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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Shrinking Traditional TV Audience Spawns Targeted Online Ads

Jeremy W. Peters writes at The New York Times:
Just because you own a D.V.R. or watch television online does not mean political commercials are not coming soon to a screen near you.

Mitt Romney’s campaign thinks it has found a way to get its ads in front of the increasing number of voters who are not watching traditional television: Find these people online, and show them the ads there.

Here in Wisconsin, where the Republican primary is Tuesday, carefully targeted potential voters will see two Romney commercials on their Web browsers. One is a positive message hailing the candidate’s economic and business credentials. The other is an attack criticizing Rick Santorum as a Washington insider who compromises his core beliefs.

Both commercials, which have been running on local television stations across the state, have gone unseen by many voters — up to one-third of them, by some estimates.

The Romney campaign and a team of online behavior analysts have spent 18 months trying to fight television advertising’s law of diminishing returns, sifting through data on the browsing habits of tens of millions of computer users as the campaign builds a richly detailed cache of potential supporters.

In doing so, Mr. Romney’s strategists are hoping to turn the Web into a political persuasion tool, signaling a shift in the way modern campaigns view digital advertising. It is no longer merely a supplement for traditional media like television. In some cases, it is a substitute entirely.

A survey conducted last May on voters’ television viewing habits, which is often cited by Romney advisers, found that 31 percent of likely voters had not watched television “live” — that is, at the time it was being broadcast, as opposed to online or on a recording device — in the previous week. And of the 17 percent who said they mostly watched programs recorded on devices like a D.V.R., a large majority skipped through ads most of the time. [emphasis added] The nationwide telephone survey was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm, and SEA Polling and Strategic Design, a Democratic polling firm.