Political Data Firms Boost Data-Driven TV Offerings

TargetSmart Links With Tru Optik, Data Trust Partners With FourthWall Media

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Hillary Clinton, shown at a campaign event on Aug. 11 in Warren, Michigan, aimed addressable TV ads to specific New York households during the primary season.
Hillary Clinton, shown at a campaign event on Aug. 11 in Warren, Michigan, aimed addressable TV ads to specific New York households during the primary season. Credit: Sean Proctor/Bloomberg
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Political data firms on both sides of the aisle have bolstered their addressable and data-driven TV capabilities. Today, Democratic data firm TargetSmart and Republican data outfit Data Trust each announced new partnerships with TV data providers. The outcome should be even more TV spots, especially from congressional campaigns, targeted to households of key voter segments than ever before.

Data Trust, the data firm that manages a national voter file for Republicans and right-leaning groups, has partnered with FourthWall Media to match FourthWall's cable viewership data to Data Trust's voter data. The result will be a feed of TV viewer data updated daily and matched against Data Trust's voting history and demographic data.

It was a year ago at the Democratic National Committee's summer meeting in Minneapolis when Democratic data firm TargetSmart Communications unveiled the addressable TV and digital ad-targeting capabilities it developed with data services firm Experian. Today, TargetSmart expanded its TV data offerings through a partnership with Tru Optik, which provides media consumption data for digital media and connected TV devices such as Roku, Xbox, and smart TVs.

The company also has TV data deals with Rentrak and D2 Media Sales, which is a partnership between DISH and DirecTV/AT&T.

"We're trying to get as many partnerships out there as possible," said Bill Russell, director of digital partnerships at TargetSmart.

These sorts of voter and TV data deals are bringing the targeting capabilities of online advertising to TV ad buys, which historically have resulted in some wasted spending for political campaigns that would do better to target ads to desired voter groups rather than those less likely to support their candidates.

The new approaches have grown in popularity following the 2012 election, when President Obama's re-election campaign famously employed innovative data-crunching methods for buying TV ads aimed at voters through programming rarely purchased by political advertisers.

By partnering with more and more TV data and media firms, political data companies are bringing what was once accessible only to large statewide or national campaigns to smaller, down-ballot candidates. Through such relationships, political advertisers can reach pre-defined voter segments, such as likely Democratic or Republican voters, or custom groups of voters.

During the primary season early this year, campaigns on the right and left used data-driven approaches to TV buying and targeting. Both Hillary Clinton and Democratic rival Bernie Sanders aimed addressable TV ads to specific New York households through ad services from Cablevision and D2 Media Sales.

In addition, GOP primary hopeful Ben Carson worked with political data newcomer Cambridge Analytica for its TV targeting.

Whether these deals will lead to a significant boost in addressable TV-related revenue for the partners -- up against traditional TV media buying firms who may still need convincing -- remains to be seen. At this stage, said Mr. Russell, while the Clinton camp is using addressable TV, he hasn't seen much activity from down-ballot campaigns yet.

"It's hard to say right now," he said. "There's definitely a lot of interest in it."

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Clarification: An earlier version of this story used the term "addressable" in reference to the Fourthwall Media/Data Trust Deal. The deal does not enable addressable TV targeting; rather, it allows buyers to target more specifically based on what targeted groups of voters are watching.