Republican Agency Seeks Data Smarts From Corporate Side

Targeted Victory Hired Execs From Marriott and Mobile Ad Firm Millennial Media.

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John Andrews, Targeted Victory
John Andrews, Targeted Victory

Since the 2012 presidential election, there's been a lot of talk about corporations looking to politics for smart people with sophisticated data chops. But Targeted Victory -- the digital ad shop behind Mitt Romney's failed 2012 bid – is going in the opposite direction. The rapidly growing firm has added 25 employees since the end of the election cycle, expanding from 45 to 70 people. Among those hires are execs from Marriott, Comscore and Millennial Media.

John Andrews came on board in September as Targeted Victory's director of data science and research following a two-year stint at Marriott International where his most recent role was senior manager of ecommerce, retail operations research. In the past month, he's been focused on conducting research projects and building propensity models for donations, voter persuasion and voter turnout.

"I think a lot of it has to do with, first of all, building experiments and understanding all the different data sources out there," said Mr. Andrews regarding his current work.

The agency, which serves campaigns and advocacy groups on the right, aims to corral a savvy data team in-house. The company recently unveiled a platform for building and running digital video ad campaigns, including via Facebook's ad exchange.

Targeted Victory Co-Founder Zac Moffatt served as digital director for Mitt Romney for President, where his department was more than double the size of his agency, at over 150 people. He aims for Targeted Victory to reach 100 employees by January or February of next year, he said.

The idea behind the agency's hiring goal is to bring marketplace efficiencies to the political sphere, where the size of consultancies often ebbs and flows with election season tides. "We want to have an executable plan with the right team," said Mr. Moffatt. In some cases, that means "bringing in experts from other fields," he said.

The firm is seeking talent from industries including hospitality and ecommerce, he said. In part, that is dictated by geography. Targeted Victory is located in Virginia, and Marriott is based in nearby Maryland. "There's a lot of talent on that coast," said Mr. Moffatt. "The hospitality industry are solving for a lot of similar [problems] that we are."

While political campaigns have their own unique challenges, there are parallels in political and corporate marketing. When it comes to fundraising, for example, campaigns are often very driven by ROI metrics, judging the success of efforts by determining the marketing cost for every dollar raised.

"With Marriott, our primary focus was on getting someone to book a room. That's a single, conversional event," said Mr. Andrews.

Some argue that because political campaigns come to a hard stop on election day, marketing tactics and strategies used in politics don't translate well to corporate marketing, or vice versa. Mr. Andrews suggested otherwise. "At Marriott we also sell goods within tight time frames with end dates that prevent us offering that specific good again," he said. "We have some periods where the demand is high and we don't have to sell."

Targeted Victory counts Paul Ryan's Prosperity PAC, Texas gubernatorial hopeful Greg Abbott and Florida Governor Rick Scott among its clients. The agency hopes to disseminate its data and tech capabilities throughout the Republican Party, said Mr. Moffatt. Targeted Victory has a training facility in its offices, he added.

The firm also recently hired Joe Lahr, former digital advertising solutions exec at analytics firm Comscore, as its new chief operating officer. Pete Sheridan, another new hire, will serve as director of data platforms. Mr. Sheridan was recently senior manager, reporting systems for mobile ad firm Millennial Media.

Another new staffer on the data side is Jeff Mason, senior director of data structure and targeting, a co-founder of Stratified Data, a political fundraising analytics firm.

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that tea party group Freedomworks is a Targeted Victory client. We regret the error.

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