Technology firm NGP VAN explains why 2016 is the big data election and how automation will help tech early adopters win the election.
The future of campaign tech is automation, said NGP VAN Vice President Aharon Wasserman. "2008 was really early, in terms of big data and campaigns. What we had in 2012 was pretty good, difficult to use and time consuming. Today, information is everywhere. The challenge is in making data useful.
"This is about extending technology beyond the presidential campaign," Wasserman said. With a new product from NGP VAN, he hopes to close the innovation gap between cycles and make technology as accessible as possible. In previous elections, mobile apps, SMS, merged and managed databases, and programmatic advertising were not affordable to small startup campaigns. "The team that gets tech into staffer's hands wins."
NGP VAN is a left-leaning organization and expects the new suite of tools might have the most significant impact down ballot. The winners and loser of elections this fall—and maybe the House and Senate—may depend on efficient deployment of affordable, yet high quality technology tools. "We had some database applications [in previous campaigns]," Wasserman said, "but they weren't easy to use. We're trying to make powerful tools easy to use for every person on a campaign.
READ: Data analytics goes mainstream (Tech Pro Research)
Young and local campaigns are the SMBs of politics, and their technological challenges are similar. Startups often require employees to wear many hats, be fast learners, and experts in many fields. Expertise and experience are not always congruent, and the same is true for political campaigns.
The web is vastly more sophisticated today than in 2012. Staffers' and volunteers' time and energy, like in a small business, is still at a premium, and digital expectations are higher than in any previous cycle.
"One of the great advantages to working on a political campaign," said Wasserman, "is that you get to take the knowledge of what works, and what doesn't work, and reset every few years."
In preparation for the 2016 cycle, the NGP VAN team adapted the product to fit the modern market of campaign managers, number crunchers, door-knockers, and digital marketers. The recently launched advertising and email targeting product Field Automation lets users, for example, query and select numerous voter segments based on a variety of input variables. This lets campaigns automate marketing and make adjustments easily if conditions on the ground change.
READ: Report: Democratic party hack was wider than believed (CBS News)
One challenge every big data company wrestles with is with parsing information in such a way as to produce real, tangible benefit for clients and customers. The NGP VAN multichannel marketing tool could hint at the future of media and business, as well as politics. The company APIs platform supports and interoperates with a number of high profile data firms. From data supplied by partners, NGP VAN assisted in the development of a half dozen task-specific tools, focused lead conversion, outreach, and analysis:
- Live Calls
- Online Ads
- Direct Mail
- Broadcast Text
- Person to Person Text
Each sub-product is data-reliant, tied to the internal CMR, and is layperson-friendly. The goal is to identify, understand, reach out to, and convert the most valuable markets as fast as possible. "Campaigns are high-pressure, fast moving environments," Wasserman explained. "You can't afford your email marketing to go down if a staffer leaves or changes roles. You need a product that anyone on the team can step in to and use comfortably."
The current crop of data-focused marketing products validate technology investments by previous campaigns, Wasserman said, and could help better understand upcoming trends. "By 2020 the stuff we're working on will be everywhere, and everything will be automated."
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