Friday, March 16, 2007

Presidential Candidates and Behavioral Targeting

I read an interesting article by Michael D Jensen titled “What do the Presidential Candidates use for Analytics?”

One that caught my eye was John McCain, who is using Revenue Science. I don’t think John McCain is using revenue science for web analytics but I think he is using it to participate in Revenue Sciences’ Behavioral Targeting network. Interestingly enough I saw Revenue Science tag on only the home page, other pages did not have any code. Maybe he is still “Undecided” and is testing it out.

Participating in Behavioral Targeting is an interesting concept for Presidential Candidates. In my opinion they can influence a lot of votes by participating in Behavioral Targeting.

Here are some of the ways how the presidential candidates can use Behavioral Targeting (provided they put the tracking code on every single page).

  1. Retargeting - If a visitor lands on candidate’s site and then wander over to some other site in Behavioral network, the candidate can advertise to this visitor when they are anywhere on the network. By visiting candidate's site, the visitor has just shown interest in candiate and so he/she can make sure that this visitor never looses the sight of the candidate(think opposite of out of sight out of mind).

  2. Undecided – John McCain has a section called “Undecided”. Any visitor who goes to that section and view 2 or more pages is definitely undecided. Target them with a message (ad) that makes them decide in your favor, this can be used for both on-site and network targeting.

  3. Segment Visitors – Segment users based on what content they read or interact with on your site. Using this behavioral understand where they stand in their decision process and then targeting them, on the network or even on-site, with relevant message.

  4. Contributions – Say somebody starts a contribution process but never finishes it. Target them with a message that drives them to contribute to your campaign. This can also be done both on-site (after visitor abandon’s the contribution process but still remains on the site) and on-network, follow the user as he/she moves around the network.
  5. Use visitor’s off Site Behavior to understand what really makes them tick – If the behavioral targeting network is big enough and have wide variety of sites. Understand which sites visitors visit before they arrive to your site. When they come to your site, show them a message that will align with their off-site (on-network) behavior. Say I care about education and visit sites or blogs (participating in the behavioral network) on education; when I arrive on your site, show me your stance on education. This will help me make my decision.

  6. IP Based Targeting – Based on the geo location candidate can
    1. Do more media buy and targeting in the geo locations where they don’t get a lot of traffic from.

    2. Segment user visitor based further and see what the visitors from their top geo locations doing on their site. This will allow you to fine tune the on-site messages.

I am sure more and more presidential will participate in targeting advertising such as Behavioral Targeting.

What do you think? Do you have any more ideas on how they can use Behavioral Targeting? Send those to me.


  1. SEMblogger10:18 AM

    Behavioral targeting is an interesting issue in targeting voters. That behavior is limited to online activities, and limited by the "network" tracking the activities. It relies on third party cookies, if my understanding is right, which are another issue altogether regarding reliability.

    In targeting consumers, however, I don't think behavioral targeting will ever be as effective as just plain old, simple, targeting of keywords and phrases. Why? AIDA. The I - Interest - is already there by the simple fact of the search, or the page content with the ads. Attract - Interest - Desire - Action has been effective throughout the past century.

    The ads or search results or links on content relevant sites already have the Attention of the user if they're clicked. That leaves the "creating want / desire" part the purpose of the ad, and the call to Action is a "click" to take the visitor to your landing page. That's what has been shown to be effective online in this primitive time.

    How do you target "behavior" online, outside of the behavior while being online, which seems - at best - cloudy and incomplete. And direct testing is not possible, and not very useful.

    Behavioral targeting, by it's nature, is based on "effect." It's not "causative" and doesn't have the ability to be causative, short of behavioral altering, which is useless in politics, except over a very long period of time, like 40 years or more.

    Thank you for the great post and thank you for letting me reply. Take care and create a truly phenomenal week ahead!

  2. Nice post, Anil. I'm curious whether you've seen wonder whether the candidates are looking past behavior on their own sites and toward attitudinal trends based on the blogosphere. At any rate, McCain, for one, isn't sophisticated enough to include an RSS feed on his blog, so perhaps we'll have to keep our expectations reasonable. :)

  3. I am not sure if keyword targeting works in this case. What if I search on John McCain and land on his site, what does this tell John McCain about me? Nothing. But if I visit John McCain’s site and look for some page, that will give him more details on what I am interested in. I am not talking about influencing a behavior of those people who have made up their mind one way or the other, I am talking about those people who are still "undecided" and a candidate’s ad in front of them with the right message (based on their behavior online) can make a huge difference.

    Going back to you AIDA example
    A - Attract - a visitor visited John McCain’s site
    I - Interested that's why they visited and every single click is telling more and more about their behavior
    D - Desire - Send the right message via Behavioral Targeting Network (you already know what interests them by their behavior on your site) and create desire. Right message creates more desire.
    A - Get them to contribute, vote etc.

    Hope this clarifies.

  4. Ryan,

    I just visited, it is completely based on feevy and does not seem to have a lot of traffic. If the owner of is reading this then contact me (consulting fee applies :)) I can help you monetize your traffic and help John McCain.

    - Anil


I would like to hear your comments and questions.