What Your Party Knows about You
Oct 18, 2004
Howard Dean didn't get it. Al Gore had no clue. The high-tech secret weapon of this election isn't blogging or viral e-mail or any other sexy buzzwords. It's something mundane and under the radar and totally unsexy: data. Both the Democrats and the Republicans have amassed vast secret databases of information about voters, which they jealously guard on the simple theory that the more you know about people, the easier it is to get their vote.
The Republicans began building their database, which they call Voter Vault, back in the mid-1990s. It's no accident they got a head start: Bush adviser Karl Rove used to run a direct-mail company, so he knows the value of a few good leads. "We don't say a lot about Voter Vault," notes Christine Iverson, press secretary for the Republican National Committee. "A lot of the information is strategic, and the less the Democrats know the better." Secret it may be, but Voter Vault caused a stir last month when it emerged that the Republicans had — wait for it — outsourced some of its construction to a bunch of programmers in Maharashtra, India.
By 2001, the Democrats — the party of would-be overnerd Al Gore — were staring at a data gap. All they had was a few tens of thousands of e-mail addresses stored on a computer so obsolete its monitor was green. So they hired a small firm called Plus Three to build them a database of their very own, which they named Demzilla. Voter Vault and Demzilla currently hold about 165 million entries each.
So what's in these things? Any information about you that the parties can legally get their hands on. They start with voter-registration records, which are rich in priceless personal data like phone numbers, home addresses and birthdays. That info gets cross-referenced with census data plus records the parties keep: who worked or volunteered for them, who donated money. Names in Demzilla typically have 200 to 400 pieces of info attached to them.
But the secret sauce for any 21st century political database is email addresses — there's no quicker or cheaper way to get out the vote than by e-communicating directly with supporters. In addition, there may be magazine-subscription records, membership rosters from organizations like the AARP ... who knows? The parties aren't saying. "We probably have more information about the average voter than they care for us to have," admits Robert Bennett, chairman of the Republican Party in Ohio.
The more data the parties have, and the more ways they search, collate, cross-reference and puree them, using data-mining kung fu perfected by generations of direct marketers, the more precisely they can tailor their pitches to individual voters. Undecided black housewives under 35 will get very different phone calls from the Kerry campaign than Hispanic CEOs over 60. Data mining also helps the parties find, and sway, those all-important swing voters. "Now we can identify individuals within a neighborhood, in a state, in a market, where we never would have gone and looked before," says Juan Proaño, president of Plus Three.
So keep a close eye on your candidate, because you can be sure he's keeping an eye on you — and on the competition. "The Democrats have typically not had a very good database," the G.O.P.'s Iverson sniffs. "We're very happy to take all the information they give out about Demzilla and absorb it."
Kerry Campaign Dumps Cash on Web
Oct 5, 2004
The presidential campaigns and the major political parties have mostly ignored online advertising as a way to reach voters in the 2004 election, according to a report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. That is, until now.
After Thursday night's debate between Sen. John Kerry and President George W. Bush, the Democratic National Committee bought roughly $400,000 worth of ads on 50 sites, including USA Today, The Washington Post, MSNBC, The New York Times, Salon.com, Weather.com, ESPN.com and Movieline.com. The DNC also bought ads on local news sites. In a few days, it almost doubled its entire online advertising budget for the previous eight months.
And the DNC isn't done. The party plans to have another online media blitz after Tuesday night's debate between the vice presidential candidates, Sen. John Edwards and Vice President Dick Cheney, said Jano Cabrera, the DNC's communications director.
The DNC's web effort last week capitalized on the number of Americans who watched the 90-minute debate between Kerry and Bush. According to Nielsen Media Research, the 90-minute debate drew in more than 62 million viewers. In contrast, only about 24 million tuned in to listen to Kerry's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention this summer.
"Viewership for the debate is akin to the finale of Friends, in terms of raw numbers of viewers," said Cabrera. "With that level of interest, we knew that a number of people would rush to the internet to find out more information about John Kerry and George W. Bush and we wanted to have a strong online presence."
Doug Kelly, the DNC's director of technology, put it more bluntly: "The strategy was to stop George W. Bush and the Republicans from stealing the post-debate spin like they did in 2000. They dominated the post-debate spin then and we were not going to let that happen again."
