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U.S. Presidential Campaign Political Marketing, Big Data and Google's Hillary

ElectionOracle / US Presidential Election 2016 Feb 23, 2016 - 12:05 PM GMT

By: Michael_T_Bucci


In the fledgling days of advertising over a century ago, legendary department store merchant John Wanamaker, an early proponent of the power of advertising, complained: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."

It has been the goal of marketing and advertising chiefs ever since to answer his question.

More than $5 billion may be spent by presidential candidates and their supporters for the the 2016 race according to The Hill (, which is double the tally for 2012. While much money will be spent on salaries, wages, fees and expenses for campaign workers, Kantar Media estimates that for all races political ad spending on TV will total $4.4 billion for the 2016 election cycle, and that another $1 billion will be spent on online ads.

As of February 19, presidential candidates have spent a combined total of over $297 million across broadcast, cable and satellite TV as well as radio, according to Advertising Age 2016 Presidential Campaign Ad Scorecard (

Jeb Bush, who since withdrew from the race, spent the most at $84.8 million (#1) and Ben Carson spent the least at $5.7 million (#9). Just above Dr. Carson is... Donald Trump at $10 million (#8). Mr. Trump needed little advertising since he himself was the ad and was given generous free space and time across all media in an age when sensationalism draws audience share and audience share drives advertising revenue.

Of campaign ad spending for Jeb Bush, 95% was by PACs and 5% by the candidate. Of Bernie Sanders, 3.5% was by PACs and 96.5% by the candidate.

An analysis from the ad-scoring firm Ace Metrix ( ranked 152 television and digital ads run by presidential candidates or independent super PACs from the middle of July last year to January 14. Bernie Sanders’ Dec. 28 spot, "Social Security," scored the highest. Seven of twelve "top ranked" by Ace Metrix were Bernie Sanders ads.

Use of marketing strategies and analytics for political campaigns is a relatively recent practice.

By the 1950s, Vance Packard's "The Hidden Persuaders" had revealed to the general public some of the inner workings of how "Mad Ave" sold products; but in Joe McGinniss' "The Selling of the President" it became an open secret how Richard Nixon in 1968 was marketed "like soap".

For this campaign, Harry Treleaven stressed "image is what counts"; Roger Ailes, a PR man, coordinated the TV presentations that delivered the product (today, Ailes is Chairman and CEO of Fox News); Frank Shakespeare, formerly of CBS, cast the image that sold America a President.

Forty-eight years later, political image-making, campaign advertising and marketing have sharpened traditional methods to where pinpointed metrics of the audience (you) from data compiled from digital interactions and "footprints" (yours) are added to the mix.

Social media became an integral marketing medium for Barack Obama in 2008 in what has been referred to as a “Facebook Election.” John McCain elected not to use social media.

In addition to Facebook, campaigns today use YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope and "live streaming"; advertising dollars are committed mostly to TV.

As Zach Cutler explained in Entrepreneur magazine (, "With the rise of big data and analytics, candidates can now understand much more deeply what’s working and what’s not in their campaigns."

The Ted Cruz campaign, for example, has contracted with Cambridge Analytica (, which according to the company "collect(s) up to 5,000 data points on over 220 million Americans, and use(s) more than 100 data variables to model target audience groups and predict the behavior of like-minded people."

In short, if you are one of Cambridge Analytica's 220 million Americans, you consist of 5,000 data points from which your behavior can be predicted by Ted Cruz. The analytics company calls it "behavioral microtargeting". Alarming, however, is when analytics used to predict behavior are used to modify and shape behavior.

A recent Politico article pointed out that SCL of London (, parent of Cambridge Analytica, has been especially active in the developing or Third World countries, where it has boasted of its ability to bring about changes in existing governments: "So far, SCL’s political work has been mostly in the developing world — where it has boasted of its ability to help foment coups. Cambridge Analytica entered the competitive U.S. political data market only last year."

Bringing analytics down to earth, you are your name, age, gender, income, religion, location and political affiliation for traditional demographic measurements; but in the cyber age, you also are data points, behavioral attributes and elements that comprise your psychographic profile on which your predictive behavior is based.

"Big data" knows your bank and credit balances; what schools you attended; your family and friends' names; your past and present employers; what web sites you visit; what you have written about yourself on social media; comments and opinions you left on internet sites; your search history on Google; your biometrics; your voice, photos and/or videos "shared" online; analysis of your email by algorithms; your files stored in the "cloud"; your criminal and traffic records; the car you drive and license number; your present location signaled by GPS and "always on" smart phones and digital devices; a record of your shopping history online and when using credit/debit cards elsewhere; the movies you watch; the ebooks you read; your pet's name; your doctors, hospital visits and health status... Need I go on?

Swept, scanned and analyzed by Big Data behind whose one-way mirrors sit anonymous government and mega-corporations selling and re-selling your personal data, you are surveyed and monetized in a labyrinthine food chain which then microtargets you.

