Times, there were 4.3 million registered voters in New York City in 2013.
"The New York media market is one of the few media markets in the country where you have direct addressable TV advertising to a specific voter household in linear television…because Cablevision is actually a cable provider that is at the forefront of addressability," said Alex Lundry, co-founder of Republican data firm Deep Roots Analytics who ran the data team for Jeb Bush's now-defunct campaign.
While household-level targeting is tailor-made for an ad such as the Clinton campaign's "Una Bandera" spot, most political campaigns are not using addressable advertising for customized ads with messages created for niche voter segments. Rather, addressable ads usually are employed to grab more impressions among a targeted audience for the same spots purchased other ways.
In the 2016 election cycle there's been an increase in the amount of campaigns building data models and the amount of data partnerships with addressable TV ad providers, said the unnamed Democratic consultant. "You're going to see a lot more spending on addressable in 2016 than there was in 2012."