Yesterday's NYT had a story on partisanship and consumer behavior. Let's check the list. I drive a Subaru and my wife a Honda. Given the choice, I'd much rather watch Letterman than Leno (though I usually don't). My favorite sport is soccer. So, says here I'm a Democrat. Hunh. Who knew?
The Bush campaign used detailed consumer data to target media buys based on where their "customer base" spent its time and money. The article says the Kerry people had equivalent data, but it does not discuss their use in the same detail.
There were some surprises for me. Dems are more likely to watch CourtTV; here I thought re-runs of Cops and Nancy Grace were on the air because of the red-staters. And Arena League Football? Also Democratic.
On the other hand, playing a musical instrument means you're more likely to be Republican. And Saab drivers? Forget what they tell you about Swedish socialism, they're Republican.
What the GOP was able to do with such detailed data (Golf Channel watchers? Republican.) is target advertising much more finely than before, even choosing Republican-leaning commutes to post billboards.
All this is eminently sensible as a marketing strategy. Much as some people resist being sliced and diced this way, it is far more efficient to spend a limited advertising budget where the friendly and persuadable eyes are. It's about probability, not definition. Most of all, it's about winning votes.
On the other hand, targeting finely detailed substrata may prevent a campaign from reaching persuadables it didn't know about. The article argues that the GOP resurgence in Hawaii was serendipity due to advertising on some national cable channels; the campaign didn't plan to reach Hawaii, and with a more discriminating strategy might not have. A campaign must know its market, but needs an expansive view of that market.
What I'd like to hear more comment about is what the Dems did and what they plan to do. The word I got from volunteers on the ground here in Maine is that there was a great deal of duplication of effort and insufficient targeting on the Dem side in this election. Was this true nationally? Was this true of the ad buys? If the Dems have these data, too, are they using it intelligently?
From what I have heard, I am skeptical that the data and strategy were as sophisticated as what the GOP used. I'd like to be proven wrong, and even if it's true I'd like to hear what's being done to improve for '06 and '08.
Oh, and Nascar, power boating and Land Rovers? Definitely Republican.