The Judge Judy Effect in the 2012 Obama campaign

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Well-run presidential campaigns are the Rolls Royce of marketing. Nowhere else will you see more money spent in a shorter period of time on one product. At its best it is true multi-channel marketing involving paid TV advertising, direct mail, social media, print ads, and much more.

David Axelrod, who served as Chief Strategist for both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, is now director of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. He hosts a podcast of interviews, many of which are with people in politics. In a recent interview with Ron Brownstein, senior political correspondent and demographer, the two of them talked about how political TV ads could be hypertargeted in unexpected ways.

Axelrod: “I can tell you that what we discovered when I was doing President Obama’s campaigns was that the marginal voter wasn’t watching the evening news. And the people who were watching the evening news knew who they were for. You weren’t going to sway them because they were highly informed voters. So one of the revelations that came from the analytics work that we did was that the marginal voters, and there weren’t that many of them, weren’t paying attention to the evening news. And so we bought 64 cable networks. And while the Romney campaign was buying the news, we were buying reruns of Andy of Mayberry at 3 in the morning, which seemed insane except the data suggested that that’s where we were going to find the marginal voters.”

Brownstein: “A friend of mine who worked on the Romney campaign said that if they lost Ohio, which of course they did, he was going to blame it on Judge Judy. He called it ‘the Judge Judy election’: all the Obama ads on ‘Judge Judy’ aimed at blue collar white women, especially stay-at-home moms.”

No doubt those 3am cable ads were much less expensive than buying the network news, too. Find out where your audience is hanging out, and see how you might inexpensively target them, too.