Last week in Politico, Dave Gold, founding partner of the mail firm Bouchard Gold Communications, wrote that over-reliance on data models since Obama’s 2008 campaign has contributed to the epic fails of the Democratic Party: loss of 63 seats and control of the House, loss of 11 seats and control of the Senate, loss of 13 governorships, loss of over 900 state legislative seats and control of 27 state legislative chambers.
“We Democrats have allowed microtargeting to become microthinking. Each cycle, we speak to fewer and fewer people and have less and less to say,” Gold writes.
While you can expect that a mail consultant would argue for a larger contact universe, Gold’s argument for storytelling and focus on emotion is compelling, and Gold’s piece is worth a close read (it was shared heavily among my political Facebook friends, so there’s some agreement here). Gold also backs up his points with results from the difficult-for-Democrats Harris County, Texas, where an independent expenditure he advised “helped Democrats win every contested race in Harris County for the first time in a generation, including the district attorney, sheriff and 30 judicial races.”
I tend to agree with Gold that microtargeting efforts can cause more harm than good if they lead to contacting smaller universes. Micro-messaging – telling different voters different stories, can take the benefits of data and use them to drive increased turnout.
When it comes to voter outreach efforts, it’s accurate and complete data that really makes a difference. When you can only robo dial landlines, you need complete landline coverage. When you can text cell phones with apps like Hustle, Relay and Handstack, you need more cell phone numbers. And when you’re using Facebook ads or email to reach voters, you need phone numbers and emails for accurate custom audience matching.
And despite advancements in campaign tech, accurate data isn’t the easiest to come by. That’s where Accurate Append, one of my longest-running partners from NationBuilder and The Adriel Hampton Group, comes in. They provide data append services for campaign vendors and directly to campaigns, and their email append and verify products improve both ad targeting and delivery rates. If big data is killing campaigns, perhaps better data can help save them.