Cruz's Data Company Works Into the Night After Big $3 Million Payout

Cambridge Analytica Could Change Voter Segments in New Hampshire and Beyond

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Credit: Ted Cruz for President

The data company working closely with the Ted Cruz campaign is optimizing its data models nightly as the Texas Senator's staff transitions from Monday's Iowa caucuses to the New Hampshire primary just days away.

It's no wonder they're working into the night: The Cruz camp has paid the firm over $3 million so far.

"We're quickly turning around the models," said Alex Tayler, Cambridge Analytica's chief data officer. "In fact they're doing nightly updates to the models," he said of the team dedicated to the Cruz account. Based on specific issues, the company is helping refine "engagement strategies" for the campaign.

In Iowa, the London-based data firm helped the Cruz camp devise a variety of direct-mail pieces, digital ads including video spots, and customized scripts for volunteers to use while contacting voters placed in five distinct segments. The company has staff "embedded" with the Cruz campaign who were based in Iowa and presumably are in New Hampshire or en route there.

Cambridge Analytica has moved aggressively into the U.S. political market recently. New Federal Election Commission data analyzed by Ad Age shows the Cruz campaign paid the company around $3.05 million in 2015 through December for data-related services.

The firm also has worked with Ben Carson's campaign, dedicating separate staff and data systems to the candidate, who came in a distant fourth place in Iowa. Mr. Carson elicited raised eyebrows earlier this week when he announced he would suspend his campaign temporarily to retrieve "fresh clothes" back home in Florida.

Cambridge is working with the Carson camp "to a lesser extent" than the Cruz campaign, said Mr. Tayler.

Cambridge Analytica derives much of its personality data on online surveys which it conducts on an ongoing basis. For each political client, the firm narrows voter segments from 32 different personality styles it attributes to every adult in the U.S. People in Iowa may exhibit different personality styles from those in New Hampshire or other states, suggested Mr. Tayler.

That means there could be a different number of personality segments targeted by the Cruz camp in New Hampshire. The personality data informs the tone of the language used in ad messages or voter contact scripts, while additional data is used to determine voters' stances on particular issues.

"We actually measure personality as a separate construct to issues and political constructs and the sorts of things which are used to inform the content of the message," said Mr. Tayler.

Voters might be placed in different targeting segments during the election season, and messages optimized following A/B testing, as new data comes in about those voters and new campaign goals emerge. While that has resulted in changes to ad creative and other messaging, much of the creative variations have been pre-approved by campaign staff.

"There is that body of collateral to draw from," Mr. Tayler said, adding that he expects his firm to continue its close relationship with the Cruz campaign. "The collaboration that we've had with the campaign has been very productive," he said. "I should think we would only be working more closely together and to roll this out on a larger scale as the race gets bigger and bigger."

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