After Al Gore's first debate with Bush, advisers to the Democratic candidate thought he had won. But Gore was considered the loser hours later, due to the perception that his audible sighs made him seem condescending. "The Republicans ran a very good operation in the past," Kelly said. "They pointed out one nugget in Gore's performance and drove the media to that nugget."
This time, the DNC ads, which ran Thursday through Sunday, directed supporters to participate in online polls about the debate, such as those being conducted on the Los Angeles Times' site and on CNN.com, as well as to go to the media contact page on the DNC site. Once there, supporters were told how to write a letter to the editor of their local newspaper or how to call in to a local radio show.
Kelly said the DNC site had so many visitors that it deactivated the visitor log feature. "It takes up so much bandwidth, so we turned it off," he said. Kelly said Kerry's site, JohnKerry.com, had three times the number of visitors the night of the debate that it had the night of his convention speech. Twenty thousand signed up to be volunteers.
The DNC also raised $4 million the day of the debate, said Nancy Eiring, director of the DNC's grass-roots fund-raising efforts. Between 9 p.m. and midnight, she said, the party brought in $10,000 a minute. Eiring added that the DNC ads on national websites had a staggeringly high click-through rate of 5 percent.
Until the debates, neither the parties nor the campaigns used the internet to promote their candidates to any great extent, said Michael Cornfield, a senior research consultant at the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the author of the report. Instead, they used the web to raise money, organize volunteers and encourage supporters to register to vote.
"This teaches us that online advertising, like online fund raising, works best if it exploits the moment and takes advantage of a large audience created by other means," Cornfield said. "They use the other media to build an audience for them and then they attempt to convert that interest into an opportunity for persuasion and mobilization."
So far, Cornfield hasn't noticed that the Republican National Committee or the Bush campaign has stepped up their online advertising. Calls to both groups for comment were not returned. But as Election Day nears, Cornfield said he expects both campaigns to buy more online ads. "It's all fast and furious now," he said.
In his report, Cornfield found that from January through August, the parties and the campaigns spent more than $100 on TV ads for every dollar they spent on online ads.
For the first eight months of 2004, the Kerry campaign outspent the Bush campaign by a 3-to-1 margin on online ads, the report said. Kerry's campaign spent $1.3 million, while Bush's laid out $419,000. However, the Republican Party was more lavish with its internet-advertising buys. Through the end of August, the RNC spent $487,000 on online ads compared to the DNC's $257,000.
With its massive online media buy after the first debate, the Democratic Party surpassed the Republicans.
"After the first debate, the ads running on NationalJournal.com, for example, were another way for the Democrats to spread their message that Kerry had won the debates among opinion leaders and decision makers," said Brian Reich, director of Mindshare Interactive Campaigns' Boston operations and editor of Campaign Web Review. "In a close election like we have this year, a slight tactical advantage like this one could shift the balance of the race in the Democrats' direction."
Cornfield was surprised that the presidential campaigns, the parties and advocacy groups didn't have more extensive online ad campaigns, especially since web advertising is becoming increasingly popular. In his report, he wrote that ad spending on the internet is growing faster than in any other media. Online advertising revenue is expected to reach $8 billion by the end of 2004.
"Yet, for all the online experimentation the campaigns have attempted this year, they have not ventured aggressively into online advertising," he wrote. "This is surprising because online ads can reach new, undecided and wavering voters in the demographic and geographic niches where they are thought to reside."
In the last days of the campaign, that's changing. "We will do anything we can to get the grass roots fired up and active," said DNC's Kelly. "We rule out nothing."
Plus Three Brings Premier Voter File System to the Web
Posted on 09/27/2004 @ 10:40 AM
LEVERAGE Enhances Constituent Relationships Through Dynamic Database Functionality and Precision Targeting
Plus Three, LP ("Plus Three" or the "Company"), a strategic marketing and technology agency serving major US political organizations and world-class non-profit institutions, today announced that Blaemire Communications, a leading political data services company, is using the company's technology to develop and manage LEVERAGE, the premier Web-based voter file system. The secure database allows users to enhance their relationships with constituents through precise targeting and communications efforts.
Thirteen states, including Delaware, Florida, Kentucky, New Mexico, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Wyoming are currently running LEVERAGE to drive voter contact and get-out-the-vote efforts. Plus Three has worked with Blaemire to build systems, manage and/or expand LEVERAGE in all of these states. Blaemire also works with progressive organizations who need to mobilize volunteers around the country.
