Data Quality and Political Advertising

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A sign that says "Risky Political Campaign Ahead." Political Advertising

One benefit or problem, depending on your inclinations, of being in the marketing business is that you become acutely aware of the marketing that goes on around you. In many ways, that awareness is a great thing. Every day you can see great, and not so great, marketing ideas, concepts, and implementations. We learn from what others do. Now that marketing has become such a data-driven endeavor, the combination of ideas and data are the key to marketing and business success, and especially in political advertising.

The pundits are predicting that in the time between now and November, the spending on political advertising will set new records. Some estimates reach as high as $6.5 Billion across TV, print, and digital media. The people who implement political advertising are becoming more sophisticated in the ability to target potential voters due to the tools and techniques that the rest of us marketers use every day.

Here’s where the problems start. Many people and organizations rely solely on email addresses for their marketing. Yet political processes such as elections are largely local processes that rely on real people having real addresses. A great way to waste money is to throw advertising spend at the wrong people. Wasted spend would be so easy to do in this case.

The connection to data quality starts to emerge. One factor in defining the quality is the completeness of the data. Whether data is correct or not is easy to understand. Completeness is a little harder to grasp. In an election scenario, an email address alone certainly may not be of much benefit. Knowing a street address and having some certainty that the address is correct moves us in the right direction. Appending the demographics of the location to the record speeds up the move to valuable data. Being able to attach a score to measure the quality of a lead helps. Yes, for marketing purposes, a potential voter is a lead.

Those of us not in the election business can learn a few things from those that are. The marketing has to be done now. The election date isn’t moving. Getting things right the first time becomes more critical. Time for lots of A/B testing simply doesn’t exist. We can have great creative, but the effectiveness of our work diminishes quickly with poor lists. The need for data quality becomes more apparent due to the compressed timeframe.

If you are in marketing, keep your eyes and ears open in the next few months. What we hear and see from the political process is going to be interesting. The more that data quality plays a part, the more effective all that spend will be.