*From http://personaldemocracy.com and TechPresident.
Jordan Lieberman is CampaignGrid's managing director. Megan Cellucci is CampaignGrid's senior digital strategist.
In his recent op-ed in techPresident, David Parry, an assistant professor for emerging media at the University of Texas at Austin, expressed his view that relevant political advertising is “not very good for the public” and issued an indictment, laced with inaccuracies and misinformation, against those providing tools that help candidates reach voters on issues they care about. Some of this criticism was directed at CampaignGrid, and we would like to set the record straight.
CampaignGrid provides a meaningful service that helps candidates – from frontrunners with heavy campaign war chests to unknowns who cannot afford a meaningful television buy – connect with voters, and we provide this service while remaining committed to being a good data steward.
CampaignGrid’s primary mission is to help candidates reach voters to provide them with information about the candidate’s positions on relevant issues. Yes, the purpose of this is to help candidates win elections. That is how a democratic system works: I tell you what I stand for, and I hope that you will support me and give me your vote.
A voter who receives a relevant campaign ad, on an issue he or she cares about, may become more involved in the political process, may be inspired to learn more about the different candidates and their positions on a range of issues (and can often click-through from the ad to the candidate’s full website for more information), and may feel more motivated to get out and vote.
Relevant advertising campaigns can help engage and inform the electorate – indeed, they can further public discourse – but their primary purpose is to get candidates elected. And, Parry’s conclusions aside, there is nothing nefarious about that.
Voters have received relevant campaign information for at least a generation. Women often receive mailers about women’s issues, and voters with hunting licenses often receive mailers about a candidate’s position on the Second Amendment and gun control. CampaignGrid has used technology to move to the web activities that have taken place over the phone, through the mail, and – most intrusively – door-to-door, for decades. Assistant Professor Parry fails to connect how online advertising is any better or worse than other forms of sophisticated targeting that have been used for years.
CampaignGrid is committed to being a good data steward and to protecting the privacy of individuals, while providing these services. The platform CampaignGrid uses to serve relevant ads to voters does not contain voters’ names, home addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, or other such identifying information.
We work with what is known in the industry as “match partners” to serve ads to computers, not to named individuals. We rely on publicly available data and commercially available data. We do not troll Facebook or other social networking sites. We turn away potential customers who demand names and contact information for voters who are served ads through our platform or who click through to ads we place.
Relevant ad campaigns are playing an increasingly important role in elections. Just as op-ed pieces are written from a particular viewpoint, and placed in publications meant to attract certain readers, relevant advertising campaigns are serving up information where they think it will be best received. This practice does not in any way harm voters who wish to be more informed or who want to engage in political discourse. Rather, this practice serves the critical purpose of helping connect candidates and their ideas with interested voters, supporting our political process and – we hope – helping candidates win elections. And by the way, doing it digitally, versus with mail, saves millions of trees and candidates’ campaign dollars.