"Organizing an army of volunteers and staffers to ensure each and every one of our constituents is contacted and motivated to vote in November, can be a daunting task," said Dennis L. White, Ohio Democratic Party Chair. "Thankfully, LEVERAGE has greatly simplified the job of creating task lists and efficiently deploying volunteers. In addition, LEVERAGE is easy enough to use that volunteers and staff in the field are able to quickly enter constituent or voter updates back into the LEVERAGE system via remote entry, greatly increasing the effectiveness of all of our voter-drive efforts."
Built by Plus Three, LEVERAGE is an open-source, Web-based voter file system that allows users to interact with state wide data files enhanced with geographic, demographic and electoral information, improving the ability of users to build relationships with constituents. Additional information gathered from offline sources such as canvassing and poll results is easily integrated into LEVERAGE from authorized workstations and remotely via palm pilot synchronizations. To prevent unauthorized viewing of proprietary data, each user of LEVERAGE is assigned a permission level governing to which data that user has access.
"Plus Three's technical know-how and expertise working with large online databases, made up of hundreds of millions of records and billions of actions combined with their experience with political parties and progressive organizations made them the perfect choice to build LEVERAGE," said Robert Blaemire, president and founder of Blaemire Communications. "With LEVERAGE, organizations and state parties are able to combine proven off line techniques with the power and flexibility of the Internet. This combination greatly enhances the effectiveness of any organization to communicate with its constituents and voters in powerful and meaningful ways, and, most importantly, elect candidates to office."
LEVERAGE is a particularly critical system in this election where turnout and voting habits in a few key swing states will likely alter the outcome. LEVERAGE allows users to access and generate queries for highly targeted lists enabling on-the-ground organizers to target specific groups with specific appeals that will enhance the likelihood of them casting a vote. In addition, tools critical to the election process, such as walk lists, call sheets, and mailing lists are easily generated in LEVERAGE while completely preserving voter confidentiality.
Plus Three is the leading provider of online marketing and fundraising services for progressive causes. Since its inception, the Company has been tapped by leading Democratic organization and candidates to support their election efforts with highly targeted online campaigns. Online fundraising took on added significance during the recent Democratic Party primary, as candidates capitalized on the medium to build widespread communities and attract donations. Evidence of the increasing vitality and importance of the Web as a campaign fundraising tool — during the first half of 2004, Plus Three has raised over $80 million online through systems it has developed since the start of 2004 in support of progressive campaigns and causes.
"To prepare for this year's November elections, both parties are focusing their efforts on driving their respective bases to the polls," said Plus Three founder and president, Juan Proaño. "Technology tools, such as LEVERAGE, that increase the effectiveness of constituent communications are relative newcomers to the political process, but have already demonstrated their usefulness in targeting and voter contact. To accomplish this, Plus Three has leveraged our success in creating ARCOS, bringing our expertise in building massively large, scalable, easy-to-use database platforms to the state party level."
About Blaemire Communications
Blaemire Communications has been providing political computer services and voter file products to State Parties, Campaigns and Organizations for over 13 years. The Company combines political expertise with the latest computer technologies to help their clients target and reach the people they need to win campaigns or achieve their organization's goals.
AHR Selects Plus Three to Persuade President Bush to Keep His Promise to the Great Outdoors
Posted on 09/08/2004 @ 10:44 AM
Petition Drive Focused on Getting Americans Outdoors and Preserving America
Plus Three, LP ("Plus Three" or the "Company"), a strategic marketing and technology agency serving major US political organizations and world-class non-profit institutions, today announced that it has been selected by Americans for Our Heritage and Recreation (AHR) to create and manage its national petitioning system. Plus Three's technology will help AHR gather support to persuade President Bush to keep his promise to fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Through a national public education campaign entitled Americans Saving American Places (ASAP) focused on getting Americans outdoors, AHR has initiated a petition drive to gather a million signatures. To meet their goals, AHR required a petition tool that was flexible enough to easily modify and distribute to a variety of outdoor themed audiences.