On March 1, 2012 at a CEO summit of In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital arm, former CIA Director David Petraeus laid bear the future of spycraft made easier by the plethora of devices most people now own and carry. "In the digital world, data is everywhere... Data is created constantly, often unknowingly and without permission," explained Petraeus. "Every byte left behind reveals information about location, habits, and, by extrapolation, intent and probable behavior. The number of data points that can be collected is virtually limitless."

“Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing,” Petraeus concluded.

Almost four years later, testifying to the Senate on Feb. 9, James Clapper, US director of national intelligence, reaffirmed how intelligence services might use a new generation of smart household devices to increase their (intel's) surveillance capabilities, "for identification, surveillance, monitoring, location tracking, and targeting for recruitment, or to gain access to networks or user credentials."

The "internet of things" (IoT) is dawning. No doubt, consumers will adopt and adapt as they have already to seamless dragnet surveillance by corporations and government. Methods of social engineering have been well publicized also, such as Facebook's controversial emotional experiment in 2014.

But can the election of 2016 be "rigged" by none other than Google? Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist, speculated it could, in Politico. "(T)he employees who constantly adjust the search giant’s algorithms are manipulating people every minute of every day. The adjustments they make increasingly influence our thinking—including, it turns out, our voting preferences."

Research that Epstein has been directing suggests that Google, Inc., has amassed far more power to control elections—indeed, to control a wide variety of opinions and beliefs—than any company in history has ever had. "Google’s search algorithm can easily shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20 percent or more—up to 80 percent in some demographic groups—with virtually no one knowing they are being manipulated."

Could Donald Trump's online search activity push him higher in search engine rankings thus bring him more support? "Most definitely—depending, that is, on how Google employees choose to adjust numeric weightings in the search algorithm."

Epstein concludes: "Our new research leaves little doubt about whether Google has the ability to control voters. In laboratory and online experiments conducted in the United States, we were able to boost the proportion of people who favored any candidate by between 37 and 63 percent after just one search session. The impact of viewing biased rankings repeatedly over a period of weeks or months would undoubtedly be larger."

Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google parent-company Alphabet, has become a major technology vendor for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, according to Quartz ( The Groundwork ( is part of efforts by Schmidt to ensure that Clinton has the engineering talent needed to win the election, the web site explained.

"And it is one of a series of quiet investments by Schmidt that recognize how modern political campaigns are run with data analytics and digital outreach as vital ingredients that allow candidates to find, court, and turn out critical voter blocs. Schmidt is underscoring the bonds between Silicon Valley and Democratic politics," Quartz concludes.

As of February 10, 2016, a total of 1,547 candidates had filed a Statement of Candidacy with the Federal Election Commission (

But as of February 23, 2016, there are 3 Democrats and 5 Republicans still in the presidential race.

With 220 million Americans having 5,000 data points each, Big Analytics will be busy crunching 1,100,000,000,000 factors to make a President - like it, him or her, or not.


"The $5 billion presidential campaign?" Amie Parnes and Kevin Cirilli. The Hill. January 21, 2015.

"A Campaign About You: How Content Marketing Could Help Elect the Next President". Robert McGuire. McGuire Editorial. September 18, 2015

"Introducing Ad Age's 2016 Presidential Campaign Ad Scorecard". Advertising Age. February 19, 2016.

"Bernie Sanders has the most effective political ads of the 2016 presidential race". I-Hsien Sherwood. Campaign Live. January 14, 2016.

Packard, Vance (1957). The Hidden Persuaders. IG Publishing. ISBN: 978-0-9788431-0-6

McGinniss, Joe (1969). The Selling of the President 1968. Original publisher Simon & Shuster.

"2016 Presidential Candidates Placing Emphasis on New Marketing Techniques". Samuel Edwards. Entrepreneur. July 20, 2015.

"4 Ways Technology Has Impacted Presidential Elections". Zach Cutler. Entrepreneur. July 16, 2015

"Cruz partners with donor's 'psychographic' firm". Kenneth P. Vogel. Politico. July 7, 2015

Cambridge Analytica

SCL Group

"An Internet of Things that will number ten billions". Julia Boorstin. CNBC. February 1, 2016

"CIA Chief: We’ll Spy on You Through Your Dishwasher". Spencer Ackerman. Wired. March 15, 2012.

In-Q-Tel (CIA)

"Remarks by Director David H. Petraeus at In-Q-Tel CEO Summit". CIA. March 1, 2012.

"Everything You Need to Know About Facebook’s Controversial Emotion Experiment". Michelle N. Meyer. Wired. June 30, 2014

"How Google Could Rig the 2016 Election". Robert Epstein. Politico. August 19, 2015.

"The stealthy, Eric Schmidt-backed startup that’s working to put Hillary Clinton in the White House". Quartz.

The Groundwork (website consists entirely of a grey-on-black triangle logo.)

Presidential Candidates 2016 (updated data). Ballotpedia. (Last accessed February 23, 2016.),_2016

(c) 2016 Michael T Bucci. All Rights reserved.

Michael T Bucci is a retired public relations executive currently living in New England. He has authored nine books on practical spirituality collectively titled The Cerithous Material.

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