New Tool Shows How Targeting Affects Political Ad Spend

albineIf you're an independent female voter living in Ohio, and boast more than 100 Facebook friends, the two presidential campaigns have spent as much as $50 to advertise to you in the last four months. Conversely, if you're a registered Democrat living in New York who never uses the social networking service, the campaigns have spent as little as $5 in ads directed to you.

That's according to privacy company Abine, which released a tool this week that allows people to estimate how much their vote is worth to the presidential campaigns, as measured by ad dollars.

The interactive tool asks users to enter factors like gender, voting history, state of residence, number of Facebook friends, and how often they visit news sites. The tool then calculates an estimate of the amount of ad spending in all media by campaigns to reach that user; spending in online media accounts for approximately 6-9% of the total, according to Abine.

To arrive at the estimate, Abine started with the premise that average ad spending by campaigns per U.S. voter comes to $22. The company adds up to $7 to that figure for users who live in battleground states like Ohio, and subtracts the same amount for those in solidly blue or red states, like Massachusetts.

Beyond state of residence, the tool also looks at how many Facebook friends people have, how many news sites they tend to visit, and voting history.

"Higher values are all about influence," Abine privacy analyst Sarah Downey writes on the company blog. "You’re worth more to the campaigns if you have a lot of influence in your social circles, and if they think you can be influenced to switch your vote."

Robert Shavell, Abine co-founder, says that the company believes that campaigns are willing to pay as much as a 25% premium to reach Facebook users with many friends in the same age group. Shavell says that estimate is based on information Abine has gleaned from its relationships with advertisers and ad tech companies.

He adds that campaigns also want to target people who read a lot of news stories online -- especially those who tend to visit the same sites, where they can be shown the same ads. "The mantra is that if you can get people to see the same ad five to 10 times, as opposed to one time, the value of that ad goes up," he says.

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