"AHR represents a diverse body of organizations who all promote outdoor activities," said Tom St. Hilaire, executive director for AHR. "The challenge for us was creating and distributing relevant petitions that would encourage participation from a broad audience. Without Plus Three, this task would have cost significantly more and required additional time and resources. Plus Three allowed us to focus on the signatures and not worry about the technology."
In AHR, outdoor enthusiasts, advocates and conservationists, with a wide range of policy interests, network together to ensure the preservation of the LWCF. Plus Three designed a petitioning system that allows the different member-groups of the AHR to personalize the petitions with unique messaging and petition Web pages. In addition, Plus Three included tracking functions that enabled AHR to view results across organizations and report back on the petitions that are driving the most signatures.
"The flexibility of interactive tools, such as petition pages and surveys, have empowered organizations to use their Web sites to inspire casual visitors to become online activists," said Plus Three founder and President, Juan Proaño. "Plus Three enables organizations to enhance these relationships between organizations and their visitors, but, more importantly, we allow organizations to use the Internet to proactively reach out to like-minded individuals and directly encourage their participation."
About Americans for Our Heritage and Recreation
Americans for Our Heritage and Recreation (AHR) is a broad and diverse organization representing conservationists, the recreation and sporting goods industries, park and recreation specialists, wildlife enthusiasts, advocates for urban and wilderness areas, preservationists of cultural and historic sites, land trust advocates, the youth sports community, and civic groups seeking to revitalize the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program (UPARR). The coalition works to communicate to policy makers at all levels of government the value of parks and recreation areas made possible by the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the need for support of these areas. AHR mobilizes this national coalition through its extensive grassroots communications network, employing regional and state leaders to coordinate an integrated public education campaign.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Taps Plus Three for Web Advertising and Fundraising Initiatives
Posted on 08/30/2004 @ 10:46 AM
Plus Three's Innovative Technology, Strategic Market Planning Methodology Drives Selection Decision
Plus Three, LP ("Plus Three" or the "Company"), a strategic marketing and technology agency serving major US political organizations and world-class non-profit institutions, today announced that it has been selected by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (the "DSCC," www.dscc.org) to lead its online advertising and fundraising initiatives for the critical 2004 elections. Plus Three's engagement calls for the Company to provide media planning and acquisitions strategies for the DSCC's entire Web advertising campaign, as well as implementation of an Internet-based persuasion campaign to attract donations in support of Democratic Senatorial candidates. The DSCC is the national committee of the Democratic Party formed to elect Democratic members of the United States Senate.
"Our selection of Plus Three reflects the enormous confidence we have in their ability to persuade voters to support the election of Democratic candidates to the US Senate in this crucial election," said DSCC spokesperson Cara Morris. "Plus Three has a proven track record of planning and executing campaigns that are extremely compelling to constituents we are seeking to support our effort. This is largely the product of the Company's ability to combine the power of outstanding technology to reach the largest segment of an audience to create a sustainable dialogue and community, with outstanding creative product and highly targeted delivery. This kind of precision is essential to ensure that the DSCC achieves its election year goals."
Plus Three is the leading provider of online marketing and fundraising services for progressive causes. Since its inception, the Company has been tapped by leading Democratic organization and candidates to support their election efforts with highly targeted online campaigns. Online fundraising took on added significance during the recent Democratic Party primary, as candidates capitalized on the medium to build widespread communities and attract donations. Evidence of the increasing vitality and importance of the Web as a campaign fundraising tool — during the first half of 2004, Plus Three has raised $100 million on line since the start of 2004 in support of progressive campaigns and causes.
Plus Three will spearhead the DSCC's online fundraising efforts for the 2004 election cycle. The multidisciplinary team will increase online giving through DSCC.org and FromTheRoots.org, the DSCC's community weblog. The Plus Three team will lead redesigns for both sites, develop a cross-modal narrative and media plan, streamline the technology for online giving, and increase online participation through online acquisition efforts.
"We're extremely pleased to develop and implement this important campaign for the DSCC," said Plus Three founder and president, Juan Proaño. "The ability to leverage the power of the Internet is critical to shaping the outcomes of this year's important elections. Our technology offers an important means for every individual to be part of the process, but helping them to form enduring communities where they can access information and share their views."
About the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is the national committee of the Democratic Party formed to elect Democratic members of the United States Senate. The DSCC enables Democratic candidates to conduct effective campaigns that reach voters and secure the election of a Democratic Senate in the year 2004.